Francis Lederer


Actor
Francis Lederer

About

Also Known As
Frantisek Lederer, Franz Lederer
Born
November 06, 1899
Died
May 25, 2000

Biography

This dark, wide-eyed, stunningly handsome international lead of stage and screen in the 1920s and 30s later created an interesting gallery of offbeat character roles. Francis Lederer began his career as a theatrical apprentice in his native Prague after WWI service and eventually enjoyed considerable success acting in a number of theaters in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria and Germany. ...

Family & Companions

Ada Nejedly
Wife
Divorced.
Margo
Wife
Actor, singer, dancer. Married in 1937; divorced in 1940; later married Eddie Albert.
Marion Irvine
Wife
Served as Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, California; married on July 10, 1941; survived him.

Notes

In 2000, Lederer was awarded the Cross of Honor for Science and Arts, First Class by the Austrian government.

Biography

This dark, wide-eyed, stunningly handsome international lead of stage and screen in the 1920s and 30s later created an interesting gallery of offbeat character roles. Francis Lederer began his career as a theatrical apprentice in his native Prague after WWI service and eventually enjoyed considerable success acting in a number of theaters in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria and Germany. His work included a turn as Romeo in a production of "Romeo and Juliet" staged by the legendary Max Reinhardt. Lederer, initially known as Franz in his European films, made his mark in G.W. Pabst's famous "Pandora's Box" (1928) as a young man who, along with his father, becomes obsessed with the alluring and hedonistic femme fatale Lulu (Louise Brooks). Dashingly garbed in military costume, he also did quite well in the lush and poignant romantic drama "The Wonderful Lie of Nina Petrovna" (1929).

Lederer later moved on to stage success in London ("Volpone" 1931, "Autumn Crocus" 1932) and then the United States (again with "Autumn Crocus" and also "The Cat and the Fiddle" 1932). He began making films in Hollywood in 1934, but despite giving light, charming performances in such highly enjoyable confections as "Romance in Manhattan" (1934, opposite Ginger Rogers) and "The Gay Deception" (1935, opposite Frances Dee) didn't quite catch on as an American star. Several of his films toplined the newcomer without the box-office benefit of an established female star opposite him; also, in the increasingly xenophobic and isolationist American culture of the later Depression and early WWII years, it became harder for obviously "foreign" actors, especially those with a certain Continental charm, to make it as film stars.

Lederer continued played leading roles on and off during his film career, which lasted several more decades, but beginning in the late 30s also essayed many character roles, often villainous in nature. During the war years he portrayed Nazis in films like "Confessions of a Nazi Spy" (1939) and in the title role of "The Man I Married" (1940), as the fascist to whom Joan Bennett finds herself wed. One important exception, though, and a most enjoyable throwback to Lederer's matinee idol days, was his highly ingratiating turn as a lady-killer playboy whom Claudette Colbert attracts in order to aid John Barrymore in the masterful Billy Wilder-scripted, Mitchell Leisen-directed "Midnight" (1939). Lederer had kept busy during the 1930s in stage productions outside of New York of works ranging from "Golden Boy" (1937) to "Seventh Heaven" and "No Time for Comedy" (1939) and through the 40s seemed to prefer the wider span of roles he could essay in the theater, touring in "The Play's the Thing" (1942) and "A Doll's House" (1944).

Lederer kept returning to films through the late 50s, however, when a fluffy comedy like "The Ambassador's Daughter" (1956) needed someone tall and classy to play a prince. Some of his most interesting work, though, called on him to bring a flamboyant intensity and menace to films including Jean Renoir's bizarre and fascinating version of the downbeat satirical drama "Diary of a Chambermaid" (1946) and even a pair of modestly budgeted and lower key but still worthy horror items like "The Return of Dracula" (1958, in the title role) and "Terror Is a Man" (1959), the latter his last major film work. Theater work on tour, meanwhile, ranged from "The Sleeping Prince" (1956) to the heroine's father in "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1958).

Lederer was later extremely active in civic affairs, promoting academies for the performing arts, teaching acting and becoming involved in peace movements. He served for a time as Honorary Mayor of Canoga Park, California, where he had made his home, and received many awards for his work in beautifying Los Angeles and serving as Recreation and Parks Commissioner. Lederer occasionally turned up at film festival and museum screenings of his films and in documentaries exploring the work of G.W. Pabst and Louise Brooks. Even as he approached the age of 100, he was still a gracious, vigorous and well-spoken presence carrying plenty of Continental charm from his early stage days as a heartthrob with sensitivity and talent to spare.

Life Events

1919

Began stage career as a teenager in his native Prague; made stage debut with a walk-on in "Burning Heart" while an apprentice with the New German Theater

1931

London stage debut, "My Sister and I"

1932

Moved to the USA

1932

Had a success with Broadway debut in "Autumn Crocus"; later reprised role in Los Angeles production

1939

Succeeded Laurence Olivier in the leading male role of the popular Broadway comedy "No Time for Comedy"

1941

Last film for several years, "Puddin' Head"; focused primarily on stage tours in the USA for several years

1944

Returned to films with "Voice in the Wind"

1950

Last film for six years, "Surrender"

1956

Returned to film work with "Lisbon" and "The Ambassador's Daughter"

1959

Last major film work, "Terror Is a Man"

1973

Was one of the founders of the American National Academy of Performing Arts in Los Angeles

1975

Was one of the founders of the International Academy of Performing Arts in Washington, DC

1991

Appeared as an interviewee in the compilation documentary, "The Other Eye/Der Andere Blick," an examination of the life and career of director G.W. Pabst

1998

Appeared as an interviewee in the documentary, "Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu," focusing on his leading lady from "Pandora's Box"; made for TV for Turner Classic Movies (TCM)

Photo Collections

The Return of Dracula - Lobby Card Set
The Return of Dracula - Lobby Card Set

Videos

Movie Clip

Romance In Manhattan (1935) - Let's See Your Money Sweeping introduction to New York for hunky Francis Lederer, Prague-born, already an international stage and screen star, in one of his first Hollywood roles as Czech immigrant Karel Novak, running into trouble with Immigration, opening Romance In Manhattan, 1934, also starring Ginger Rogers.
Romance In Manhattan (1935) - Fancies Himself A Clark Gable Well-intentioned Czech immigrant Karel (Prague-born Francis Lederer) hasn’t shared every detail about his arrival in New York with showgirl Sylvia (Ginger Rogers), who’s letting him stay at the apartment she shares with her brother (Jimmy Butler), dining out on her paycheck, in Romance In Manhattan, 1934.
Romance In Manhattan (1935) - Diet Or Necessity? Having dived out of the steamer shipping him back to Prague from New York because he was misinformed about immigration fees, Karel (Czech-born Francis Lederer) is running out of luck until he meets showgirl Syivia (Ginger Rogers), her first scene, in RKO’s Romance In Manhattan, 1934.
Diary Of A Chambermaid, The (1946) - Filthy Souls Director Jean Renoir's opening scene, narrative device introducing Paulette Goddard as the title character Celestine, along with fellow servant Louise (Irene Ryan) and presumptuous Joseph (Francis Lederer), from The Diary Of A Chambermaid, 1946.
Confessions Of A Nazi Spy (1939) - A Man Of Your Caliber Self-absorbed Nazi spy Schneider (Francis Lederer) is putty in the hands of FBI man Renard (Edward G. Robinson), in Confessions Of A Nazi Spy, 1939, directed by Anatole Litvak.
Woman Of Distinction, A (1950) - No Room For Romance Following a narrated introduction, college president Susan (Rosaling Russell) with professor Simone (Francis Lederer), then co-star Ray Milland's first scene, with a big Lucille Ball cameo, in Columbia's A Woman Of Distinction, 1950.

Trailer

Family

Josef Lederer
Father
Leather merchant.
Rose Lederer
Mother

Companions

Ada Nejedly
Wife
Divorced.
Margo
Wife
Actor, singer, dancer. Married in 1937; divorced in 1940; later married Eddie Albert.
Marion Irvine
Wife
Served as Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, California; married on July 10, 1941; survived him.

Bibliography

Notes

In 2000, Lederer was awarded the Cross of Honor for Science and Arts, First Class by the Austrian government.