(See previous post: “Maximilian Schell Dies: Best Actor Oscar Winner for ‘Judgment at Nuremberg.’”) Maximilian Schell’s first film as a director was the 1970 (dubbed) German-language release First Love / Erste Liebe, adapted from Igor Turgenev’s novella, and starring Englishman John Moulder-Brown, Frenchwoman Dominique Sanda, and Schell in this tale about a doomed love affair in Czarist Russia. Italian Valentina Cortese and British Marius Goring provided support.
Directed by a former Best Actor Oscar winner, First Love, a movie that could just as easily have been dubbed into Swedish or Swahili (or English), ended up nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Three years later, nominated in that same category was Schell’s second feature film as a director, The Pedestrian / Der Fußgänger, in which a car accident forces a German businessman to delve deep into his past.
A curious psychological drama, The Pedestrian is notable for the presence of a handful of stage and screen legends: future Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Peggy Ashcroft (A Passage to India), Best Actress Oscar nominee Elisabeth Bergner (Escape Me Never), Françoise Rosay (Carnival in Flanders), Lil Dagover (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), Käthe Haack (Die Spieler), and Johanna Hofer (Der Verlorene), in addition to Schell’s mother, Margarete Schell Noé.
Marlene Dietrich and Maria Schell documentaries
Maximilian Schell also directed a couple of well-known documentary features: the Academy Award-nominated Marlene (1984), in which Schell attempts to reveal the real Marlene Dietrich — who allowed him to record her voice, but not to film her — and My Sister Maria (2002), a loving tribute to Maria Schell.
Regarding Marlene, New York Magazine asserted that Schell "draws her out, taunting her into a fascinating display of egotism, lying, and contentiousness. This intelligent woman is taken in by the myth of her own hardness," adding that "the true originality" of Marlene lies in "the way it pursues the clash of temperament between interviewer and star."
After his New York Film Critics Circle win for Judgment at Nuremberg, Schell would remember:
I received the most wonderful letter from Maria. She wrote, ‘Now, when you have my letter in your hand, a beautiful day is coming for you. I will be with you, proud, because I knew such recognition would come one day, leading to something even greater and better. … not only because you are close to me but because I count you among the truly great actors, and it is wonderful that besides that you are my brother.’ Maria and I are very close.
Maximilian Schell and Maria Schell were featured together in only one movie, Ronald Neame’s 1974 thriller The Odessa File, also starring Jon Voight. Following a troubled life, Maria Schell died in 2005.
Maximilian Schell television roles
Among Maximilian Schell’s frequent television appearances in the last several decades were those in Boris Sagal’s remake of The Diary of Anne Frank (1980), with Schell as Otto Frank and Melissa Gilbert as his daughter Anne; the title role in Marvin J. Chomsky and Lawrence Schiller’s 1986 mini-series Peter the Great, featuring an all-star cast that included Laurence Olivier, Ursula Andress, Lilli Palmer, Trevor Howard, Elke Sommer, Omar Sharif, and Vanessa Redgrave; and a Golden Globe-winning turn as Lenin in Ivan Passer’s Stalin (1992), starring Robert Duvall in the title role.
Maximilian Schell also had a recurring role, as Friedrich Fürst von Thorwald, in the German TV series Der Fürst und das Mädchen (2003-2007), and was last seen on TV in two 2007 productions: Peter Weck’s TV movie Die Rosenkönigin and, as Albert Einstein, in the anthology series Giganten.
Also worth noting, Schell was an accomplished pianist. He worked with conductor Claudio Abbado, and produced and directed several operas, including Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin for the Los Angeles Opera.
Maximilian Schell death
With the death of Maximilian Schell, the earliest surviving Best Actor Oscar winner is Sidney Poitier, who won for Lilies of the Field, 1963. Poitier turns 87 on February 20. Next in line are Gene Hackman for The French Connection (1971), Jack Nicholson for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975, Schell was a nominee that year), and Richard Dreyfuss for The Goodbye Girl (1977).
Also gone in the last six weeks are the following Academy Award nominees/winners in the acting categories: Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, Becket, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year, Venus), Eleanor Parker (Caged, Detective Story, and Interrupted Melody), Joan Fontaine (Rebecca, Suspicion, The Constant Nymph), and Juanita Moore (Imitation of Life).
Burt Lancaster quote about Maximilian Schell from Kate Buford’s Burt Lancaster. Maximilian Schell quotes from the Lillian and Helen Ross-edited The Player: A Profile of an Art. The critics’ on Maximilian Schell’s performance in Judgment at Nuremberg and The Man in the Glass Booth via Mason Wiley and Demian Bona’s Inside Oscar. Maximilian Schell and Maria Schell image via the Deutsches Filminstitut, which presented a Maria Schell exhibition.