Arts & Entertainment

Oscar-winning actor Maximilian Schell of 'Judgment at Nuremberg' dies at 83

Maximilan Schell in 1969.
Maximilan Schell in 1969.
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Maximilan Schell in 1969.
L-R: Actors Gregory Peck (1916 - 2003), Sophia Loren, Joan Crawford (1904 - 1977) and Maximilian Schell stand backstage at the Academy Awards, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Los Angeles on April 8, 1963. Both Peck and Crawford hold Oscar statuettes. Peck won Best Actor for director Robert Mulligan's film "To Kill a Mockingbird." Crawford accepted the Best Actress award for Anne Bancroft for director Arthur Penn's film "The Miracle Worker." Loren and Schell were winners of the Best Actress and Actor awards the year before.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Maximilan Schell in 1969.
Maximilian Schell during the filming of the movie "East of Java," 1969, Madrid, Spain.
Gianni Ferrari
Maximilan Schell in 1969.
Maximilian Schell attends the Bernhard Wicki Award "Die Bruecke - Der Friedenspreis des Deutschen Films 2007" at the Gasteig on June 28, 2007, in Munich, Germany.
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Maximilan Schell in 1969.
Maximilian Schell during a party, 1969, Madrid, Spain.
Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images
Maximilan Schell in 1969.
Maximilian Schell during a party, 1969, Madrid, Spain.
Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images
Maximilan Schell in 1969.
Maximilian Shell during the filming of the movie "East of Java" in 1969 in Madrid, Spain.
Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images

Austrian-born actor Maximilian Schell, a fugitive from Adolf Hitler who became a Hollywood favorite and won an Oscar for his role as a defense attorney in "Judgment at Nuremberg," has died. He was 83.

Schell's agent, Patricia Baumbauer, said Saturday he died overnight at a hospital in Innsbruck following a "sudden and serious illness," the Austria Press Agency reported.

It was only his second Hollywood role, as defense attorney Hans Rolfe in Stanley Kramer's classic "Judgment at Nuremberg," that earned him wide international acclaim. Schell's impassioned but unsuccessful defense of four Nazi judges on trial for sentencing innocent victims to death won him the 1961 Academy Award for best actor. Schell had first played Rolfe in a 1959 episode of the television program "Playhouse 90."

Watch a speech from Schell as Rolfe in "Judgment at Nuremberg":

Maximilian Schell in "Judgment at Nuremberg"

Watch Schell accepting the Academy Award:

Maximilian Schell accepting the Academy Award

Despite being type-cast for numerous Nazi-era films, Schell's acting performances in the mid-1970s also won him renewed popular acclaim, earning him a best actor Oscar nomination for "The Man in the Glass Booth" and a supporting actor nomination for his performance alongside Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave and Jason Robards in "Julia."

A trailer for "The Man in the Glass Booth":

"The Man in the Glass Booth" trailer

A trailer for "Julia":

"Julia" trailer

The son of Swiss playwright Hermann Ferdinand Schell and Austrian stage actress Noe von Nordberg, Schell was born in Vienna on Dec. 8, 1930 and raised in Switzerland after his family fled Germany's annexation of his homeland.

Schell followed in the footsteps of his older sister Maria and brother Carl, making his stage debut in 1952. He then appeared in a number of German films before relocating to Hollywood in 1958.

By then, Maria Schell was already an international film star, winning the best actress award at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in "The Last Bridge."

Maximilian made his Hollywood debut in Edward Dmytryk's "The Young Lions," a World War II drama starring Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin.

Maximilian Schell speaks about working on "The Young Lions":

Maximilian Schell on "The Young Lions"

Schell later worked as a producer, starting with an adaptation of Franz Kafka's "The Castle," and as a director.

"First Love," adapted from the Igor Turgenev novella — which Schell wrote, produced, directed and starred in — was nominated for an Oscar in the best foreign film category in 1970. "The Pedestrian," another movie under Schell's direction and production, received the same nomination three years later.

A clip from "First Love":

First Love

Perhaps Schell's most significant film as a director was his 1984 documentary on Marlene Dietrich, "Marlene," which was nominated for a best documentary Oscar. Dietrich allowed herself to be recorded but refused to be filmed, bringing out the most in Schell's talent to penetrate images and uncover reality.

A clip from "Marlene":

A clip from "Marlene"

Schell was also a highly successful concert pianist and conductor, performing with such luminaries as Claudio Abbado and Leonard Bernstein, and with orchestras in Berlin and Vienna.

In the 1990s, Schell made appearances in films including "The Freshman," ''Telling Lies in America" and "Deep Impact." In 1992, he received a Golden Globe for his supporting role as Lenin alongside Robert Duvall in the 1992 HBO miniseries "Stalin".

Maximilian Schell in a clip from "Deep Impact":

Maximilian Schell in a clip from "Deep Impact"

Maximilian Schell accepting the Golden Globe for "Stalin":

Maximilian Schell accepting the Golden Globe

In a documentary entitled "My Sister Maria," Schell portrayed his loving relationship with his sister, who died in 2005.

Watch the full film of "Judgment at Nuremberg":

Judgment at Nuremberg