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Dieterle in 1946
July 15, 1893
Ludwigshafen, German Empire
|Died||December 9, 1972
Ottobrunn, West Germany
|Occupation||Film director, film actor, stage director, stage actor|
William Dieterle (July 15, 1893 – December 9, 1972) was a German actor and film director, who worked in Hollywood for much of his career. His best known films include The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Story of Louis Pasteur and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. His 1937 film The Life of Emile Zola won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
He was born Wilhelm Dieterle in Ludwigshafen, the youngest child of nine, to Jacob and Berthe (Doerr) Dieterle. As a child, he lived in considerable poverty and earned money by various means including carpentry and as a scrap dealer. He became interested in theater early and would stage productions in the family barn for friends and family. At the age of sixteen he had joined a traveling theater company as a handy-man, scene shifter and apprentice actor. His striking good looks and ambition soon paved the way as a leading romantic actor in theater productions. In 1919, he attracted the attention of Max Reinhardt in Berlin who hired him as an actor for his productions until 1924. He started acting in German films in 1921 to make more money and quickly became a popular character actor. He usually portrayed "country yokels" or simpletons with great gusto and popularity, but he was ambitious to begin a career as a director. In 1921 Dieterle married Charlotte Hagenbruch, an actress and later screenwriter.
In 1923 Dieterle used his own money to make his first film, Der Mensch am Wege. Based on a Leo Tolstoy short story, the film co-starred a young Marlene Dietrich. Years later Dieterle said of the film "we were just four or five very young, enthusiastic, and revolutionary people who wanted to do something different. We brought it out; it didn't make any money, but was shown and it was an interesting experiment." In 1924 Dieterle left Reinhardt's company and formed his own theater company in Berlin, although it was unsuccessful and short lived. He also returned to film acting for several years and appeared in such notable German films as Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (Waxworks) (1924) and F. W. Murnau's Faust (1926). In 1927, Dieterle and his wife formed their own production company, Charrha-Film, and Dieterle returned to directing films, such as Sex in Chains (1928) in which he also played the lead role.
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