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Richard Ryen Biography

  • Profession: Actor
  • Born: Sep 13, 1885
  • Died: Dec 22, 1965
  • Birth Name: Richard Anton Robert Felix

Richard Revi led a roller-coaster of a career as an actor on-stage and screen between two continents, mostly thanks to the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Born Richard Anton Robert Felix in Föherczeglack, in what was then Austria-Hungary in 1885, he embarked on an acting career in the theater in the second half of the first decade of the 20th century. Using the professional name Richard Revi, he subsequently moved into directing and achieved some considerable success and respect in Zurich and later in Germany. His most important protégé during the early '20s was a youthful dancer/actress/singer who was known originally as Karoline Wilhemine Charlotte Blamauer, but, with Revi's help and encouragement -- and a shared love of the two for Uncle Vanya -- took the stage name Lotte Lenja, later altered to Lotte Lenya. Revi failed in his initial attempt to break into theater in Germany by way of Berlin, though in the process of this abortive effort he did inadvertently facilitate the first meeting between Lenya and her future husband, Kurt Weill. It was in Munich that Revi ended up making his name, as the stage director of the Munich Chamber Theater. He also began a screen career, appearing in such films as The Bartered Bride (1932), The Tunnel (1933), Inheritance in Pretoria, White Majesty, and Peer Gynt (all 1934).

The rise of the Nazi Party to power in Germany in 1933 cost Revi his position, however, and he eventually moved to America, where he began working onscreen under the name Richard Ryen (sometimes spelled Richard Ryan). Rather ironically, most of the roles that he played during World War II were Nazi officers and officials, most notably in Michael Curtiz's Casablanca, in which he portrayed Colonel Heinz, the aide to the Gestapo Major Strasser (portrayed by his fellow expatriate Conrad Veidt), forever walking in the shadow of his superior. He also occasionally played other parts, including that of the narrator in the feature Chetniks (1943). Revi also occasionally got to work in non-war-related movies, including The Constant Nymph (1943) and Salome, Where She Danced (1945). His best postwar role was probably as Meyer in Billy Wilder's ironic, bittersweet comedy A Foreign Affair (1948), shot and set in postwar Berlin. He worked mainly on-stage after World War II, and principally in America, although he did resume something of a European career in Switzerland before becoming a writer. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

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