Paul Lukas – Brief Biography of the Oscar Winning Actor

Paul Lukas 1934 Wills Famous Film Stars Tobacco CardTurner Classic Movies is running a mini-marathon of 5 movies starring Oscar winning actor Paul Lukas this morning between 6:30 am and 2 pm.

That schedule follows and then I put together a brief piece about the Hungarian born Lukas including a couple of early Lukas quotes from the newspapers.

Speaking of newspapers, Picto-Sked returns deeper down the page.

Paul Lukas on TCM, January 30, 2013

Note: US Schedule, all times EST.

  • 6:30 am - Strictly Dishonourable (1931) starring Paul Lukas, Sidney Fox, Lewis Stone, D: John M. Stahl
  • 8:15 am - Age of Indiscretion (1935) starring Paul Lukas, Helen Vinson, May Robson, D: Edward Ludwig
  • 9:45 am - Espionage (1937) starring Edmund Lowe, Madge Evans, Paul Lukas, D: Kurt Neumann
  • 11:00 am - Confesssions of a Nazi Spy (1939) starring Edward G. Robinson, Paul Lukas, George Sanders, D: Anatole Litvak
  • 12:45 pm - Address Unknown (1944) starring Paul Lukas, Carl Esmond, Peter Van Eych, D: William Cameron Menzies

Later tonight is the fifth and final evening of Loretta Young Star of the Month programming on TCM. Go HERE To revisit my preview of Loretta Young month on TCM.

Paul Lukas 1930s Aguila Chocolates Trading Card

The Oscar winning actor Paul Lukas was born Pál Lukács in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, May 26, 1891 (though various sources list his year of birth from as early as 1887 to as late as 1895).

He made his stage debut in Hungary in 1916 and began appearing in movies there in 1918. He acted in two Alexander Korda films while still in Hungary, each featuring Korda’s first wife, Maria Corda. Lukas came to Hollywood in 1927 and was quickly challenged by the emergence of talking pictures.

Paul Lukas 1934 Carreras Film Stars Tobacco CardWith his English consisting of little more than what was useful for ordering dinner, Hollywood journalist Robbin Coons wrote, “he does not mind confessing that a voice double was used for him” in The Wolf of Wall Street (1929). But that idea repulsed the successful stage veteran who disappeared for several months in order to learn English. He returned later that year using his own voice in Halfway to Heaven.

Lukas grew popular during this time playing a mix of slick villains and romantic leading men and didn’t mind which he was assigned. “I am an actor because I love the profession and I don’t care what type of character I am portraying, as long as the part really gives me something to do” (Thomas).

He was the Big Fellow, gangster kingpin in Rouben Mamoulian’s City Streets (1931) starring Gary Cooper and marking Sylvia Sidney’s first film under contract to Paramount. He was far more sympathetic as the honorable man forced into being a stool pigeon in The Vice Squad (1931) with Kay Francis. He unleashes the Stanislavky method upon the world of contract bridge in the silly Grand Slam (1933) with Loretta Young. On a grander scale he was the sympathetic Professor Bhaer opposite Katherine Hepburn in 1933’s Little Women for George Cukor at RKO.

Paul Lukas and Rosalind Russell 1935 Gallaher Film Partners Tobacco Card

THE CASINO MURDER CASE (1935)

Continuing to name some of Lukas’ better or just better remembered roles of the post Code ‘30s: He is Philo Vance in The Casino Murder Case (1936), he has an affair with Ruth Chatterton that captures Walter Huston’s attention in Dodsworth (1936), earlier this week we saw him on TCM playing not-so-nice in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938), and he’s a fascinating Nazi in Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), airing on TCM today.

Confessions of a Nazi Spy is a fine title to pair with his later Oscar-winning performance as an anti-Fascist in 1943’s Watch on the Rhine. Lukas was still comfortable playing either the hero or the villain.

Paul Lukas won his Academy Award over a field including Gary Cooper in For Whom the Bell Tolls and, more notably, Humphrey Bogart in one of the most beloved performances of all time in Casablanca. It wasn’t any fluke. Lukas had won acclaim in originating the role of Kurt Muller in the Broadway production of Watch on the Rhine and had already captured Best Actor honors from the New York Film Critics Circle and picked up the Golden Globe for Best Acting by the time of the Oscars.

While Paul Lukas never duplicated the success of Watch on the Rhine--it was the role of a lifetime for him--he did continue working in movies and later on television nearly until the time of his death in 1971. More modern film audiences would recall him in movies such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), and in ‘60s supporting roles in titles such as 55 Days at Peking (1963), Fun in Acapulco (1963) with Elvis, and Lord Jim (1965).

Paul Lukas and Bette Davis 1943 St Louis Area Bus Pass

1943 St. Louis area bus pass pictures Lukas with Bette Davis in promotion of WATCH ON THE RHINE. Clicking any of the Paul Lukas collectibles on this page will bring you to a full gallery highlighting that card or collectible set.

Paul Lukas had planned to settle in Morocco but was hospitalized in Tangier and died there August 16, 1971.

“When I get to the top I am going to stay there, too,” Lukas told Dan Thomas in 1930. “I don’t mean that in a boastful way, but I have a confidence in my own ability—a thing every man must have if he is going to succeed. Staying at the top is far more difficult than being just one of the mob, however. In that respect, acting is very much like flying—the higher you go the further you have to fall.”

Sources

  • Coons, Robbin. “Foreign Stars Not Barred by Sound Films.” Oakland Tribune 6 Jan 1930: 13. NewspaperArchive. Web. 29 Jan 2013.
  • Thomas, Dan. “Hungarian Player Makes Success In Talkies Despite Accent.” Arizona Republican 2 Oct 1930: 17. NewspaperArchive. Web. 29 Jan 2013.

Also of Note for Today

Dorothy Dell 1930s Garbarty German Tobacco CardMy favorite classic film discoveries of 2012 are the latest in a series of such discoveries posted to the Rupert Pupkin Speaks site. Discoveries include titles starring Maurice Chevalier, Dorothy MacKaill, Clara Bow, George Raft, Jack La Rue and others. Check out what I found for the first time only last year HERE at Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

The tragic Dorothy Dell was born on this date in 1915. Dell starred in three feature length films including Little Miss Marker (1935) with Shirley Temple before she was killed in a car accident at just 19 years of age. You can't help but wish there was more if you've ever seen Dorothy Dell on screen. Last year I researched Miss Dell and wrote THIS article for the site. It's a good day to remember this talent.

Picto-Sked, Paul Lukas Flavor

Strictly Dishonorable ad Winnipeg Free Press, December 24, 1931, page 7

STRICTLY DISHONOURABLE (1931), from the Winnipeg Free Press, December 24, 1931, page 7. Today at 6:30 am.

Address Unknown ad Oakland Tribune, May 11, 1944, page 21

ADDRESS UNKNOWN (1944), ad from the Oakland Tribune, May 11, 1944, page 21. Airs today at 12:45 pm EST.

Espionage ad Logansport Pharos Tribune, March 13, 1937, page 6

ESPIONAGE (1937) ad from the Logansport Pharos Tribune, March 13, 1937, page 6. Today at 9:45 am EST.

Confessions of a Nazi Spy ad Sandusky Register, May 28, 1939, page 2

CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY (1939) ad from the Sandusky Register, May 28, 1939, page 2. Today at 11 am EST on TCM.

Age of Indiscretion ad Arizona Independent Republic, September 8, 1935, page 74

AGE OF INDISCRETION (1935) ad, Arizona Independent Republic, September 8, 1935, page 74. Today at 8:15 am on TCM.

Talk to you soon, tomorrow if all goes according to plan.

Til then, Cliff

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