Maximilian Schell: Tribute to a Survivor (Dec. 8, 1930 – Feb. 1, 2014)


By Kat Kramer

We have lost two enormously talented and admired artists since February began, Maximilian Schell and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Maximilian Schell.

Maximilian Schell.

Both of them are masters of their craft and winners of the coveted Academy Award for Best Actor. They come from different generations, yet both left an indelible mark. They will both be honored at The Berlin Film Festival.

I hold a special place in my heart for the Legendary Maximilian Schell. He won his Oscar in 1962 for portraying Defense Attorney Hans Rolfe in my father’s important film Judgment at Nuremberg. A classic about Nazi war criminals going on trial, it also starred Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, Richard Widmark, and was the predecessor to Schindler’s List. Schell won the Academy Award, even beating Tracy from the film.

As a boy, Australian born Maximilian’s family fled the Nazis, and they moved to Switzerland. Shell starred in many films including The Young Lions, The Man in the Glass Booth, and Julia, as well as stage productions such as Hamlet, and a 2000 Broadway revival of Judgment at Nuremberg where he played dual roles, and most recently Robert Altman’s London Production of the Arthur Miller play Resurrection Blues. He appears in the French film Les brigands in 2014.

He directed acclaimed documentaries Marlene (about Marlene Dietrich) and My Sister Maria about his sister actress Maria Schell.

I recall going with my mother Karen Sharpe-Kramer to the Music Center in 2005 to see his version of Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. (Yes, Schell directed Opera, too.) He greeted us at the after-party on opening night, with open arms, wearing his trademark scarf.

We last saw Max Schell on Oct. 11, 2011 when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the 50th Anniversary screening of Judgment at Nuremberg at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre. It was Co-Hosted by my mother and Larry King along with Rabbi Marvin Hier. Max flew in with his wife Iva, and there were special guests such as Academy Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz.

Out of all his many contributions, he is best remembered for Judgment at Nuremberg.

He told the Daily News in 2011, “Some of your work you forget. This one, I didn’t forget.”

And nobody will ever forget the message of the film: “This, then, is what we stand for: Truth, Justice, and the value of a single human being.”

And nobody will ever forget Maximilian Schell. You will be missed.

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