VIENNA – 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 the Austrian city of Innsbruck following a sudden illness.
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.
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 in “Julia.”
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.
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.
Schell later worked as a producer, starting with an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s “The Castle,” and as a director.
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.
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.