He had a most varied career.
The Austrian born actor (Vienna in 1902), Walter Slezak played an extraordinary range of characters over an extraordinarily long career — comprising nearly 100 movie and tv credits over more than a half century.
He was adept a comedy (see below). Yes, that’s Red Skelton waving the pistol.
And here (seated on the right) he is in a Bob Hope picture.
He was for a time at RKO was a staple in film noir. Here (below) he’s putting the shakedown on Claire Trevor.
And, thanks to his always accented English, he was a go-to choice for Nazi parts.
Let’s not forget that Slezak was also a star of stage and screen musicals. (See below, from Fanny.)
Ok, that’s it for the moment. We have just scratched the surface. Now on to our Walter Slezak Quiz to see how much MORE you know about this distinguished character actor. As usual, questions today ad answers tomorrow.
1) Question: Slezak began his movie career in silent films in Europe at the urging of a Hungarian who, after changing his name, became one of Hollywood’s most celebrated directors. Who is he? a) Otto Preminger; b) Edward Dmytryk; c) Alexander Korda; or d) Michael Curtiz.
2) Question: Slezak was a slender matinee idol in German films of the 1920’s. Yet, he was always pretty chubby in his Hollywood movies. What happened? a) He made a conscious decision to give up romantic leads for more inspiring character roles; b) He never particularly cared about his waist line; c) He was a gourmet cook who relished the tasty dishes he prepared; d) He battled a long term illness which put on the pounds.
3) Question: Undoubtedly Slezak’s most memorable screen appearance came in the 1944 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Lifeboat. What role did he play? a) That of Tallulah Bankhead’s lover; (b) That of William Bendix’s tormentor; c) That of a German U-boat survivor; or d) That of Hume Cronyn’s intellectual foil.
4) Question: Slezak won a major entertainment industry award in mid-career. What was it? a) A Grammy for his recording of a role sung at the Metropolitan Opera; b) An Oscar for his role in Lifeboat; c) A Tony Award for his Broadway stage interpretation of Panisse in the 1954 musical, Fanny; or d) A supporting actor Golden Globe.
5) Question: Slezak died at the age of 80 in 1983, taking his own life. How? a) He jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge; b) He overdosed on sleeping pills; c) Shot himself in the back yard of his upstate New York home; d) Ran into heavy traffic in New York’s Times Square.