Born Dec. 11, 1874, in Bischdorf; died Sept. 13, 1948, in Berlin. German actor.
Wegener studied at the universities of Freiburg and Leipzig and made his theater debut in 1895. He became most famous for his performance of the Actor in M. Gorky’s The Lower Depths (German title The Lodging). In 1906, M. Reinhardt asked Wegener to join the troupe of the German Theater in Berlin. He worked for this theater with interruptions until 1948. His best performances were in roles from classical dramas in which he portrayed psychologically complex and profound characters such as Richard III, Othello, and Macbeth in Shakespeare’s tragedies of the same name, as well as lago and King Claudius in Shakespeare’s Othello and Hamlet, respectively. He also played the Mayor in Gogol’s The Inspector-General, Holofernes in Hebbel’s Judith, and Rasputin in A. N. Tolstoy’s and Shcheglov’s The Empress’ Plot.
As director, scenarist, and actor, Wegener was one of the founders of the German artistic motion picture. Beginning in 1910 until the 1920’s he performed roles of fantastic and mysterious personages; he played the lead roles in the films The Student From Prague (1912) and Golem (1913 and 1920). He also acted in the films Sumurun (1922), Lucrezia Borgia (1922), The Living Buddhas (1923), and The Weavers (1927; based on G. Hauptmann’s play). As a movie actor he was noted for his unusually expressive acting.
After World War II, Wegener led the movement of artists for the regeneration and development of the democratic traditions of the German theater and motion picture. At the German Theater he performed such roles as Nathan (Lessing’s Nathan the Wise), Polonius (Shakespeare’s Hamlet), and Polezhaev (Rakhmanov’s Restless Old Age). He continued to act in movies (The Great Mandarin, 1948).
REFERENCESMazing, B. Paul’ Vegener. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.
Bronnen, A. Begegnungen mit Schauspielern. Berlin, 1967. Pages 56-62.
I. IA. NOVODVORSKAIA