Leo Ditrichstein


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(1865–1928), actor. Son of a count and grandson of a famous Austrian novelist, the heavy-set, gruffly handsome, round-faced actor apprenticed in Berlin before coming to America in 1890. His first appearances were in German plays at the Amberg Theatre. After learning sufficient English, he toured in Mr. Wilkinson's Widows before making his New York debut under Charles Frohman's aegis in The Other Man (1893). He first caught Broadway's eye as Zou Zou in Trilby (1895), then enhanced his reputation as the comic Otto Whisky in A Stag Party (1895) and the mad scientist Achille Rabon in Under the Polar Star (1896). Ditrichstein was George Tesman in the first New York mounting of Hedda Gabler (1898), then later gave such notable performances as the explosive Colonel Larivette in Before and After (1905), the cynical Bernard in The Lily (1909), the philandering pianist Gabor Arany in The Concert (1910), Jacques Dupont in The Temperamental Journey (1913), Sascha Taticheff in Molnar's The Phantom Rival (1914), the seducer Jean Paurel in The Great Lover (1915), the title role in The King (1917), and Napoleon's adversary Armand in The Purple Mask (1920). His last appearance was in The Business Widow (1923). Even in cameo parts, such as Bernard in The Lily, Ditrichstein won critical respect. One reviewer observed, “In a brief role confined to the first act [he], with perfect art, also delivered a little gem of characterization—the figure of a middle-aged cynic, a role expressed with complete naturalness and splendid touches of acrid humor.” Alone or with collaborators, he wrote or adapted many plays, often appearing in them or directing them. He retired while still at the height of his fame and returned to Europe.

From The Oxford Companion to American Theatre in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Theatre.

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