The tragic life and death of Harry Baur

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Harry Baur (12 April 1880 as Henri-Marie Baur in Montrouge, Hauts-de-Seine – 8 April 1943 in Paris) was a French actor.. Thanks to his impressive performance and his melodic voice he became one of the most important French actors of his time.

His father died in 1890 when his business was left ruined  after a break-in. His mother placed him in  a Catholic boarding school, but he ran away to Marseille.

He initially intended to become a sailor but opted for a career as actor.

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Initially a stage actor, he was described by film academic Ginette Vincendeau as “a corpulent man with a resonant voice, his stagey performance style ranged from the hammy … to the soberly moving”. Baur appeared in about 80 films between 1909 and 1942. He gave an acclaimed performance as the composer Ludwig van Beethoven in the biopic Beethoven’s Great Love (Un grand amour de Beethoven, 1936), directed by Abel Gance.

Beethoven's_Great_Love_FilmPoster

And as Jean Valjean in Raymond Bernard’s version of Les Misérables (1934). He also acted in Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset’s silent film, Beethoven (1909), and in La voyante (1923), Sarah Bernhardt’s last film.

But Harry Baur had to bear two bad blows during the time of success, when his wife,actress Rose Grane, and his 20 year old son died in 1930.

He married actress Rika Radifé in 1936.

With the Nazi occupation of France in 1940, Baur made public pro-French statements and as punishment was forced into making films in Germany. In 1942 in Berlin he was to star in his last film “Symphone eines Lebens”

While filmimg  Baur’s Jewish wife was arrested on false charges of espionage, and when he tried to secure her release he was arrested himself and tortured by the Gestapo. He was subsequently sent to the concentration camp at Drancy, on the outskirts of Paris. In April of 1943 Baur was released but died mysteriously in Paris a few days later. His death further inflamed anti-German sentiment and his funeral was the occasion of a huge public demonstration.

 

 

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