Sunday, February 21, 2010
Underrated Performer of The Week: Felix Bressart
This role won Felix a contract with MGM and he was on his way.
In 1940, he did seven pictures including Edison, the Man with Spencer Tracy and two of my all time favorite films. The first was King Vidor's Comrade X with Clark Gable and Hedy Lamar where he plays Vanya, Hedy's father. Felix steals just about every scene he's in, as shown in this small clip with Clark.
Felix worked with Lubitsch for the second time in what is his best known role, as Pirovitch in The Shop Around The Corner. It's favorite number two.
1941 found Felix in four films, the best ones being Ziegfeld Girl and Blossoms in the Dust. The following year, he made Mr. and Mrs. North, Crossroads, Iceland, and his third film with Lubitsch, To Be Or Not To Be with Jack Benny & Carole Lombard. He plays Greenberg, and his Shylock's "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech from The Merchant of Venice is one of the film's high points.
He worked with Spencer Tracy again in 1944's The Seventh Cross and also did The Song of Russia, Blonde Fever, and Greenwich Village.
In RKO's 1945 B musical Ding Dong Williams, Felix had third billing as Hugo Meyerheld, the head of a movie studio's music department (this is one of Felix's films that I have not seen yet). He gets to conduct Chopin's "Fantasie Impromptu."
In 1948, Felix played Pete in Portrait of Jennie and Prof. Gerkikoff in Howard Hawks' musical remake of Ball of Fire: A Song Is Born with Danny Kaye and Virgina Mayo.
While working on 1949's My Friend Irma, Felix died suddenly on March 17th of leukemia. He was 57. His part of Professor Kropotkin was recast with Hans Conried The producers had Hans speak throughout the film, but Felix is seen in all the long shots.