• 7 October 1918
  •  Vienna, Austria-Hungary [now Austria]

Helmut Dantine


Actor/director/producer Helmut Dantine was born in Vienna, Austria on October 7, 1917. He made a name for himself as an actor during World War Two playing German soldiers and Nazi villains in Hollywood films, most notably in Mrs. Miniver (1942). The young Dantine was a fervent anti-fascist/anti-Nazi activist in Vienna. As a leader in the anti-Nazi youth movement the 19-year old was summarily rounded up and imprisoned at the Rosserlaende concentration camp. Family influence persuaded a physician to grant him a medical release that June and he was immediately sent to Los Angeles to stay with the only friend they had in America. Dantine joined the Pasadena Playhouse, where he was spotted by a Warner Bros. talent scout who was struck by Dantine's dark good looks. Signed to a Warner's contract, he appeared in a variety of films after making his debut as a Nazi in International Squadron (1941) starring Ronald Reagan. He played supporting, second lead and eventually, lead roles in such films as Casablanca (1942) (where he was the newlywed who gambles away his visa money), Edge of Darkness (1943) (his first lead), the infamous Mission to Moscow (1943) and Passage to Marseille (1944). Two of his best films came on loan-out from Warners in 1942: Ernst Lubitsch's comic masterpiece To Be or Not to Be (1942) and William Wyler's Oscar-winning Mrs. Miniver (1942). Dantine directed the the unsuccessful Thundering Jets (1958). His wife, Niki Dantine, was the daughter of Loew's president Nicholas Schenck, the overall boss of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer -- ostensibly the most powerful man in Hollywood since 1927. After Schenck was forced out of Loew's, the wily old movie veteran formed his own production and distribution company. In 1959, Dantine's acting career was on the wane and his attempt to become a director a relative failure, he became a producer. He was appointed vice-president of his father-in-law's Schenck Enterprises, eventually becoming president of the company in 1970. Dantine produced three minor Sam Peckinpah films in the mid-1970s, including Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) and The Killer Elite (1975) in both of which,he had small supporting roles. Helmut Dantine died on May 2, 1982, at age 63, in Beverly Hills after suffering a massive heart attack. His body was interred at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.