• 23 April 1908
  •  Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Marcel Hillaire


Another of a group of scene-stealing character actors who came to the fore during the early years of television, Marcel built a 40-year long career in Hollywood playing the archetypal French gendarme, maitre d' or small time crook. In fact, the balding, steely-eyed little actor was born Erwin Ottmar Hiller, son of music journalist and opera singer Paul Hiller, in Cologne, Germany. He appeared there on stage under the name Harry Furster in order to disguise his Jewish ancestry, but was eventually put in jail by the Nazis, somehow escaped, making his way to America. He began to act in television from 1952, later making his bow on Broadway in "The Heavenly Twins", followed by "Silk Stockings" in 1955. From there on he quickly settled on his French impersonations which were to become his stock-in-trade. Marcel was at his best in comical portrayals of stereotypical characters. He was memorably larger-than-life in his first motion picture, the romantic comedy Sabrina (1954) as 'the professor', vainly attempting to teach budding cordon bleu chef Audrey Hepburn how to break an egg. During most of the 1960's, Marcel worked on the MGM lot European section, particularly active in the spy spoof genre, notably The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964) , Get Smart (1965) and I Spy (1965), often as well-meaning, but bumbling secret agents . He was also popularly employed for science fiction, appearing twice on The Twilight Zone (1959) and at the beginning and end of the third season of Lost in Space (1965), as two different characters. One of Marcel's quirkiest caricatures was that of 'Fritz' , from the brilliantly inventive Woody Allen comedy Take the Money and Run (1969). 'Fritz' was the once-famous German film director hired by would-be bank robber Virgil Starkwell (Allen) to shoot a scene of a bank heist as a cover for the real bank job (eventually frustrated by a rival gang getting in on the act). Marcel played the part, in what was one of the funniest scenes in the film, with a jaundiced eye towards the behavioral idiosyncrasies of real-life German director Fritz Lang. For the next decade, Marcel continued to appear on the small screen, though he rarely had the same opportunities to shine that he did in the swinging 60's. Never married, he spent his remaining life in Los Angeles, where he died during complications from surgery in January 1988, aged 79.


Movie Name Release Date
Γλυκιά μου, Σαμπρίνα – Sabrina (1954) October 15, 1954