Lingen, Theo

(Franz Theodor Schmitz, 1903-1975)
   Actor. Lingen was one of the most popular and accomplished comic character actors of which the 20th-century German theater could boast. Unlike Max Pallenberg or Max Adalbert, Lingen was not a comedian—he was a master in comic parts, and he brought a vitality even to serious parts that most of his contemporaries envied and few could match. A principal source of his comic gifts was his appearance: he stood over six feet tall, rarely in his career weighed more than 160 pounds, and had an extremely long nose and set of ears; he combined a loose-jointed frame with an unusual ability to twist his face in innumerable directions at the same time. His "look" was distinctly reminiscent of Johann Nepomuk Nestroy, as several observers noted. Beyond his looks, however, was a masterful sense of timing and attention to detail. In boiling an egg on stage, for example, audiences imagined him and the egg having a conversation, much to their delight.
   Lingen began his career while still in school in his native Hannover; from there, he worked throughout the Weimar period in regional stages until he got a two-year contract with the Berlin State Theater in 1929. His most significant work prior to the National Socialist takeover was in Bertolt Brecht's Mann ist Mann (1931). Lingen remained in Berlin throughout the Nazi dictatorship, usually at the State Theater under Jürgen Fehling's or Gustaf Gründgens's direction. He was at his best as Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Wehrhahn in Gerhart Hauptmann's DerBiberpeJz(The Beaver Coat), and the semidisrep-utable fop Riccaut de la Marlinère in Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Minna von Barnhelm. Lingen began acting in films in 1930 and was at his funniest in Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, 1933), which, though it was not a comic film nor was his role as a criminal supposed to be humorous, was nevertheless a comic masterpiece. Lingen made more than 80 films during the Third Reich, the best of which was Tanz auf dem Vulkan (Dance on the Volcano) with Gründgens in 1938. After the war, Lingen became a permanent member of the Burgtheater company in Vienna, while continuing film and television work to the end of his career.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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