Wessely, Paula

   Actress. Wessely was praised for the "inner life" she created for characters she portrayed, particularly as she matured and began to play a wide variety of roles. She began her career at age 19 with the Deutsches Theater in Prague, and three years later began her work at the Theater in der Josefstadt in her native Vienna. She remained at that venue until 1945, when she became a member of the Burgtheater company. During the Third Reich, Wessely worked frequently in Berlin, usually at the Deutsches Theater under Heinz Hilpert's direction.
   Hilpert, above all directors, esteemed and appreciated Wessely's quiet intensity and complete absence of showiness; he recognized that her rejection of bravura was a result of focused energy. Her voice, however, manifested the character's inner torment. Such was the case early in her career with Luise Miller in Max Reinhardt's production of Friedrich Schiller's Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love) at the Salzburg Festival in 1930. It was also present two years later, though she got more publicity for it, in the title role of Gerhart Hauptmann's Rose Bernd. Critics praised Wessely's ability to bear up under suffering, the kind that riveted audiences in their seats. Wes-sely never gave in to tears or relied on outward display; at the same time, nobody in the audience sensed she was simply stoical in the face of catastrophe. She was agonizing, but she was not about to show it.
   As Gretchen in Faust, Christine in Liebelei (Loving), or Joan of Arc in Schiller's Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orleans) at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where international audiences saw her, she created "an occasion of elementary truth. Wessely played naturalisti-cally within a classical framework. She proceeded unflinchingly towards the inevitable, without even so much as a whimper. Everything was on the inside, accomplished by means of simplicity, yet never denying the earthiness of her temperament" (Herbert Ihering, Von JosefKainzbisPauia Wessely [Heidelberg: Hüthig, 1942], 239).
   The Nazis found this kind of acting especially useful in propaganda films during the 1940s. In Heimkehr (Homecoming, 1941), she brilliantly played the wife of a soldier killed in action; her lengthy scene about the necessity of his death and the majesty of sacrifice for Führer and Fatherland has outraged subsequent generations of Germans and Austrians, particularly Elfriede Jelinek. "I regard her work as comparable to the war crimes of others," Jelinek stated. "Wes-sely's 'naturalness' was nothing more than kitsch. She actually said in the film, 'We don't do business with Jews,' and she should have attempted to avoid it. As a highly paid star, she could have. But she did not" (Format Magazine, 15 May 2000).
   Wessely's activities during the war had little effect on her career in Austria afterward. In fact, the mature roles she played at the Burgtheater—Nora in Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet(1957), the title role in Schiller's Maria Stuart, Ella Rentheim in Henrik Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkmann (1965), Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie (1965), Agnes in Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance (1967), and Mrs. Alving in Ibsen's Ghosts (1969), along with several others—provided her with acting opportunities she had never before enjoyed and won her praise from many observers, who hailed Wessely as Austria's greatest actress. She was awarded dozens of citations, prizes, honorary titles, medals, rings, degrees, and honorary professorships; in the minds of most Austrians, she had achieved theatrical apotheosis.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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  • Wessely, Paula — ▪ 2001       Austrian actress (b. Jan. 20, 1907, Vienna, Austria d. May 11, 2000, Vienna), reigned as Austria s most distinguished and beloved stage and screen actress almost from her debut at the Vienna Volkstheater in 1924 until her retirement… …   Universalium

  • Paula Wessely — Bei einem Empfang in der Wiener Hofburg am 30. März 1938, v.l.n.r. Joseph Goebbels, Gertrud Seyß Inquart, Kajetan Mühlmann, Paula Wessely Paula Wessely (* 20. Jänner 1907 in Wien; g …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Paula Wessely — (January 20, 1907 in Vienna, Austria Hungary, now Austria May 11, 2000 in Vienna, Austria) was an Austrian actress. The Wessely , as she was affectionately called by her admirers and fans, was Austria s foremost popular postwar actress.Born in… …   Wikipedia

  • Paula Wessely — Paula Wessely, née le 20 janvier 1907 à Vienne et morte le 11 mai 2000 dans cette même ville, est une actrice autrichienne. Elle tourna dans de nombreux films. Elle rencontra le succès en 1934 dans son premier film Mascarade de Willi Forst et… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Wessely — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Karl Wessely (1860–1931), Papyrologe Christian Wessely (* 1965), österreichischer Fundamentaltheologe Dominik Wessely (* 1966), deutscher Regisseur und Dokumentarfilmer Friedrich Wessely (Chemiker)… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Wessely — is a surname that may refer to: * Naphtali Herz Wessely (1725 1805), poet and linguist * Paula Wessely (1907 2000), Austrian actress * Rudolf Wessely (1925), Austrian actor * Simon Wessely, British psychiatrist …   Wikipedia

  • Paula (Vorname) — Paula ist ein weiblicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung 2 Namenstag 3 Bekannte Namensträgerinnen 3.1 Vornamen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Paula Dworak — Paula Dworak, auch Dvorak (* 8. August 1913 in Wien; † 24. September 1995 in ebenda) war eine österreichische Cutterin. Biografie Paula Dworak hatte sich nach der Ausbildung zur Kleberin und Schnittassistentin bis 1945 als Cutterin von Kultur und …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Wessely — Wẹssely   [ li],    1) Hartwig, eigentlich Naphtali Herz Wesel (Weisel), hebräischer Schriftsteller, * Hamburg 1725, ✝ ebenda 23. 3. 1805; gehörte ab 1774 in Berlin zum Kreis um den Philosophen M. Mendelssohn, an dessen Pentateuchübersetzung er… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Wessely — Übername zu osorb. (älter) wjesely, tschech. vesel »froh, lustig«. Bekannte Namensträgerin: Paula Wessely, österreichische Schauspielerin (20./21.Jh.) …   Wörterbuch der deutschen familiennamen

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