Oscar Homolka, who's homely KGB colonel was a highlight of two Harry Palmer spy films...
I have a picture of Oscar Homolka and Michael Caine on my real bathroom wall because of the impact he made in the bizarrely bonkers 1967 film 'The Billion Dollar Brain'.
When I was a kid, the film would be repeated every so often, and I just couldn't get enough of Homolka's presence in the film, and especially the way he kept calling Caine's character in the film - Harry Palmer in fact - 'English'.
Despite me thinking Homolka a shoe in for any BBC Central Casting call for any Soviet part in any film, he was actually Austrian. Born in 1898 he fought in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War. He graduated from the Imperial Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna and worked in the Munich theater during the 1920s.
He made many silent pictures in Germany, and worked in early cinema there into the 1930's. He wasn't Jewish, but nevertheless decided to move to the UK, where he starred in popular British films of the period, before moving on the the USA.
In 1936 he starred in Alfred's Hitchcock's 'Sabotage' opposite Sylvia Sidney. In the following decades he starred with Ingrid Bergman in ' Rage in Heaven', with Marilyn Monroe in the 'Seven Year Itch', and with Katherine Hepburn in 'The Madwoman of Chaillot'.
In the mid 1960s he returned to the UK to play the KGB Colonel Stok in 'Funeral in Berlin' and 'Billion Dollar Brain'. His last film was the Blake Edwards romantic filming of 'The Tamarind Seed'.
Homolka's private life was marred by tragedy. Grete Mosheim was his first wife, a German actress who he married in 1928, and divorced in 1937. His second wife was the Hungarian actress Baroness Vally Hatvany, but she died four months after the ceremony. Next was socialite Florence Meyer, after the divorce to whom he married for the fourth time, to American actress Joan Tetzel, in 1949. Tetzel died in 1977.
Homolka lived in England from 1966 until his death from pneumonia on the 27th January 1978 - just three months after the death of his fourth wife. He is buried in Christ Church Churchyard, Fairwarp, East Sussex, England.
Joan Tetzel and Oscar Homolka's headstone in Christ Church, Fairwarp, East Sussex. Photo Ian McFarlaine