Max Hansen was born Max Josef Haller on 22nd December 1897 in Mannheim, Germany. His mother was the Danish actress Eva Haller and his father was thought to be, Swedish Army officer, Schürer von Waldheim.
He grew up with foster parents in Munich and whilst still at school was performing at the Munich Opera House and had earned the nickname ‘Der kleine Caruso’ (The Little Caruso).
He studied music and voice and first appeared in cabaret at Munich’s Cabaret Simplizissimus at the age of 17. By 1914, he had moved to Vienna and was a well-known singer and comedian and it was here that he met the composer Franz Lehar.
In 1924 he moved to Berlin and regularly performed at The Metropoltheater am Nollendorfplatz (now Goya) and was a major name in operettas, revues, cabaret and radio.
(Karl Jöken (2nd from the left), Max Hansen (front), Paul Morgan (far right) and the Weintraub Syncopators in “Das Kabinett des Dr. Larifari” (1930) ( image: filmportal.de))
He was a co-founder of the Kadeko, along with Paul Morgan and Kurt Robitschek, also in 1924 and had a major success in the Ralph Benatzky operetta/musical The White Horse Inn, creating the role of Leopold The Waiter. A part he reprised in the 1926 film of the same name.
He appeared in more than 40 films from 1925 to 1956, including starring opposite the soprano Gitta Alpar in the film ‘She, or Nobody’ in 1932 and appearing as her in drag.
In 1932, he recorded the song “War’n Sie Schon mal in Mich Verliebt?” – a bitter parody of Hitler as a homosexual, which had unsurprising consequences.
In 1933, he left Berlin for Vienna and then emigrated to Denmark after the German invasion of Austria in 1938. He founded his own theatre in Copenhagen but returned to Berlin in 1951 to reprise his famous role in The White Horse Inn, back at the Theater am Nollendorfplatz.
He was married twice, firstly to Austrian actress Lizzi Waldmüller and from 1940 to Britta Hansen. He had three children and his son Max Hansen Jr, born in 1954, also became an actor.
He died on November 12 1961 in Copenhagen, aged 63