Norbert Schiller

Norbert Schiller was born in 1899 in Vienna, Austria.

(photo – Judy Sutcliffe)

He was drafted into the First World War as a very young man, but his natural ability to entertain his fellow troops soon got him re-assigned to a Concert Party for the officers.

After the war, and with no formal training, he attended an open audition for young actors at The Vienna State Opera and was cast. He went on to join the Frankfurt Theater Ensemble and, whilst touring with them, met and fell in love with a very young Helene Mayer. She was at that time still in high school but was already a champion Fencer. She went on to become a Fencing World Champion and, controversially, the only Jewish athlete in the 1936 German Olympic Team.

Through touring the country, Norbert Schiller and his ‘matinee-idol’ looks very quickly achieved heartthrob status. He even played Romeo for an astounding 50 week run in Munich.

Throughout this time, and for the rest of his life, he wrote plays and poetry with much of his early material finding its way on to the Berlin cabaret stages.

When the Nazis took power he escaped Berlin, first to his mothers home in Vienna and then, shortly after she died, to England and then Los Angeles.

He lived in Ojai, California, for some time and it was here at  the age of 45 he met and married his wife Mary. He kept working in film and television but never really learned English well enough to get parts beyond cameos and minor characters. Amongst many other roles, he played a recurring character in the 1960′s sitcom Hogans Heroes, the T.V movie version of Dynasty, and the 1974 Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein. He is listed at IMDB with 95 film and television credits from 1922 to 1979.

(photo – Judy Sutcliffe)

Norbert and Mary settled in Santa Barbara, where he died in 1988 aged 89.

(photo – Judy Sutcliffe)

Huge thanks to Judy Sutcliffe for her help with this post and for her fantastic photos. Her book ‘A Collection Of Old Men’ is available from here

This entry was posted in People and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Norbert Schiller

  1. Claudie Schiller says:

    I love the photos and the story; however, I was born to Paulette and Norbert Schiller in 1948. He and my stepmother met after that!! But thanks nevertheless for a delightful article.

  2. Richard Berrett says:

    I am an old friend of Mary’s. This is a wonderful story. Thank you.

  3. Mongostein says:

    Norbert Schiller’s legacy lives on through his only son Norbert Jr. A talented photographer/collector one hopes that one day he will produce his father’s story either in print or digitally.

  4. franceska says:

    I think the last time I saw Uncle Norbert I was about 4 years old. He was my sister’s godfather and wrote my grandmother’s obituary for the Anthroposophical Society journal. I remember him as a kind, funny man among my grandmother’s “salons” of intellectual gatherings of otherwise rather stuffy people. She was Dr. Erna McArthur, also from Vienna.
    I remember going to Santa Barbara each April (Easter?) for a gathering in a park hosted by Uncle Norbert. I was just wondering if he had children, and here I find he did. Look forward to Norbert Jr. ‘s story.

  5. Tom says:

    Hello to all. I have found a thin (playbill sized) old book of lyrics signed by Norbert if anyone in the family would like to have me mail it to them please email me at I found it in a box of stuff from a house I bought back in ’97 from an acquaintance of his.

  6. Deborah Horner says:

    I’ve just found a small book given to me by Norbert and Mary in 1956, perhaps during a visit to Ojai, near Santa Barbara. He wrote a lovely note to me, citing a line I said at that time (I was perhaps 13):
    ‘Norbert and Mary fit together
    with no bubbles in between’….and he continues in poetic format.

    If anyone sees this, I too write and photograph and would be charmed to see a book about Norbert. I remember him very fondly.
    Deborah (Frenkel) Horner
    Melbourne, Australia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>