Wessely, Paula

BORN 20 Jan 1907, Wien - DIED 13 May 2000, Wien: Hartmannspital
BIRTH NAME Wessely, Paula Anna Maria
GRAVE LOCATION Wien: Grinzinger Friedhof, 19., An den langen Lüssen 33 (Gruppe 06, Reihe 3, Nummer 3)

Paula Wessely was the second daughter of the butcher Carl Wessely (1872-1960) from Vienna. Her father's sister Josephine Wessely (1860-1887) was an actress at the Burgtheater in Vienna before her early death. Paula first appeared on the stage at school on 18 May 1922 as Agnes in Hermann Sudermann's play "Fritzchen". She took acting lessons at the Staatsakademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna and continued her education at the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar from 1924 to 1926.

She started her professional career at the Volkstheater in Vienna in 1924 and worked there until 1926, when Leopold Kramer engaged her at the Deutsche Theater in Prague. In 1927 she returned to Vienna where she worked at the Volkstheater under Rudolf Beer. She was a well known actress by the time she appeared at the Theater in der Josedstadt with Attila Hörbiger. In 1930 she first performed at the Festspiele in Salzburg and in 1932 she appeared in Berlin.

In 1934 she made her film debut in "Maskerade". In 1935 she married the Hungarian actor Attila Hörbiger. She became one of the most popular actresses of the Third Reich and was called "Die Wessely". After the annexation of Austria she publicly declared her support for the 'großen volksdeutschen Reich'. During the Second World War she played in nazi propaganda movies like "Heimkehr" ("Coming Home", 1941). These movies were sponsored by Goebbels himself. In 1944 Hitler put her on the Gottbegnadeten-Liste of the most important artists.

After the war ended she stayed in the West of Austria with her husband until she returned to Vienna in October 1945. Because of her participation in "Heimkehr" she wasn't allowed to work in the American zone which included Vienna. But in Innsbruck in the French zone she could work without problems with her classification as 'lesser burdoned' ('Minderbelastet'). On 30 August 1945 she was christine in Schnitzler's "Liebelei" in Innsbruck. After several interrogations she suffered from serious nervous problems in the fall of 1946 and she was treated in the Allgemeinen Krankenhaus in Vienna. One of her dotors was Dr. Placheta, who would be known as the actor Gunter Phillip in later years.

On 19 May 1947 she was back on the stage of the Josefstadttheater in Vienna next to her husband. Their movie "Der Engel mit der Posaune" in which she played a half-Jew was a success. In 1950 she founded Paula-Wessely-Filmproduktion and she frequently played the main female part in the productions of this company.

She had refused several invitations to go to Hollywood and never became really famous outside the German speaking region. In 1953 she returned to the Burgtheater and she performed their until old age, often with her husband Attila, who died in april 1987. Their three daughters Christiana Hörbiger, Maresa Hörbiger and Elisabeth Orth were also actresses and performed at the Burgtheater as well. Paula's last performance took place on 5 November 1987, when she read texts by Goethe, Brecht and others. She died in 2000 in a hospital in Vienna, aged 93. She was buried beside Attila Hörbiger at the Grinzinger cemetery in Vienna.

• Husband: Hörbiger, Attila (1935-1987, Wien: Rathaus)

Related persons
• was pupil of Beer, Rudolf
• had a love affair with Jaray, Hans
• attended funeral of Moser, Hans

18/5/1922First public appearance by Paula Wessely. She played Agnes in Hermann Sudermann's play "Fritzen" at a charity event at her school. Her appearance was noticed in the newspaper Reichspost. 
20/10/1923Guest appearance of Paula Wessely at the Akademietheater. She appeared in Karl Gutzkow's "Uriel Acosta". [Gutzkow, Karl]
17/9/1932Paula Wessely performs in Hauptmann's "Rose Bernd" at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. This was her breakthrough, both the audience and the critics were enthousiastic. Alfred Kerr praised her in the Berliner Tagblatt and Werner Krauss was deeply impressed. The director of the play was Karl Heinz Martin. [Kerr, Alfred][Krauss, Werner][Martin, Karl Heinz]
20/2/1933Paula Wessely appears as Christine in Schnitzler's "Liebelei" at the Theater in der Josefstadt in Vienna. Paul Kalbeck was the director. [Schnitzler, Arthur]
17/8/1933Paula Wessely appears as Gretchen in Goethe's "Faust" at the Festspiele in Salzburg. She appeared next to Ewald Balser and she would play the part for five summers. [Balser, Ewald]
22/9/1934Paula Wessely meets Adolf Hitler for the first time 
30/3/1938Paula Wessely attends a reception where Joseph Goebbels was also present. It took place at the Hofburg in Vienna. Gertrud Seyss-Inquart and Kajetan Mühlmann were there as well. 
23/12/1939First performance of Paula Wessely in a play by Shakespeare. It took place in Vienna and the play was a German version of "The Taming of the Shrew". She appeared next to her husband Attila Hörbiger. [Hörbiger, Attila]
30/8/1945Paula Wessely appears as Christine in Schnitzler's "Liebelei" at the Landestheater in Innsbruck. At that time she wasn't allowed to work in Vienna by the americans, but the French raised no objections in Innsbruck. 
5/11/1987Last public performance by Paula Wessely. She read texts from Goethe, Brecht, Nestroy, Hilde Spiel and Jeannie Ebner. 


The grave of Attila Hörbiger and Paula Wessely at the Grinzinger Friedhof, Vienna.
Picture by Androom (29 Aug 2002)


Paula Wessely.


Paula Wessely.


Paula Wessely.


Paula Wessely.


Paula Wessely.

Paula Wessely.


Paula Wessely.


Paula Wessely.


Paula Wessely.
Picture by Froelich-Film


Paula Wessely.
Picture by Union Film


Paula Wessely.
Picture by ToBis


Paula Wessely and Hermann Thimig in "Die Kluge Marianne".

Paula Wessely – Wikipedia

West, Rebecca

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 01 Jan 2024