Wilhelm Althaus estate – Pour le
Mérite and other military films
Wilhelm Althaus was an actor whose film career started in 1938 with an appearance in the film Magda, which was uncredited. He then appeared in nine German films from 1938 through to 1942. The main propaganda films included Pour le Mérite, Das Gewehr über,Wunschkonzert, Drei Unteroffiziere, Die große Liebe, and Blutbrüderschaft. Althaus played soldiers in all of these films. Our Poster Gallery has all of these particular posters.
Little in known about this man other than from a newspaper article on his appearing in the Werner Hochbaum military film Drei Unteroffiziere in 1939, in which he played a Captain. The article stated that he fought for five years as a German soldier in WWI and then fought in post-war "Red" Munich as a member of the Freikorps. (Little wonder that there was a role for him in Ritter's Pour le Mérite !)
There is Ufa correspondence that Althaus helped famous actress Françoise Rosay with her German dialogue in the 1938 Karl Ritter comedy, The Honeymoon, and a newspaper clipping about it:
On November 14, 1938 he was issued a contract by the Deutsche Filmakademie in Babelsberg as a teacher in German Literature. The contract was signed by the Film Academy's Director, Wilhelm Müller–Scheld. We have this contract and letter, and a photo of Althaus teaching a session in Seddinersee, about 18 km from Potsdam, in our Collection. Here is the photo of Althaus reading literature to Filmakademie students in 1939.......
In 1939, he was contracted to appear in the films Zweilicht and Zwölf Minuten nach Zwölf.
We know that he also was hired by Paramount Pictures in Germany in June 1940 to dub a voice in their 1936 film Murder with Pictures. He also appeared in a play, Die Gattin, as the character Walther, on the stage of the famous Theater Unter den Linden in Berlin.
The photo below shows him with actress Ruth Hellberg on the set of Drei Unteroffiziere, a film for which we own the original German film poster.
He was also contracted on 13 March 1942 by the Ober–kommando der Kriegsmarine in Berlin to be the narrator in two naval short films, Hilfskreuzer and Automatisches Schweißen.
Althaus re–surfaced after the war, appearing in one final motion picture in 1952 and just one TV drama in 1967. Althaus' actual birth and death dates are unknown to us, but he played an important role in the origin of some of the best of our Karl Ritter Pour le Mérite materials.
Below, Althaus in Pour le Mérite. (1938)
Many years ago a film collector in Germany offered us three dozen press photos from Karl Ritter's 1938 propaganda film, Pour le Mérite. These originals were not easy to come by.
Additionally, the collector offered us the original Uƒa studio invitation to the film's premiere at the Berlin Uƒa Palast am Zoo, shown below right. We added these to our archive. The press photos and the Uƒa invitation came from Althaus' estate. No other items were available, his estate obviously scattered to the winds. These purchases spurred us on to seek further original materials from this important and highly popular film. (The net profits to Uƒa from Ritter's film exceeded those two years later from the infamous Harlan film, Jud Süß, for example.)
Fast–forward some years and we were then able to acquire the Uƒa studio's advertising brochure aimed at German cinema owners, offering them huge B&W billboard hoardings for Pour le Mérite which they could rent (!) and use across their foyers. This poster panel was a huge 4 ft. x 8 1/4 ft. display. (This item did not come from the Althaus estate.)
A year later, we were then offered an original Uƒa studio sterling silver souvenir from the Pour le Mérite production – a small silver cup with a "Pour le Mérite" gold emblem on the front, and the engraved words "Uƒa Film 1938" on the back; along with its original presentation box. We snapped it up at auction. (This item may or may not have come from Althaus' estate, but only a handful of such cups were manufactured for Uƒa studios and they were given to cast members only.)
At auction in January 2015, we won Wilhelm Althaus' personal Pour le Mérite script with his name written across the right side of the cover. The script book contained the floor plan of the military prison scene – one of the scenes in which Althaus was appearing. Photo of the script and prison floor plan, below.
In early 2016 we found on a militaria website the framed, matted photo of a WWI era Fokker bi–plane, with an inscription printed on it, and signed in ink pen by Director Karl Ritter, which was to commemorate the construction of the bi–plane aircraft for his film Pour le Mérite. The inscription on the matt board reads:
In grateful remembrance for the work contributing to the design of the German air film POUR LE MERITE, Autumn 1938 (signed) Karl Ritter.
Later, we found the signed film star card of Wilhelm Althaus from the military film Das Gewehr über (at the top of this page, left). This card, the film script, and the film press photos plus Uƒa invitation were all found over ten years apart, from three different sources. Then, in early 2021, the original Ufa film studio contract for Althaus to appear in Pour le Mérite came up for auction –– and already owning his film script, film stills, his Ufa-Palast-am-Zoo cinema invitation to attend the film's premiere ....well, we simply had to win the contract -- and we did! BELOW the front page of the contract:
Here is the Ufa contract for Althaus to play the role of "Captain" in Drei Unteroffiziere:
He appeared both in uniform and in civilain clothes in various scenes in the film. Here in civvies on the left:
Vale Wilhelm Althaus!
To see our original movie poster from Pour le Mérite, click here. The poster is from Fascist Italy 1938/39, in Italian. The film was hugely popular there.
To see our original movie poster for Drei Unteroffiziere, click here.