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Stefan Schnabel – Biography


Stefan Schnabel, Therese and Artur Schnabel’s second son, was born in Berlin on February 2, 1912. He had a successful acting career, from radio to television, the stage and the movies. He worked with many great actors, beginning with Laurence Olivier on the stage, then with Orson Welles on radio, Lucille Ball on television and Gérard Depardieu, Clint Eastwood, William Holden and Robert Mitchum among others in the movies. He also starred for 17 years as Dr. Stephen Jackson in daytime television’s Guiding Light.


When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Stefan left Berlin with his family to live in Tremezzo, Lake Como. That same year he went to London where he joined the Old Vic Theatre and studied and worked with Sir John Gielgud, Charles Laughton and Maurice Evans. He played Lucianus in Laurence Olivier’s first production of Hamlet and the elderly butler in George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara, developing a friendship with the author.


In 1938, Stefan Schnabel moved to New York City. With his background, he had no trouble finding work in the United States and was immediately hired for radio programs. He once estimated that he must have done 5,000 broadcasts before entering the U.S. Army during World War II to serve with the Office of Strategic Services.


In 1939 he married Joan Pittman. Their daughter, Susan, was born in 1940.


Before the war he was also active on the stage and appeared in the Welles’ Mercury Theatre productions of Julius Caesar and Shoemaker’s Holiday as well as Eva LeGallienne’s productions of The Cherry Orchard and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. His first post-war role was in Welles’ production of Cole Porter’s musical Around the World in Eighty Days on Broadway. He met his second wife, Marion Kohler, in the cast and they married a year later taking up residence in Connecticut. They have two sons, Peter and David.


Stefan Schnabel appeared in Broadway shows such as Peter Ustinov’s The Love of Four Colonels, the musical Plain and Fancy, the plays A Very Rich Woman and Social Security. He obtained further acclaim in the Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre productions of In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer and Enemies. He was featured off-Broadway in Tybala and Her Demon, Cymbeline, the American premiere of Slawomir Mrozek’s Tango, also The Passion of Dracula and Older People for Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival. He played in many productions throughout the United States and Germany as well. One of the notable plays he appeared in was Prozess Jesu by Diego Fabri in Munich and on tour in Bavaria.


Together with his wife, Marion Schnabel, Stefan conceived the Rainbow Theatre with a series of dramatic readings at Norwalk Community College, Connecticut. A few years later, in 1992, they moved to Italy, to their house in Rogaro, Lake Como. This is where Stefan Schnabel died on March 11, 1999.

© Ann Mottier, May 2003

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