Suave, highly polished and intense performer who broke with ten generations of his family's circus tradition to make his mark on the Austrian and German stage. Walbrook entered German film in the early 1920s and emerged as a star a decade later, billed as Adolf Wohlbruck. Energetic and boyishly handsome--in contrast to the smooth maturity he would soon begin to convey so well--he graced a number of enjoyable films, among them the gender-bending romantic comedy "Viktor und Viktoria/Victor and Victoria" (1933), which later became the basis for Blake Edwards' "Victor/Victoria." Attracting attention, he arrived in Hollywood to appear in the 1937 production, "Michael Strogoff/The Soldier and the Lady," reprising his starring role in the earlier French and German versions.
Walbrook went on to establish himself on the English stage and screen as an upper-crust Continental charmer. Much of his most important film work came in British film of the 1940s. He was delicately moving and immensely likeable as the affable German officer in the landmark Powell and Pressburger satire, "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943) and was equally impressive as the temperamental gay impresario in their memorable romantic melodrama "The Red Shoes" (1948). As incisive military types, Walbrook, often sporting a trim mustache and an icy stare, had no peer at challenging another man to a duel or intoning phrases like "You insolent young puppy!."
A fine villain, Walbrook is fondly remembered for his chilling performance in the first screen version "Gaslight" (1940) as a man trying to drive his wife insane. And yet the grace and skill of his work invariably left audiences feeling some core of sympathy for the dashing figure he cut, as in his powerful performance as a man desperate to learn an aging countess' magical secret in Thorold Dickinson's stylish "The Queen of Spades" (1948). Later in his highly distinguished career, Walbrook turned in graceful, sophisticated performances in two splendid and swank Max Ophuls features, "La Ronde" (1950, as the ineffable narrator) and "Lola Montes" (1955, very touching as the aging King of Bavaria).