1970 - 1974

Otto Blum Waldis

Biography

Born in Vienna in 1901, Otto Blum was a student in Germany during World War I, initially studying to be a naval engineer. When the Treaty of Versailles greatly restricted the size of the German navy, he shifted his attention to acting. Rudolph Schildkraut, the great Romanian actor, happen to see Otto in an amateur performance, and with his encouragement, Blum started his theatrical career.

Billed as Otto “Valdis,” he performed Shakespeare and classic German plays, soon advancing to the front ranks of German theatre. He made his screen debut in 1931 (billed as Otto Wernicke) in Fritz Lang’s classic thriller, M – A City Searches for a Murderer.

With Hitler’s rise to power, Otto recognized the Nazis as a threat to the arts and Jews alike. He returned to the city of his birth and took up the study of photography. His years of acting and directing afforded Otto an unexpected expertise in using light to draw out the character and personality of his subjects. Work was hard to find in Austria after 1933, as hundreds of Jewish actors, banished from Germany, poured into the country. But Blum studied his new profession and did some acting on the side.

In 1936, Otto married a Viennese lyric soprano opera singer he had met in Berlin several years before, Margaretha Vietl. A few years later, the Nazis invaded Austria. Margaretha described the sky that day as “black with planes.” Otto and Margaretha chose to leave Austria immediately. They left behind Otto’s 80-year-old father and Margaretha’s parents and sisters. The fear of reprisals on these relatives kept the Blums silent for many years on most aspects of their life in Vienna.

The Blums reached New York in May 1939, but it seemed that full-time employment was elusive. It was the prospect of a loan from the United Jewish Fund (UJF), allowing refugees to establish businesses, that brought the couple to Birmingham in June 1940. Otto opened a photography business and became self-sufficient almost immediately.

By 1947, Otto Blum assumed his old stage name, Otto “Waldis,” as he was called to the silver screen. He resumed his career in Hollywood with the support of a fellow expatriate, director Max Ophüls, in the latter’s The Exile. Otto was fully employed over the next decade, working in television and movies. As a character actor, Otto had guest appearances in classic American television shows such as Lassie, Maverick, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, Mannix, and Wagon Train, among others.

Otto had just signed to appear in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein at the time of his heart attack in early 1974. Otto Blum Waldis was 72 years old.

More Information

Name in US
Otto Blum, Otto Waldis
Name at Birth
Otto Glucksmann Blum
Date of Birth - Note
May 20, 1901
Country of Birth
Austria
City of Birth
Vienna
Spouse(s) Name(s)

Margaretha (Margaret, Margit) Veitl
(August 21, 1903 Vienna – November 28, 1974 Los Angeles, CA)
Married May 14, 1936 Vienna

Year / City / Ship to US
May 22, 1939 / New York, NY / SS Noordam
Date Moved to Alabama
June 1940
Alabama City of Residence
Birmingham
Date of Death
March 25, 1974
City of Death
Hollywood, CA
City of Burial / Cemetery
Non-cemetery burial
Dates Lived in Alabama
1940-1947