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Oscar winner Maximilian Schell dies aged 83

Austrian actor and Academy award winner Maximilian Schell performs on stage during the Red Ribbon Celebration Concert ahead of the 20th Life
Austrian actor and Academy award winner Maximilian Schell performs on stage during the Red Ribbon Celebration Concert ahead of the 20th Life

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian actor Maximilian Schell, who won an Academy Award for his role as a German defense attorney in the acclaimed 1961 courtroom drama "Judgment at Nuremberg", has died at age 83.

The Vienna-born actor died overnight at a clinic in Innsbruck as the result of a "sudden and serious illness", his agent, Patricia Baumbauer, told the Austria Press Agency on Saturday.

One of the best known foreign actors in U.S. films, Schell starred on stage and screen on both sides of the Atlantic after growing up in Switzerland, where his family settled to escape the Nazis after Germany's 1938 annexation of Austria.

The brother of actress Maria Schell, he also won a Golden Globe and New York Film Critics Circle award for his role in "Judgment at Nuremberg", which followed a television drama version of the play.

"Judgment at Nuremberg," directed by Stanley Kramer, was a dramatization of the war crimes trials in Germany that followed World War Two. It focused on an international tribunal, headed by Americans, that was handling the trials of four German judges accused of knowingly condemning innocent men to death in concert with the Nazis.

For his portrayal of defense attorney Hans Rolfe, Schell earned broad international recognition. He was part of an all-star cast that also included Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Montgomery Clift, Richard Widmark and Judy Garland.

Schell won the Oscar for best actor, beating, among others, his co-star Tracy. The movie was nominated for 11 Oscars, including best picture, and won two Academy Awards.

Schell was nominated for two more Oscars, in 1976 for best actor for "The Man in the Glass Booth" and in 1978 as best supporting actor for "Julia".

Also a prolific television actor, Schell won the 1993 Golden Globe for best actor in a supporting role in the TV movie "Stalin" in which he co-starred with Robert Duvall.

He made his mark as a film director as well. He directed and starred in "The Pedestrian" (1973), which was nominated for an Oscar as best foreign language film.

He also directed the Oscar-nominated documentary "Marlene" (1984) about Marlene Dietrich, and a documentary on the life of his sister, "My Sister Maria" (2002).

"Directing is like meeting a woman," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2005. "You don't know her, but something strikes you and then you just have to go into it. Michelangelo said that in every rock there's a figure hidden. All you have to do is carve it out. With care, not haste."

Born on December 8, 1930, Schell began work as a professional actor in early 1950s and made an impression in Hollywood in the World War Two drama "The Young Lions" (1958) starring Marlon Brando.

Among his dozens of other movies were "Topkapi" (1964), "The Odessa File" (1974), "A Bridge Too Far" (1977), "Cross of Iron" (1977), "The Freshman" (1990), "Deep Impact" (1998) and "The Brothers Bloom" (2008).

Schell was also a talented pianist and directed operas.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Additional reporting by Will Dunham in Washington; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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