Diffring in The Beast Must Die (1974)
20 October 1916
|Died||19 May 1989 (aged 72)|
|Other names||Anton de Vient|
Diffring was born Alfred Pollack in Koblenz. His father, Solomon Pollack, was a Jewish shop-owner who managed to avoid internment by the Nazi authorities and survived Nazi Germany. His mother, Bertha Pollack (née Diffring), was Christian. He studied acting in Berlin and Vienna, but there is conjecture about when he left Germany prior to the outbreak of World War II. The audio commentary for the Doctor Who series Silver Nemesis mentions that he left in 1936 to escape persecution due to his homosexuality. Other accounts point to him leaving in 1939 and going to Canada, where he was interned in 1940, which is unlikely as he appears in the Ealing Studios film Convoy (released in July 1940, as the officer of the U-37, in an uncredited role). His sister Jacqueline Diffring moved to England and became a sculptor. Although he made two fleeting uncredited appearances in films in 1940, it was not until 1950 that his acting career began to take off.
With numerous World War II dramatic productions in film and television being produced in England in the 1950s, Diffring's "Germanic" physical type of blond hair, pale blue eyes and chiselled features saw him often cast in roles as Nazi military officers in films such as Albert R.N. (1953) and The Colditz Story (1955). Some of his more notable roles as German characters were in The Heroes of Telemark (1965), The Blue Max (1966), Where Eagles Dare (1968), as SS officer Reinhard Heydrich in Operation Daybreak (1975), and the football match commentator in Escape to Victory (1981), though he also played a Polish parachutist in The Red Beret (1953). He played Hitler's foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in the American mini-series The Winds of War (1983). In the Italian war movie Uccidete Rommel, shot in an Egyptian desert in 1969, he played the role of a British officer of the SAS.
He played an important part in the TV mini-series Flambards, being the aeronautical pioneer who assists the young son, William Russell (Alan Parnaby), second in line of inheritance to the Flambards Estate but also obsessed with flying. Diffring's character was a German, living in Britain, shortly before the beginning of the Great War.
Diffring starred in a number of horror films, such as The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) and Circus of Horrors (1960) and played the lead in the television pilot Tales of Frankenstein (1958). He also appeared in quite a number of international films, such as Fahrenheit 451 (1966) directed by François Truffaut.
His final performance was again as a Nazi, Des Flores, for the BBC in the 1988 Doctor Who serial Silver Nemesis, which he agreed to appear because the filming in England coincided with the Wimbledon Championships, which he wanted to go to.
Diffring died on 19 May 1989 from cancer at his home in Châteauneuf-Grasse, in the South of France, at the age of 72. His body was buried in the graveyard of St. Andrew's Church, in the village of White Colne in Essex.