Frank Wolff (actor)

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Frank Wolff , bourgeois Walter Frank Hermann Wolff (born May 11, 1928 in San Francisco ; † December 12, 1971 in Rome ), was an American actor who took part in many European film productions and was particularly represented in the Spaghetti Western . There he was one of the genre stars . He played the Farmer McBain in Sergio Leone's masterpiece Spiel mir das Lied vom Tod (1968) or the Sheriff in Sergio Corbucci's Corpses Paving His Way (1968). He was named UCLA Los Angeles Best Actor twice in direct succession in 1951 and 1952 , a. a. for his portrayal of Macbeth .

Beginning in the USA

Wolff was born in San Francisco. His parents were Germans or Austrians. He began his film career in the late 1950s in TV series and with small feature film roles, having previously been one of the most successful graduates at UCLA with two "Best Actor" titles. He got his first large film role in the horror flick Beast from Haunted Cave by the director Monte Hellman , whom he still knew from UCLA . As a result, he was also cast by Roger Corman in two major roles (in Ski Troop Attack and Atlas ). These were the only three films made in America in which Frank Wolff played a central role.

Relocation to Italy

Frank Wolff left the USA at the beginning of the 1960s on advice from the said Cormans, with whom he had already made four films. Corman saw better opportunities in Italy for talented actors, who in the US only threatened to be used in b-movies. Wolff was also branded insofar as his parents had been active in left-wing politics, which could pose a professional policy problem for actors during the McCarthy era and shortly thereafter.
From 1961 until his death, Frank Wolff was seen almost exclusively in films and series that were shot on European soil, including a few British and / or American productions. The only exceptions were Judith ( shot in Israel ), hot over Africa's earth (partially shot in / around Tripoli ) and excess (partially shot in Los Angeles , although Frank Wolff's scenes may not be one of them).


Wolff gained an excellent reputation within Italian cinema and was also considered by colleagues to be one of the best actors in Italo cinema of this era. Irregularly, but from the very beginning he was given leading roles in Italy. He prefers to shoot artfully staged to experimental films. As a result, he turned down a role in For a Fistful of Dollars , because the Spaghetti Western and Sergio Leone were nameless or non-existent at the time and the later genre did not seem promising in the run-up to the first film.
In his penultimate film, Milano Kaliber 9 , Frank Wolff and Luigi Pistilli , who star in the competing roles of a conservative and a left-wing police officer, achieve two such remarkable acting performances that the director Fernando Di Leo refused to give their scenes essential cut, even though he was aware of the fact that this made the subplot at times very superficial and distracted attention from the main plot. Both actors later committed suicide and both are said to have committed a lack of artistic recognition as a reason for their suicide .
It is characteristic of Wolff's work and comparatively unusual that he appeared very often with strikingly different hairstyles. Whether with a mustache, full beard or shaved, with red, blonde, black or gray hair - depending on the role, there were sometimes significant differences.
In the end, Wolff, contrary to some rumors, was not committed to a certain type, which he was neither necessary nor even remotely worth striving for due to his relatively high artistic standards, which are regarded as certain. He played quite a few rogue roles, but also enough other parts.


There is no interview with Wolff that is open to the public, if interviews at all are recorded. "Making of" recordings or similar behind-the-scenes impressions are also not known. Wolff's only sound document that does not present him in a film role is his voiceover for the documentary Western. Italian Style , in whose production he was also significantly involved.
It is also known that Wolff was in a relationship at the time of his death or at least until shortly before, but is said to have been depressed because he was apparently cheated on by his partner. Depending on the source, it is said that she ran away with his agent or one of his stuntmen. In individual cases there is also talk of a marriage and the fact that the woman was pregnant. However, one cannot speak of a conclusive source situation.
Wolff spoke broken German in the course of his origins, which you can hear in the film Lage Hopeless - but not seriously . The actor Robert Hoffmann also confirmed that Wolff also proved to be able to speak the language in everyday life, even if only “badly and rightly”. Hoffmann can be seen with Wolff in the film Excess and after Wolff's death he moved into his Roman apartment.


Frank Wolff's last film was Toll drive it the old Germanic peoples , a sequel to When the women still had tails , in which he had already participated. During the filming, he committed suicide in his apartment in a Hilton hotel in Rome. According to the testimony of actor Tony Anthony in an interview, he is said to have wringed his hands just a few months earlier for a role in Blindman , which was instead taken on by Ringo Starr . Anthony indirectly owed Wolff a favor - since Wolff had got him his first leading role in A Dollar Between the Teeth - which is why Wolff turned to his help. But against such a popular competitor like Ringo Starr Wolff could not be made palatable to the producers. Wolff then fell out with Anthony. In a later interview, Anthony made it clear that he regretted not having tried hard enough for Wolff, as Wolff might still be alive today. Allegedly, Wolff is said to have had depression not only because of his relationship, but also for professional reasons, which ultimately led to suicide .

The second assumption is controversial, however, since Wolff was, according to contemporaries, quite well known in Italy in the early 1970s and was continuously in front of the camera until his death, among others in leading roles. However, it is important to take into account the fact that Wolff apparently attached great importance to artful films, which makes it seem plausible that his career in B- and even trash films like When the Women Still Had Tails , despite the fact that he could easily make a living in this way, was possibly very dissatisfied.


The book The Magnificent Strangers by actor Brett Halsey , based on memories of his work in Italy, contains several characters who were actually modeled on colleagues Halsey. The figure of Frank Ward is said to have been based on Frank Wolff.
The 16th issue of the relevant fan magazine "Spaghetti Cinema" contains a detailed report on Wolff. a. contains extensive descriptions of a former student colleague Wolff from UCLA.

Voice actor

Frank Wolff's most frequent dubbing actor was Arnold Marquis , who dubbed him in a total of at least five German versions, followed by Herbert Weicker and Martin Hirthe , who each played at least three times. He was also dubbed at least twice by Christian Rode and Alf Marholm , and in the GDR by Hasso Billerbeck . Of his other speakers, only one mission has been recorded so far.


  • Frank Wolff was the only actor who shot with Sergio Leone as well as Sergio Corbucci , Giuseppe Colizzi , Sergio Sollima , Giuliano Carnimeo and Enzo G. Castellari , each of whom played roles of central importance. These directors, along with a few others (such as Tonino Valerii , Gianfranco Parolini or Antonio Margheriti ), were all among the most important representatives of the Spaghetti Western. Wolff did not shoot a western with Sollima, but an agent film.
  • According to the director Sergio Corbucci , during the rehearsals for corpses paving his way to a strange incident, Klaus Kinski insulted Wolff several times and said, among other things, that he did not work with “dirty Jews” like him, which led to a fight between the two, with Kinski losing out. As a result, the two are said to have only talked to each other in front of the camera during the entire shoot. Later, however, Kinski claimed that the action only served the purpose of making his character Wolff's sheriff look particularly hated in the film. Kinski and Wolff later acted together in another film, where they probably had little to do with each other on the set, due to the lack of common scenes.
  • Wolff can partly be heard himself in the English language versions of his Italian films.


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