Paul Lukas was an Austrian-Hungarian-born actor.
Born Pál Lukács in Budapest, he arrived in Hollywood in 1927 after a successful stage and film career in Hungary, Germany and Austria where he worked with Max Reinhardt. He made his stage debut in Budapest in 1916 and his film debut in 1917. At first, he played elegant, smooth womanizers, but increasingly he became typecast as a villain. In 1933, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
He was busy in the 1930s, appearing in such films as the melodrama Rockabye, the crime caper Grumpy, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, the comedy Ladies in Love, and the drama Dodsworth. He followed William Powell and Basil Rathbone portraying the series detective Philo Vance, a cosmopolitan New Yorker, once in 1935 in The Casino Murder Case, but his major role came in 1943’s Watch on the Rhine, when he played a man working against the Nazis. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the role, winning out over luminary efforts as Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, Gary Cooper in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Walter Pidgeon in Madame Curie, and Mickey Rooney in The Human Comedy.
To modern viewers, Paul Lukas is best known for his role as Professor Aronnax in Walt Disney’s classic 1954 film version of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. By that time, however, he was, at age 60, suffering from memory problems during the production, apparently leading him to lash out at cast and crew alike. Even fellow Hungarian and friend Peter Lorre was not immune to the abuse.