Actor, director, intendant
Whether playing a snob, the devil or the King of Prussia alongside Henny Porten – Gründgens, the much-celebrated star of the stage, is the charismatic intellectual of German theatre. Gustaf Gründgens is regarded as a fascinating but equally dubious face of German art. Despite being homosexual, he enjoys a meteoric stage career in the Third Reich and the patronage of those in power. However, he also uses his position as the Nazis’ star performer to help persecuted colleagues.
In 1936, Gründgens flagrantly proclaims that the world is "coming apart at the seams" in this period under the guise of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and, through his staging, creates an aesthetic alternative world to the madness of the dictatorship. A year after his debut as Hamlet in Berlin he receives an invitation from the Kaiser Wilhelm Society to give a lecture at Harnack House. In the Goethe Hall, he talks about stage direction, which he considers to be the "abridged chronicle of the age". Gründgens plays a significant part in the chronicle of the 20th century and remains one of the stars of the German stage until well after the Second World War. In allusion to the actor’s leading role as Mephisto, Klaus Mann turns him into a character in a famous novel.