I first encountered him in Metropolis (1926, good article at cyranos.ch). Abel played the future industrialist Joh. Fredersen, father of the young hero, who orders the creation of an artificial woman in order to provoke the oppressed workers into a fatal uprising. (I've always wondered why the robot woman is supposed to subvert the peaceful preaching of Maria, although the real Maria keeps the workers lulled in a state of passive hope, most useful to the rulers.)
Abel's gaunt look was very impressive, and his acting was wonderfully tactful (compared to the rest of the cast). Turns out that he was rather cute in real life, although the eyebrows were part of the mask. Behold:
What a striking difference!
Abel (1879–1937) was not only a successful and well liked actor in film and theatre (as early as 1914, he had performed in every theatre in Berlin), he was also a director and producer. His first film part was under the direction of theatre wizard Max Reinhardt (I found a book about him in Berlin last December). Besides Fritz Lang (Dr. Mabuse, Metropolis) he also worked with F. W. Murnau and Ernst Lubitsch - names that really should make your modern little hearts beat faster. Interestingly, he began his career by studying gardening and artistic drawing... and his own production company was called Artifex Film (something interesting for my mother!). He also had a well-kept wardrobe:
As usual in this blog, he died far too young, after a longer illness in 1937. He just escaped the claws of the Third Reich; his daughter Ursula, who was also pursuing a career in acting, could not produce proof that he was "Aryan", and she had to give up her dream. Without the proper pedigree, an actor was not accepted. Abel's father was a peddler, Louis Abel, married to Anna Maria Selma in Leipzig. Their names and trades would make them suspicious in the eyes of later generations. All clues pointed to a Jewish origin.
I suppose that accusation was a sign of posthumous anti-Chirayliqism (as experienced by certain Russian actors, who, being too handsome, were accused of belonging to various politically incorrect ethnicities).