Alfred Peter Abel was a German film actor, director, and producer. He appeared in more than 140 silent and sound films between 1913 and 1938. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang's 1927 film, Metropolis.
During the first part of the twentieth century, Abel began working towards a film career. In 1913, he caught the eye of Asta Nielsen, who helped him break into the film industry. That same year, he made his screen debut playing the lead role of "Anselmus Aselmeyer" in Max Reinhardt's silent movie, Eine Venezianische Nacht, Abel acted in over one hundred silent films by renowned directors including Ernst Lubitsch, F. W. Murnau, and Richard Oswald, and alongside such famous silent film stars as Pola Negri, Henny Porten, Jenny Jugo, and Asta Nielsen. He often played dignified authority figures and was called the "Lewis Stone of German Pictures".
Abel's more notable silent film roles include his performances as "Lorenz Lubota" in Phantom (1922), as "Count Graf Told" in Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922), as "Gaston" in Die Flamme (1923), and as "Alphonse Gunderman" in the French film, L'Argent (1928). Abel's most famous silent film performance was in Fritz Lang’s futuristic film, Metropolis (1927) as Joh Fredersen, leader of the metropolis. Abel was renowned for his acting style characterized by his avoidance of dramatic gesturing. He learned to show the psychology and internal tensions of his characters with reserved expressions. Many actors of his day struggled to change their acting styles for film after transitioning from stage acting and were often mocked later as sound film was introduced.
With the beginning of talkies, Abel remained a much desired actor and starred in 38 films. He worked with many renowned directors such as Detlef Sierck and Anatole Litvak. Some of his better-known sound films include Litvak's Dolly's Way to Stardom (1930) as Count Eberhard, Heinz Ruehmann's Meine Frau, die Hochstaplerin (1931), Reinhold Schuenzel's romance, Beautiful Adventure (1932) as Count d'Eguzon, and Franz Liszt's ‘’The Court Concert’’ (1936) as Dichter Knips. Abel played the starring role of Sir John Menier in Alfred Hitchcock's Mary (1931), the German version of the Hitchcock’s Murder! (1930). Abel's final film role was as Daffinger in Herbert Maisch's Frau Sylvelin (1938), which was not released until after his death.
There were rumours at the time of the 1922 film Nosferatu and for many years afterwards that Max Schreck, who played the vampire, did not actually exist and was a pseudonym for Abel.