Walter Wilhelm Karl Ernst Rilla was born on August 22, 1894 in Neunkirchen, Bezirk Trier, Germany. The son of a railway engineer Friedrich Wilhelm Rilla and his wife Karoline founder of the Fridericianum and the University of Königsberg. He studied literature, art history and philosophy in Breslau, Lausanne and Berlin.
He married Theresa Klausner, from this marriage comes the film director Wolf Rilla. Since
1959 he was married to the writer Alix Degrelle-Hirth du Frênes.
In 1919 he founded the literary journal Earth. From 1920 he worked as a drama teacher for the Berlin theater. Since the 1920s, Walter Rilla was one of the most important of the German character actors. In 1926, he starred opposite Elisabeth Bergner in “Der Geiger von Florenz”, in 1928 alongside Marlene Dietrich in “Prinzessin Olala”. In 1934 he went to England for a film roll, which followed by his final emigration in 1936. There Rilla remained until the end of the 1950s as a recognized supporting actor in productions such as “Star of India” or “Sabotage Agent”.
Rilla returned to Germany in 1957 where he had a role in “Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull” alongside of Liselotte Pulver and Horst Buchholz. He played in the Doctor Mabuse films “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” (1962) and “Dr. Mabuse and Scotland Yard” (1963) and in the Edgar Wallace films “The Forger of London” and “Zimmer 13” (1964) in the latter film as well as in “I, Dr. Fu Man Chu”, he appeared with Karin Dor as father-daughter characters.
Rilla appeared in only one Euro-western as Murph Allan Short in “Day of Anger” (1967) with Lee Van Cleef and Giuliano Gemma.
In addition, Rilla was a writer, screenwriter, producer, director, and television actor. He made his final appearance alongside Ruth Leuwerik and Martin Held in “Unordnung und frühes Leid”. In 1966 he received the Film Award for his lifetime work in German films.
Rilla died on November 21, 1980 in Rosenheim, Bavaria, Germany.
Today we remember Walter Rilla on what would have been his 120th birthday.