LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25 -- The Los Angeles Superior Court trial began Thursday in actor Maxmilian Schell's $1 million lawsuit against the producer of a European production of 'My Fair Lady.' Schell, who is expected to testify later in the case, contends that Wolfgang Bocksch did not honor his contractual obligations after the last five weeks of the 1994 summer production, scheduled for Hamburg, Germany, were canceled. According to testimony Thursday morning by Schell's former agent, David Wardlow, the producer was required to pay Schell $250,000 plus daily expenses for the Hamburg run even if the production was halted. Schell, who won a best actor Oscar for the 1961 film 'Judgment at Nuremberg,' played Professor Henry Higgins in Bocksch's production of the popular musical. Schell attorney Mark Kalmansohn said the plaintiff is seeking the $250,000 and expenses, court costs and attorney fees plus damages for 'loss of income and injury to the reputation' of the actor, who he said remains popular in Europe. The 65-year-old actor and director is a citizen of Switzerland who maintains homes in his native Vienna, Austria, and in Los Angeles, Wardlow said. In his opening statement, Kalmansohn said that Schell honored his part of his agreement with Bocksch, 'performing to critical and audience acclaim and never missing a show.' Schell was contracted to perform six days a week. Kalmansohn said he expected the defense to contend that Schell was uncooperative with efforts to publicize the production, but said those allegations are untrue.
The attorney said statements by Bocksch and his representatives after the cancellation instead blamed factors such as the heat in Europe that summer and a competing production of 'My Fair Lady' in Hamburg that featured the wife of the Hamburg mayor. Bocksch was not present at the proceeding. His attorney, Michael Jay Berger, said the defendant was ill in Europe and will testify at a later time, probably in February. Judge Joseph R. Kalin said he will leave the case open until Bocksch canbe scheduled to testify. Schell waived his right to a jury trial. Kalin will issue a ruling when testimony is completed.