April 3, 1941
Actor, Lab assistant (dissected cadavers), Parking lot attendant
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An aloof, craggy-faced leading man best known as business wizard Victor Newman on the CBS daytime drama "The Young and the Restless", Eric Braeden has parlayed a ruddy complexion, stiff European demeanor and German accent into a long-running TV career in America. Born in Germany during World War II, he was the son of the mayor of Bredenback, a small town near the port city of Kiel. After World War II, his father, who had been a Nazi party member, was imprisoned by the British for a year (although there is no evidence he participated in any atrocities). When his father died in 1953, his mother turned to factory worker to support her four sons. At age 19, Braeden, then known by his birth name of Hans Gudegast, moved to the USA and resided with a cousin in Houston, where he found work dissecting cadavers for medical research. After a short period at Montana State University on a track and field scholarship, he moved to Los Angeles to study at Santa Monica City College. After landing a bit part in "Operation Eichmann" (1961), he decided to become an actor. For much of the 1960s, Braeden/Gudegast was useful in Hollywood playing Germans in movies and TV programs set during World War II; he made numerous guest appearances on "Combat" and from 1966-1968 played Captain Dietrich, the adversary to "The Rat Patrol" (ABC). As the decade came to a close and realizing he was more or less typecast, the actor changed his name to Eric Braeden and attempted to reposition himself in Hollywood. He landed the lead in the feature "Colossus: The Forbin Project" (1970), a well-made thriller about a world where computers run amok. But screen stardom did not follow. Finding himself playing supporting roles in such fare as "Herbie Goes to Monaco" (1977), Braeden turned to the small screen, making several unsuccessful pilots and series guest appearances (usually as suave or unctuous villains). He was perhaps most memorable as a critic who verbally tears everything to shreds--even the WJM News--in a 1977 episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show". In 1980, he accepted what was originally a three-month stint on the CBS soap "The Young and the Restless" in the role of ruthless businessman victor Newman. Braeden, however, clicked with both the audience and the creative powers, and has been one of the series leading men for close to two decades, earning five Daytime Emmy nominations for the role. With steady employment and a certain clout, he has accepted occasional roles in TV-movies and in features. In 1990, Braeden was well-cast as Dimitri Stanislopolous in "Jackie Collins' 'Lucky/Chances'" (CBS, 1990) and more recently, embodied John Jacob Astor in James Cameron's Oscar-winning blockbuster "Titanic" (1997).