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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 08:52 GMT 09:52 UK
Austrian actress Schell dies, 79
Yul Bryner and Maria Schell
Yul Bryner and Maria Schell starred together in The Brothers Karamazov
Maria Schell, one of the biggest German-speaking stars who also found fame in Hollywood including a role in Superman, has died aged 79.

Austrian-born Schell was best-known for roles in 1950s films including The Last Bridge and The Hanging Tree, starring opposite Gary Cooper and Orson Welles.

She also appeared in 1978's Superman as Vond-Ah, a Krypton elder.

Her actor brother Maximilian said she was a "great actress", adding: "But most of all, she was a friend."

He said his "irreplaceable" sister had suffered illness for many years without complaint.

Wartime debut

Born in Austria in 1926, Schell was one of four children of a Swiss author and an Austrian actress.

Along with her siblings, she spent World War II in Switzerland, where she was cast in her first film role aged 16 in the thriller Steibruch in 1942.

Schell rose to international fame and landed Hollywood roles. In 1958 she starred opposite Yul Brynner in The Brothers Karamazov.

Schell went on to play many film and TV roles but her later years were marked by declining health, financial difficulties and seclusion.

Twice married

She made her last public appearance at the 2002 premiere of My Sister Maria, brother Maximilian's documentary of her life and work.

Her two marriages ended in divorce, the last one in 1988 after 22 years with Austrian actor and director Veit Relin.

Schell, who is survived by her two children, is reported to have died on Tuesday at her home in southern Austria, which was also her parents' pre-war home.

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