Born in the Italian city of Trieste, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Henreid was the son of an aristocratic Viennese banker and his wife. He studied theatre in Vienna and debuted on the stage under the direction of the notable Max Reinhardt. He began his film career acting in German films in the 1930s. In 1935 he emigrated from Austria for Great Britain; one year after the 1934 Austrian Civil War which ended with installation ofAustrofascism. With the start of World War II, Henreid risked deportation or internment as an enemy alien, but Conrad Veidt spoke for him and he was allowed to remain free in England.
A small role in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), and third billing as a Nazi Major in Night Train to Munich (1940), led to his shifting to a Hollywood career. When he was contracted to RKO in 1942, the studio changed his surname, dropping the "von" and the first "r", and reversing the order of the "i" and "e". His first film for RKO was Joan of Paris (1942).
In 1942, Henreid also appeared in his two most important films. In Now, Voyager, he and Bette Davis created one of the screen's most imitated scenes, in which he lights two cigarettes and hands one to her. Henreid's next role was as Victor Laszlo, heroic anti-Nazi leader, in Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In 1946, Henreid became a citizen of the United States.
He made regular film appearances throughout the 1940s, and in the early 1950s began directing for both film and television. His film credits include Between Two Worlds (1944), The Spanish Main(1945), Of Human Bondage (1946), Song of Love (1947), Thief of Damascus (1952), Siren of Bagdad (1953), and Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1961). His television directorial credits includeAlfred Hitchcock Presents, Maverick, Bonanza and The Big Valley. In 1964, Henreid directed Dead Ringer, which starred Bette Davis and featured, in a minor role, the director's daughter, Monika.
Paul Henreid's grave at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica
Henreid died of pneumonia in Santa Monica and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Henreid married Elizabeth "Lisl" Gluck (1908–1993) in 1936; the couple had two daughters.
Paul Henreid has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one (for film) at 6366 Hollywood Boulevard and the other (for television) at 1722 Vine Street.