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Felix Salten
Felix Salten, ca. 1910
Felix Salten, ca. 1910
Born Siegmund Salzmann
(1869-09-06)6 September 1869
Pest, Austria-Hungary
Died 8 October 1945(1945-10-08) (aged 76)
Zurich, Switzerland
Resting place Israelitischer Friedhof (Friesenberg), Fluntern, Zurich, Switzerland
Occupation Writer
Nationality Austro-Hungarian
Notable works The Hound of Florence
Bambi, a Life in the Woods
Bambi's Children
Spouse Ottilie Metzl
Children Paul
Anna-Katharina

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Felix Salten (German: [ˈzaltn̩]; 6 September 1869 – 8 October 1945) was an Austro-Hungarian author and literary critic in Vienna. His most famous work is Bambi, a Life in the Woods (1923).

Life and death

Salten was born 6 September 1869 as Siegmund Salzmann in Pest, Austria-Hungary. He was the grandson of an Orthodox rabbi. When he was four weeks old, his family relocated to Vienna, Austria. Many Jews were immigrating into the city during the late 19th century because Vienna had granted full citizenship to Jews in 1867.

When his father became bankrupt, the sixteen-year-old Salten quit school and began working for an insurance agency. He also began submitting poems and book reviews to journals. He became part of the "Young Vienna" movement (Jung Wien) and soon received work as a full-time art and theater critic for Vienna's press (Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung, Zeit). In 1900, he published his first collection of short stories. In 1901, he initiated Vienna's first, short-lived literary cabaret Jung-Wiener Theater Zum lieben Augustin.

He was soon publishing, on an average, one book a year, of plays, short stories, novels, travel books, and essay collections. He also wrote for nearly all the major newspapers of Vienna. In 1906, Salten went to Ullstein as an editor in chief of the B.Z. am Mittag and the Berliner Morgenpost, but relocated to Vienna some months later. He wrote also film scripts and librettos for operettas. In 1927 he became president of the Austrian P.E.N. club as successor of Arthur Schnitzler.

The most famous work of Salten, who himself was an avid hunter, is Bambi (1923). It was translated into English in 1928 and became a Book-of-the-Month Club success. In 1933, he sold the film rights to the American director Sidney Franklin for only $1,000, and Franklin later transferred the rights to the Walt Disney studios, which formed the basis of the 1942 animated classic, Bambi.

Life in Austria became perilous for a prominent Jew during the 1930s. In Germany, Adolf Hitler had Salten's books banned in 1936. Two years later, after Germany's annexation of Austria, Salten moved to Zurich, Switzerland, with his wife, and spent his final years there. Felix Salten died on 8 October 1945, at the age of 76. He is buried at Israelitischer Friedhof Unterer Friesenberg.

Salten married actress Ottilie Metzl (1868–1942) in 1902, and had two children: Paul (1903–1937) and Anna Katharina (1904–1977). He composed another book based on the character Bambi, titled Bambi’s Children: The Story of a Forest Family (1939). His stories Perri and The Hound of Florence inspired the Disney films Perri (1957) and The Shaggy Dog (1959), respectively.

Selected works

  • 1899 – Der Gemeine
  • 1906 – Josephine Mutzenbacher, authorship assumed – in German: Josefine Mutzenbacher oder Die Geschichte einer Wienerischen Dirne von ihr selbst erzählt (Vienna: Privatdruck [Fritz Freund], 1906)
  • 1907 – Herr Wenzel auf Rehberg und sein Knecht Kaspar Dinckel
  • 1910 – Olga Frohgemuth
  • 1911 – Der Wurstelprater
  • 1922 – Das Burgtheater
  • 1923 – Der Hund von Florenz; English translation by Huntley Paterson, illustrated by Kurt Wiese, The Hound of Florence (Simon & Schuster, 1930),
  • 1923 – Bambi: Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde; English transl. Whittaker Chambers, illus. Kurt Wiese, foreword John Galsworthy, as Bambi, a Life in the Woods (US: Simon & Schuster, 1928, ; UK: Jonathan Cape, June/July 1928, ); re-illustrated by Barbara Cooney (S&S, 1970),
  • 1925 – Neue Menschen auf alter Erde: Eine Palästinafahrt
  • 1927 – Martin Overbeck: Der Roman eines reichen jungen Mannes
  • 1929 – Fünfzehn Hasen: Schicksale in Wald und Feld; English transl. Whittaker Chambers, as Fifteen Rabbits (US: Simon & Schuster, 1930, ); revised and enlarged (New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 1942, illus. Kurt Wiese), )
  • 1931 – Freunde aus aller Welt: Roman eines zoologischen Gartens; English transl. Whittaker Chambers, illus. Kurt Wiese, as The City Jungle (US: Simon & Schuster, 1932, )
  • 1931 – Fünf Minuten Amerika
  • 1933 – Florian: Das Pferd des Kaisers; transl. Erich Posselt and Michel Kraike, Florian: The Emperor’s Stallion (Bobbs-Merrill, 1934),
  • 1938 – Perri; German, Die Jugend des Eichhörnchens Perri
  • 1939 – Bambi's Children, English translation (Bobbs-Merrill); German original, Bambis Kinder: Eine Familie im Walde (1940)
  • 1940 – Renni the Rescuer
  • 1942 – A Forest World
  • 1945 – Djibi, the Kitten, illus. Walter Linsenmaier; U.S. transl., Jibby the Cat (Messner, 1948)

Selected filmography

  • Doctor Schotte (1918)
  • Modern Marriages (1924)
  • Comedians (1925)
  • Storm in a Water Glass (1931)
  • Poor as a Church Mouse (1931)
  • Scampolo (1932)
  • The Empress and I (1933)
  • The Only Girl (1933)
  • Florian (1940)
  • Bambi (1942)
  • Perri (1957)
  • The Shaggy Dog (1959)
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