Schreck (meaning "fright" in German) was his actual name. Rarely did a name fit the film persona so well. To look at Schreck’s rat-shaped head, or his terrifying shadow, is to see one’s worst nightmare. Never was cinematic makeup put to better use.
Yet, little is known about his private life. Married to actress Fanny Normann, Schreck was born in Berlin in 1879. He acted in 40 films before he died of a heart attack in Munich in 1936. He was 43 years old when he played "Count Orlock" in Nosferatu.
Trained in his craft by the brilliant Max Reinhart, Schreck performed frequently on stage. In 1922 he was employed by Prana Film for its first (and only) production. After the company produced Nosferatu, Prana went bankrupt. There was a "small issue" about copyright infringement.
Neither Murnau nor his company had secured the rights to adapt Bram Stoker’s Dracula to the screen. Nosferatu, the masterpiece, was in violation of copyright laws. And Florence, Bram’s widow, wasn’t negotiating.