Felix Etienne-Edouard Pfeifle (born Brian Scott Pfeifle, September 20, 1969, Fort Collins, Colorado) is an American historian who specializes in the histories of Aesthetic movement and the Habsburg empire. His longtime research of the Austro-Hungarian Empire led to the 2013 film Felix Austria!, a feature-length documentary in which he is the principal subject.
Pfeifle's great-great grandfather was born in St. Helena, California in 1862. Pfeifle's parents Steven and Christine Pfeifle named him Brian Scott Pfeifle. Steven Pfeifle is a retired marine biologist.
Education and Training
Pfeifle attended Fred C. Beyer High School in Modesto, California. His classmates included the actors Timothy Olyphant and Jeremy Renner. Pfeifle then attended the University of California, Berkeley, where his study of Humanities concentrated on fin-de-siecle Austria, a society in which Habsburg court tradition opposed modernism in art, architecture, literature, music, and philosophy.
In 1992 Pfeifle was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Vienna, where he studied the theory and work of Adolf Loos, a modernist Austrian architect. In 1995 Pfeifle studied at the Pratt Institute of Design. He continued his studies and training at firms in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. He also worked for his uncle, interior designer David McCauley, a protégé of designer Kelly Wearstler.
In 2005 Pfeifle launched the Office of Cultural Design, an interdisciplinary firm. Its clients included the fabled Farmer's Daughter Hotel in Hollywood and the UC Berkeley Alumni Association. Pfeifle also taught urban planning theory and architectural history at the New School for Social Research in New York. Pfeifle has served for over a decade on the Board of Directors of the Greater Los Angeles Fulbright Association. He has also served on the board of the Los Angeles Bach Festival, the city's oldest cultural event.
In 1995 Pfeifle's ongoing research led to a gift from the Archduke Otto von Habsburg, the last Crown Prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The archduke sent Pfeifle a trove of correspondence, over 100 letters dating to 1937. Pfeifle's absorption in this discipline led him to apply for a legal change of name. In 1995 he became Felix Pfeifle, in essence naming himself after the country Austria. (Its historical moniker in Latin is Felix Austria, i.e. “fortunate” or "happy" Austria.) He later added Etienne-Edouard (“Steven Edward”) as homage to his father.
Pfeifle's study of Austro-Hungarian history resulted in a quest when he decided that he had to meet the elderly Archduke Otto. In the course of this quest, Pfeifle learned that the archduke and other members of the former imperial family had been living in Bordeaux, France, in 1940 and wanted to escape invading Nazi forces via Spain and Portugal. The Habsburgs were granted visas by the Spanish diplomat Eduardo Propper de Callejón. As a result, Archduke Otto was the only living (Gentile) witness who could testify that Propper de Callejon had saved the lives of thousands of Jews during World War II. In 2008, based on this information, Eduardo Propper de Callejon was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem.
In 2013 Felix Pfeifle's work became the subject of Felix Austria! This feature-length documentary was produced and directed by Christine Beebe; it was co-produced by Robert Dassanowsky and Elfi Dassanowsky. The film shows how Pfeifle became an aesthete and how he persisted in his quest to meet the aging archduke. It also preserves for posterity a series of unique interviews with the archduke. Felix Austria! premiered in April 2013 at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. Its U.S. premiere took place in October 2014 at the Indie Spirit Film Festival in Colorado Springs where it won the Colorado Spotlight Award.
Pfeifle has posed for drawings and paintings by the Austrian artist Christoph Schmidberger. One of these works was featured in Charles Saatchi's exhibition USA Today and hangs in the Saatchi Gallery at the Duke of York's Headquarters on King's Road in London.
In 2015 Felix Pfeifle announced the launch of the Felix Austria School of Civility, a tutorial program that addresses the pervasive changes that have occurred in Western etiquette since the advent of digital technology and social media. Pfeifle named the school after the documentary to emphasize the graciousness that is distinctly Viennese.
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