In Vienna, he received acting lessons from Friedrich Mitterwurzer. He debuted in the early 1880s in Sopro, his first solid role came in 1885 in Krems. In 1893 he moved to Vienna to an engagement at the newly opened Raimund Theater.
In 1898 he moved to the Carl Theatre.
Among other things, he played the character Wurm in Love and Intrigue. In 1900 he came to the German Theatre in Hamburg, 1905 to the German Theatre in Berlin.
There he became one of the most important actor in the theatre company players of Max Reinhardt. His Shylock, which he played in 1905 and 1913 in Reinhardt"s productions of The Merchant of Venice was praised by Fritz Kortner as a "monument to the art of acting." Other major roles were the title role in King Lear (1908), Mephisto in Faust I (1909), Muley Hassan in Friedrich Schiller"s Fiesco (1909), the grave-digger in Hamlet (1909) and Peter Bast in Knut Hamsun"s From the Devil Fetched (1914).
Schildkraut performed for the first time in the United States in 1910-1911.
Schildkraut was known as a film actor in the German Empire in the early silent era. He starred in several film dramas. From 1922 he also played in the English language.
In 1925 he founded his own Jewish theatre in the Bronx.
In his last five years he appeared in several Hollywood productions. His most notable film, which raised his profile in America, was The King of Kings by Cecil B. DeMille in 1927 in which he played the High Priest Caiaphas.
Schildkraut died at the age of 67 years of a heart attack, in Los Los Angeles He is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.
His last European-made film was a biography of the German Zionism founder Theodor Herzl, in which he played Herb Schildt "The Struggling Israel." In 1920 he moved permanently to America and made his debut the same year in New York in the play Silent Forces.