Lotte Lenya (1898 - 1981)

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Lotte Lenya Biography & Family History

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Lotte Lenya
Biography
Born October 18, 1898 in Vienna-Penzing, Austria-Hungary [now Austria]
Died November 27, 1981 in New York City, New York, USA (cancer)
Birth Name Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer
Lotte Lenya was a Tony Award-winning and Academy award-nominated actress and singer who is best remembered for her supporting role as Rosa Klebb in the classic Bond film From Russia with Love (1963).
She was born Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blaumauer on October 18, 1898, in Vienna, Austria (at that time Austro-Hungarian Empire), into a working class family. Young Lenya was fond of dancing. In 1914 she moved to Zurich, Switzerland. There she began using her stage name, Lotte Lenya. In Swizerland she studied classical dance, singing and acting and made her stage debut at the Schauspielhaus. In 1921 she moved to Berlin and blended in the city's cosmopolitan cultural milieu. In 1924 she met composer Kurt Weill, and they married in 1926. Lotte Lenya was the inspiration behind Weill's most popular hit 'Mack the Knife'. She performed in several productions of 'The Threepenny Opera', which became an important step in her acting career.
In 1933, with the rise of Nazism in Germany, Lotte Lenya escaped from the country. At the same time, being stressed by the circumstances of life, she divorced from Kurt Weil, to be reunited with him two years later. In 1935 both emigrated to the United States and remarried in 1937. After Kurt Weill's death, she dedicated her efforts to keeping Weill's music played in numerous productions worldwide. In 1957 she won a Tony award for her role as Jenny, performed in English, in a Broadway production of 'The Threepenny Opera'.
Lotte Lenya shot to international fame with her portrayal of Contessa Magda Terbilli-Gozales, Vivien Leigh's friend in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961). The role brought Lenya an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. She gained additional fame after she appeared as Rosa Klebb, former head of operations for SMERSH/KGB, and now a sadistic Spectre agent with poisonous knife in her shoe, in From Russia with Love (1963). She died of cancer on November 27, 1981, in New York. She is entombed with Kurt Weill in a mausoleum, in Mount Repose Cemetery, in Haverstraw, New York, USA.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov
She was in he film, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. Then the role of Rosa Kleb in the film From Russia with Love, and the title role in Mutter Courage in Recklinghausen, She was Fräulein Schneider in Cabaret, the film The Appointment, and the Fortune Teller in a television production of Tennessee Williams' Camino Real. In 1969, she was honored by the West German government with the Order of Merit, First Class. In 1971 she appeared in a concert performance of Der Silbersee at the Holland Festival and played Mother Courage at the University of California/Irvine. Her last film appearance, as a masseuse in Semi-Tough with Burt Reynolds, is indicative of the creative and personal energy that characterized her life. She succumbed to cancer on 27 November 1981.

Lotte Lenya was also known as Karoline Wilhelmine Blamauer (Charlotte).

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Lotte Lenye supported the war effort with performances for Voice of America and the Office of War Information.

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New City, Rockland County, New York

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1898 - In the year that Lotte Lenya was born, magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company controlled 84% of the oil and pipelines in the United States. Rockefeller grew Standard Oil through the merger of several other small oil companies throughout the U.S., creating a monopoly.

1943 - When she was 45 years old, on June 20th through June 22nd, the Detroit Race Riot erupted at Belle Isle Park. The rioting spread throughout the city (made worse by false rumors of attacks on blacks and whites) and resulted in the deployment of 6,000 Federal troops. 34 people were killed, (25 of them black) - mostly by white police or National Guardsmen, 433 were wounded (75 percent of them black) and an estimated $2 million of property was destroyed. The same summer, there were riots in Beaumont, Texas and Harlem, New York.

1945 - Lotte was 47 years old when on August 6th, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. On August 9th, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. At least 129,000 people were killed in the two bombings and they still remain the only use of atomic bombs in war. An invasion on mainland Japan had been planned but President Truman ordered the bombs dropped instead.

1974 - By the time she was 76 years old, on February 5th, Patty Hearst, age 19 - granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst and daughter of publisher of the San Francisco Examiner Randolph Hearst - was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a left wing terrorist group. She was found, alive, 19 months later.

1981 - In the year of Lotte Lenya's passing, on January 20th, Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States. He ran against the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, and won 50.7% of the popular vote to Carter's 41.0%.

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Lotte Lenya Biography
Meets Weill
Lotte Lenya, née Karoline Wilhelmine Blamauer, was born in 1898 in Vienna to working-class parents. An early ambition to become a dancer led her in 1914 to Zurich, where she studied classical dance and the Dalcroze method and gained experience in the opera and ballet at the Stadttheater. During her audition for Zaubernacht in 1922, she was introduced to its composer, Kurt Weill, but couldn't see him at his position at the piano in the pit.
In 1924, the leading German Expressionist dramatist, Georg Kaiser, re-introduced Lenya to his new collaborator, Kurt Weill. Two years later they married, and in 1927 Lenya sang the role of Jessie in Mahagonny (Songspiel) at the Baden-Baden Music Festival. Although her inimitable but untrained soprano voice already set her apart from the opera singers who comprised the rest of the cast, she did not achieve a secure position in Berlin's vibrant theatrical scene until she created the role of Jenny in Die Dreigroschenoper in 1928. Thereafter, she enjoyed an active stage, recording, and film career; although her efforts centered on her husband's works, she also appeared on the legitimate stage in Berlin in such plays as Wedekind's Frühlings Erwachen, Karlheinz Martin's historic production of Dantons Tod and Leopold Jessner's of Oedipus. In 1931, after all the opera houses in Berlin had rejected Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, Weill simplified the role of Jenny so that Lenya could sing it in the production at the Theater am Kurfürstendamm.
Although they were estranged at the time they fled Germany and soon to be divorced, in 1933 Weill composed the role of Anna I in Die sieben Todsünden for her. They were not reconciled until they departed for New York in September 1935; they remarried the following year. Lenya then played Miriam in The Eternal Road (1937), sang at the fashionable nightclub, Le Ruban Bleu, and toured with Helen Hayes in Maxwell Anderson's A Candle in the Wind (1942). After the success of Lady in the Dark, the Weills bought Brook House in Rockland County, New York. Lenya recorded six of Weill's songs on the Bost label, supported the war effort with performances for Voice of America and the Office of War Information. After Weill's death in 1950, Lenya, no longer confident of her talents, reluctantly agreed to appear in a memorial concert at Town Hall; its astounding success prompted nearly annual revivals until 1965. In 1951 she created a role on Broadway in Anderson's Barefoot in Athens and married the writer/editor George Davis. It was Davis who persuaded her to recreate the role of Jenny in Blitzstein's adaptation of The Threepenny Opera, first under Leonard Bernstein in a concert version at Brandeis in 1952 and then at the Theater de Lys in 1954, a performance which won her a Tony Award. For the rest of the decade, Lenya devoted herself almost exclusively to the Weill renaissance her performances had initiated. Although her tessitura was now almost an octave lower than it had been during the Twenties, she recorded Berlin Theater Songs, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, Johnny Johnson, Happy End, Die Dreigroschenoper, Die sieben Todsünden, and American Theater Songs. She also returned to Germany to search for Weill's lost scores, to administer his copyrights, and to make her first stage and concert performances there since 1932. The shock of George Davis's sudden death at age 51 in 1957 only intensified Lenya's devotion to Weill's legacy. In 1962, she married artist Russell Detwiler, who died under tragic circumstances just seven years later at the age of 44. During the first two decades following Weill's death Lenya re-established her international career both as singer and actress in non-singing roles and as a specialist in Brechtian theater. In addition, she appeared in several television specials devoted to Weill's music, as well as the film, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. In close succession followed the revue Brecht on Brecht in New York, the role of Rosa Kleb in the film From Russia with Love, the title role in Mutter Courage in Recklinghausen, Fräulein Schneider in Cabaret, the film The Appointment, and the Fortune Teller in a television production of Tennessee Williams' Camino Real. In 1969, she was honored by the West German government with the Order of Merit, First Class. In 1971 she appeared in a concert performance of Der Silbersee at the Holland Festival and played Mother Courage at the University of California/Irvine. As late as 1975, at the age of 77, she planned to premiere a number of Weill's works at the Berlin Festival, a landmark in the continuing Weill revival, but illness forced an unfortunate cancellation. Her last film appearance, as a masseuse in Semi- Tough with Burt Reynolds, is indicative of the creative and personal energy that characterized her life until the final months before she succumbed to cancer on 27 November 1981. But even her last coherent moments had been devoted to Weill matters, as she embraced Teresa Stratas as her successor and entrusted the Kurt Weill Foundation established in 1962 with her unfinished mission, the protection and promotion of Kurt Weill's music.--Kim H. Kowalke

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