Stunning, statuesque blond leading lady of Hollywood films of the 1930s.
Lya Lys was born Natalia Lyecht, the daughter of a Russian banker and French pediatrician.. She had it all from the start: Style, amazing legs and talent. She knew from early on that she wanted to pursue an acting career. She worked at various jobs in Berlin, mostly as a secretary and later as a model. She excelled at all that she accomplished. It was while modeling for a Berlin department store that she was spotted by a talent agent for UFA. She began making films for UFA and she was quite good too, this was short lived due to the growing Nazi influence in Germany and at UFA. She didn't agree with the Nazi ideology and refused to make any further films for UFA. She decided she would leave Germany in the early 1930s, and pursue a career in American films in Hollywood. This wasn't as easy as she had anticipated when the Nazi's nearly refused her from leaving the country. She did gain acceptance through a friend that worked for the tourism bureau in Berlin. She sailed from Germany to Great Britain and then on to New York City. She thought America looked "splendid!" She stayed in New York City and worked at various jobs until she had enough money to make it to Hollywood.
She made it to Hollywood in early 1933 and almost immediately starting working in films. Her best opportunity came with her bit-role in George White's Scandals. She gained considerable publicity in this film and Hollywood was anxious to display her beauty on the screen regardless of her thick German accent. Her next great opportunity came in "The Vagabond Lady," starring Robert Young, Evelyn Venable, Reginald Denny, Berton Churchill and Forrester Harvey. Later she starred in "My Dear Miss Aldrich," starring Edna May Oliver, Maureen O'Sullivan, Walter Pidgeon, Rita Johnson and Janet Beecher. She enjoyed this film and said, "She really liked Rita Johnson." Next came a role in "The Great Gambini," which starred Akim Tamiroff, Marian Marsh, Genevieve Tobin and Reginald Denny. While making this film she became a good friend with Marian Marsh and Sari Maritza. (She and Sari shared an apartment at Hayworth Ave. in West Hollywood.)
It was through Marian's connections that she heard about the role of Erika Wolf in, The Confessions of a Nazi Spy. This would become her most famous role to date. She absolutely loved working with Edward G. Robinson and said, "The experience was truly that which Hollywood is made of." She mastered the role and Anatole Litvak, the film's Director said that "she became the character and was truly amazing!" She had an amazing casts to work with in this film Francis Lederer, George Sanders, Paul Lukas, Henry O'Neill, Dorothy Tree, James Stephenson ,Lionel Royce, Henry Victor , Hans von Twardowski, Sig Ruman, Joe Sawyer, and Hedwiga Reicher. She said of Hedwiga Reicher, that she used another name Celia Sibelius due to the fear of what the Nazi's might do to her family back in Germany. Lya could relate, she too feared Nazi backlash and feared for her family in Berlin.
The film was a great success. Lya was destined for better roles now. She would next star in "The Return of Dr. X" with Humphrey Bogart, Wayne Morris, Rosemary Lane, Dennis Morgan, John Litel, Olin Howland and John Ridgely. She said of this film," It was a great experience working with Bogart and Warner Bros. was fine to cast me." Next would be a film starring a future President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. The film was made in 1940 at Warner Bros. and was entitled "Murder in the Air" also starring Robert Warwick, William Gould and Kenneth Harlan.
Throughout her career in Hollywood she worked with the very best, such luminous stars as Paulette Goddard, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Janet Gaynor, Richard Carlson, Roland Young, and Joe Sawyer just to name a few.
She retired in 1940 after the marriage to Irving Feit and she settled in Newport Beach in a lovely home and became very active in various charities in Los Angeles. She lived a very happy existence until her death of a heart ailment at home.
it has been verified by her record at Pacific View Memorial Park, Ms. Lys was cremated and her remains were claimed by family.
Charles S. Morton
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