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Lya De Putti


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Lya De Putti (January 10, 1899 – November 27, 1931) was a Hungarian film actress of the silent era, noted for her portrayal of vamp characters.

Early life and career

Born as Amalia de Putti in Vécse, Hungary (today Slovakia), she was one of the four children of Julius de Putti, a cavalry officer, and his wife, the former Countess Maria Katarina Hoyos. She had two brothers, Geza and Alexander, and a sister, Mitzi.

She began her stage career on the Hungarian Vaudeville circuit. She soon progressed to Berlin, where after performing in the ballet, she made her screen debut in 1918. She became the premiere danseuse at the Berlin Winter Garden in 1924.

Around that time German film director Jol Mai noticed her and cast her in her first important film, The Mistress of the World. She followed this success with noteworthy performances in Manon Lescaut and Varieté (1925). The latter featured her opposite Emil Jannings and directed by E. A. Dupont. Both films are UFA productions. While in Germany, De Putti starred with such actors as Conrad Veidt, Alfred Abel, Werner Krauss, Grete Mosheim, and Lil Dagover and was filmed by directors F. W. Murnau and Fritz Lang.

The actress came to America in February 1926. At the time she told reporters she was twenty-two years old. Her ocean liner's records list her as having been twenty-six. De Putti was generally cast as a vamp character, and often wore her dark hair short, in a style similar to that of Louise Brooks or Colleen Moore. De Putti starred in D. W. Griffith's The Sorrows of Satan (1926). The film was released in two versions, one in America and the other in Europe. In the American version one scene had De Putti fully dressed. The same scene in the European release had De Putti topless.

Private life

De Putti was once rumored to be engaged to Count Ludwig Salm von Hoogstraten, a former husband of the American oil heiress Millicent Rogers. She denied the engagement. In 1913, she married Zoltán Szepessy, a county magistrate. They divorced in 1918. The couple had two daughters, Ilona (b. 1914) and Judith (b. 1916).

Return to Broadway

The following year, De Putti went to Hollywood, but found little success there. Despite working with such distinguished actors as Adolphe Menjou and Zasu Pitts, she failed to make it big, and left the screen by 1929 to attempt to re-start her career on Broadway.

Her Hollywood efforts were inhibited by her foreign accent. Later she went to England to make silent movies and studied the English language. Soon she returned to America to attempt talkies.

She was hospitalized to have a chicken bone removed from her throat, and contracted a throat infection. She was taken to the Harbor Sanitarium, then located at 667 Madison Avenue. She reportedly behaved irrationally and eluded her nurses. Eventually she was found in a corridor. She developed pleurisy in her right side, followed by pneumonia in both lungs.


She died in 1931, aged 32, in the Harbor Sanitorium, leaving just £800 (UK equivalent at the time) and a few bits of jewellery. Four years earlier, £800 was her weekly wage. She is interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.









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