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Friday Fierceness: Look Out for Miss Lotte Lenya! Edition | Manolo for the Big Girl

Friday Fierceness: Look Out for Miss Lotte Lenya! Edition

I’d wager if folks today recognize the name Lotte Lenya at all, it’s probably from Bobby Darin or Louis Armstrong singing “Mack the Knife” and maybe you’d remember her face as that of Rosa Klebb’s in “From Russia with Love” but there’s a whole generation to whom Lotte Lenya is just a name in an old song.

Lotte Lenya

Born in Austria in 1898, Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer (hey, I’d change my name to Lotte, too) was an actress and singer who defined the role of Pirate Jenny in Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera. Harking back to an earlier Friday Fierceness, Nina Simone recorded a chilling live version of Pirate Jenny’s song that is well worth a listen. It gives me the creeps every time.

Lotte Lenya as Pirate Jenny

Lenya married Kurt Weill in 1926 and after her initial Pirate Jenny triumph continued to have enormous cabaret and stage success. Her English-language film career was limited, not just because of lingering sentiments from WWII but because she was what you’d call a handsome woman.

Lotte backstage

and okay, I’m just putting it out there, girlfriend looked like a muppet.

After marrying Kurt Weill (twice) and being widowed by him (once) she launched a brief but admirable career in marrying gay guys, most notably genius editor, Algonquin Round Table regular and big ole ‘mo; George Davis, who had a Very Special Relationship with poet W.H. Auden.

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

Towards the end of her career she found Hollywood fame in From Russia With Love and earned an Academy Award nomination for her turn as The Contessa –proprietress of an upscale stud farm for wealthy female expats looking for a little company– in the vastly underrated Tennessee Williams’ film, “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone“alongside Vivian Leigh and a 24-year old Warren Beatty.


If you’re not familiar with Miss Lotte Lenya, do yourself a favor and spend a rainy weekend listening to her cabaret, watching her films and of course singing along in your underwear to this:

and if you’d like to hear Lotte’s original here you go!

6 Responses to “Friday Fierceness: Look Out for Miss Lotte Lenya! Edition”

  1. Angela August 14, 2009 at 3:43 pm #

    I first encountered the name Lotte Lenya in the movie, Undercover Blues, with Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid. During an interrogation scene, CIA operative Jane Blue (Turner) pretends to be Dr. Natasha Lottelenya from the Rosa Klebb Institute, Leningrad, an “authority on the causation of extreme pain.” If you aren’t familiar with this underappreciated action-comedy, I highly recommend it. Although some of the humor tends toward the corny, it is loads of fun. Stanley Tucci is notable as the incompetent would-be mugger Muerte. “My name is Death! Don’t you forget that!”

  2. megaera August 15, 2009 at 2:45 am #

    Actually Lotte is a nickname for Charlotte, so she more or less kept one of her names; personally, I prefer the earlier spelling of her stage name: Lenja. Don’t forget that she was the original Fräulein Schneider in Cabaret! I’m not sure about this, but I seem to also recall that someone once said she sang, “an octave below gravel.” I shall now collapse under the weight of my own trivia.

  3. Style Spy August 15, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    Why is no one who’s famous now never anywhere this interesting? There’s not a single starlet parking herself on David Letterman’s couch these days half as intriguing as this.

  4. cassandra August 15, 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    In the third picture she looks a lot like Ellen DeGeneres, don’t you think?

  5. Rebecca H. August 15, 2009 at 8:53 pm #

    I’ve been a Lotte Lenya fan for nearly 20 years. She’s pretty awesome.