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Born as Friederike Massaryk, she was one of the leading operetta singers in Berlin and Vienna. By 1912 her fame was such that one spoke simply of "die Massary (the Massary)". She was a premier Diva of her generation. She was closely associated with Oscar Straus, creating roles in six of his operettas, notably Der letzte Walzer in 1920.
Despite her 1903 conversion to Protestantism, Massary fled Germany in late 1932 because of her Jewish heritage. She traveled through Austria and Switzerland to London, where she was befriended by Sir Noël Coward and starred in his Operette in 1938. Shortly thereafter, in February 1939, she moved to Beverly Hills, California, where she lived until her death in 1969. Beginning in 1952, she regularly spent summers in Germany.
Massary was married twice, first to an eye doctor Bernhard Pollack, whom she later refused to discuss or even mention. With Karl-Kuno Rollo Graf von Coudenhove (1887 - 1940), she had her only child, Elisabeth Maria Karl (called Liesl) (1903-1979). Liesl later married the author Bruno Frank. Though Coudenhove was Liesl's father, Massary was never married to him. In fact, Coudenhove's family was nobility and threatened him with a mental institution to dissuade him from marrying an actress.
Massary's second marriage, in 1917, was to the Austrian actor Max Pallenberg (1877 - 1934), who died in a plane crash in Karlsbad in 1934.