Elissa Landi

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Elissa Landi
Elissa Landi in After the Thin Man trailer.jpg
Elizabeth Marie Christine Kühnelt

(1904-12-06)December 6, 1904
Venice, Italy
DiedOctober 21, 1948(1948-10-21) (aged 43)
Years active1926–1943
Spouse(s)John Cecil Lawrence (m. 1928; div. 1936)
Curtiss Thomas (m. 1943)
Landi in 1932

Elissa Landi (born Elisabeth Marie Christine Kühnelt; December 6, 1904 – October 21, 1948) was an Austrian-American actress born in Venice, who was popular as a performer in Hollywood films of the 1920s and 1930s.[1] She was noted for her alleged aristocratic bearing.[2]


Landi was born Elisabeth Marie Christine Kühnelt[3] in Venice, Italy, to Austrian military officer Richard Kühnelt and his wife Caroline. She was raised in the village of Kleinhart in Lower Austria near Vienna until the divorce of her parents. Later on she was educated in England. From 1928 to 1936, she was married to John Cecil Lawrence, and from 1943 to 1948 to Curtis Kinney Thomas (1905–2002).

Landi's first ambition was to be an author. She wrote her first novel at the age of twenty, and returned to writing during lulls in her acting career.[4] She debuted on stage in Dandy Dick (1923).[3] She joined the Oxford Repertory Company at an early age, and appeared in many successful British and American stage productions. In 1926 she starred in Dorothy Brandon's Blind Alley in the West End.

During the 1920s she appeared in British, French, and German films before traveling to the United States to appear in a Broadway production of A Farewell to Arms (1930).[4] Her other Broadway credits included Empress of Destiny (1938), Apology (1943), and Dark Hammock (1944).[5]

She was signed to a contract by Fox Film Corporation (later 20th Century Fox) in 1931. She was paired successfully with some of the major leading men, including David Manners, Charles Farrell, Warner Baxter, and Ronald Colman, in romantic dramas such as Body and Soul (1931, which also featured Humphrey Bogart).

In 1931, she starred in the Fox feature The Yellow Ticket along with a young Laurence Olivier, Lionel Barrymore, and Boris Karloff. Raoul Walsh directed. The film was based on Michael Morton's 1914 play and was about a young Jewish girl who obtains a prostitute's passport during a period when Jews were not allowed such freedom so that she can travel in Czarist Russia to visit her sick father.

Trailer for The Sign of the Cross (1932)

Fox loaned her to Paramount to play Mercia, the female lead in Cecil B. DeMille's 1932 film adaptation of the play of the same name. DeMille said he chose her for the role because "[t]here is the depth of the ages in her eyes, today in her body and tomorrow in her spirit."[6]

She starred in the box office hit The Count of Monte Cristo (1934) with Robert Donat.

Her contract with Fox was abruptly cancelled in 1936 when she refused a particular role. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer signed her, and after a couple of romantic dramas, she played the cousin of Myrna Loy in the very popular After the Thin Man (1936). She retired from acting in 1943, after making only two more films.

Landi became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1943 and dedicated herself to writing, producing six novels and a series of poems. She had published her first novel as early as age nineteen. She continued writing novels at the height of her movie fame and for the rest of her short life.

She died from cancer in Kingston, New York, at age 43 and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Elissa Landi has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 1611 Vine Street.[7]


Year Film Role Director Notes
1926 London Herbert Wilcox
1928 Bolibar Walter Summers
1928 Underground Anthony Asquith
1928 Sin
1929 The Inseparables John Stafford
1930 The Parisian
1930 Knowing Men Elinor Glyn
1930 The Price of Things
1930 Children of Chance Alexander Esway
1931 Body and Soul Alfred Santell
1931 Always Goodbye William Cameron Menzies
1931 Wicked Allan Dwan
1931 The Yellow Ticket Raoul Walsh
1932 Devil's Lottery Sam Taylor
1932 The Woman in Room 13 Henry King
1932 A Passport to Hell Frank Lloyd
1932 The Sign of the Cross Cecil B. DeMille
1933 The Warrior's Husband Walter Lang
1933 I Loved You Wednesday William Cameron Menzies
1933 The Masquerader Richard Wallace
1933 By Candlelight James Whale
1934 Man of Two Worlds J. Walter Ruben
1934 The Great Flirtation Ralph Murphy
1934 Sisters Under the Skin David Burton
1934 The Count of Monte Cristo Rowland V. Lee
1935 Königsmark Maurice Tourneur
1935 Enter Madame Elliott Nugent
1935 Without Regret Harold Young
1936 The Amateur Gentleman Thornton Freeland
1936 Mad Holiday George B. Seitz
1936 After the Thin Man W. S. Van Dyke
1937 The Thirteenth Chair George B. Seitz
1943 Corregidor William Nigh

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1943 Suspense ---[8]


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, October 27, 1948, page 55.
  2. ^ (in French) "La vie que tu t’étais imaginée", Nelly Alard, Collection Blanche, Gallimard, 03-01-2020.
  3. ^ a b Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 408. ISBN 978-1-55783-551-2. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  4. ^ a b O'Brien, Scott (2020). Elissa Landi Cinema's Empress of Emotion. Orlando, FL: BearManor Media. pp. ix–x. ISBN 978-1-62933-631-2.
  5. ^ "Elissa Landi". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on January 21, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  6. ^ Time, Volume 20. Time Incorporated. 1932. p. 32.
  7. ^ "Elissa Landi". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on February 23, 2018. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  8. ^ "(photo caption)". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. January 4, 1943. p. 8. Retrieved January 6, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access

External links[edit]