Lya Mara

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Lya Mara
Lya Mara.jpg
Autographed photo of Lya Mara ca.1920
Born Aleksandra Gudowicz
(1897-08-01)August 1, 1897
Russian Empire Riga, Russian Empire
Died March 1, 1960
Other names Mia Mara
Spouse(s) Frederic Zelnik (1885-1950)

Lya Mara (1 August 1897 – 1 March 1960) was one of the biggest stars of the German silent cinema.

Lya Mara was born Aleksandra Gudowicz in a Polish family in Riga, Livonia. As a young girl she wanted to become a chemist, as then famous Maria Skłodowska-Curie. Just before World War I, in 1913 Lya Mara moved with her family to Warsaw, as Poland and Latvia were part of the Russian Empire. She began her acting career as a dancer.

In Warsaw, Lya Mara played her first small part in a short fiction silent film under a characteristically simplified title We want husband (1916, as Mia Mara) and soon after in another film Bestia (The Beast, premiere on January 5, 1917) directed by a Polish director of older generation Alexander Hertz. Another Polish actress Pola Negri, who later made an extraordinary career in Germany and in America, was the star of this film. Soon after that film Pola Negri left for Berlin and Lya Mara followed her steps. It was a time of World War I and Poland occupied since 1915 by the Germans, became a part of the German Empire.

Lya Mara's first film in Germany was Halkas Gelöbnis (1918) directed by an Austrian director Alfred Halm, who also scripted her another film Jadwiga. Both films were produced by young and energetic director-producer Frederic Zelnik. Lya Mara married him in 1918.

Zelnik promoted Lya Mara to a major star in Germany as she played mainly in films he directed and produced. Since 1920 Zelnik's film production company was named Zelnik-Mara-Film GmbH. Lya Mara played important parts as Charlotte Corday, Anna Karenina (1919) and Manon, attracting audience with her charm and youthful appeal. Lya Mara and her husband Frederic Zelnik became real celebrities, receiving at their home many known artists. Her popularity has been further cemented by hundreds of her photographs issued as postcards, chocolate and cigarettes trade cards.

A serious car accident at the end of the 1920s interrupted her career.

Somehow Lya Mara could not adapt her acting to the new artistic conditions after the introduction of sound in cinema in 1929, while Zelnik became first director in Germany who postsynchronized foreign films. Lya Mara's only film from the sound era is Jeder fragt nach Erika (1931) directed by her husband.

When Hitler took power in Germany (1933), Lya Mara left with Zelnik for London. There is no record of her acting there, in none of her husband films produced until 1939 in England and The Netherlands.

Frederic Zelnik died in London on November 29, 1950. Mara spent last years of her life in Switzerland and died there on 1 March 1960.


  • 1916: Chcemy męża (as Mia Mara)
  • 1916: Wściekły rywal (as Mia Mara)
  • 1916: Studenci (as Mia Mara)
  • 1917: Bestia (as Mia Mara)
  • 1918: Halkas Gelöbnis
  • 1918: Jadwiga
  • 1918: Geschichte einer Gefallenen, Die
  • 1918: Das Geschlecht der Schelme 1. Teil
  • 1918: Die Nonne und der Harlekin
  • 1918: Die Rothenburger / Leib und Seele
  • 1918: Das Geschlecht der Schelme 2. Teil
  • 1919: Charlotte Corday
  • 1919: Maria Evere
  • 1919: Die kleine Stasiewska
  • 1919: Die Erbin von Monte Christo
  • 1919: Das Haus der Unschuld
  • 1919: Anna Karenina
  • 1920: Eine Demimonde-Heirat
  • 1920: Die Prinzessin vom Nil
  • 1920: Die Erlebnisse der berühmten Tänzerin Fanny Elßler
  • 1920: Kri-Kri, die Herzogin von Tarabac
  • 1920: Der Apachenlord
  • 1920: Fasching
  • 1920: Wer unter Euch ohne Sünde ist...
  • 1921: Count Varenne's Lover
  • 1921: Miss Beryll... Die Laune eines Millionärs
  • 1921: Aus den Memoiren einer Filmschauspielerin
  • 1921: Trix, der Roman einer Millionärin
  • 1921: Die Dame mit den Smaragden
  • 1921: Tanja, die Frau an der Kette
  • 1921: Das Mädel vom Piccadilly 1. Teil
  • 1921: Das Mädel vom Piccadilly 2. Teil
  • 1921: Die Ehe der Fürstin Demidoff
  • 1922: Die Geliebte des Königs
  • 1922: Yvette, die Modeprinzessin
  • 1922: Die Tochter Napoleons
  • 1922: Erniedrigte und Beleidigte
  • 1922: Das Mädel aus der Hölle
  • 1922: Lydia Sanin
  • 1922: Die Männer der Sybill
  • 1923: Daisy. Das Abenteuer einer Lady
  • 1923: Auferstehung. Katjuscha Maslowa
  • 1923: Nelly, die Braut ohne Mann
  • 1924: Die Herrin von Monbijou
  • The Girl from Capri (1924)
  • By Order of Pompadour (1924)
  • Joyless Street (1925) with Greta Garbo in the main part
  • The Venus of Montmartre (1925)
  • Die Kirschenzeit (1925)
  • Women You Rarely Greet (1925)
  • The Bohemian Dancer (1926)
  • The Blue Danube (1926)
  • Fadette (1926)
  • The Gypsy Baron (1927)
  • The Weavers (1927)
  • Dancing Vienna (1927)
  • Mariett Dances Today (1928)
  • Mary Lou (1928)
  • My Heart is a Jazz Band (1929)
  • The Crimson Circle (1929)
  • Jeder fragt nach Erika (1931)

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