Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Although Zarah Leander studied piano and violin already as a small child, and sang on stage for the first time at the age of six, she made a serious attempt at an ordinary life. As a teenager she lived two years in Riga (1922–1924), learned the then most important international language, German, took up work as a secretary, married Nils Leander (1926), and had two children (1927 & 1929). However, in 1929 she was engaged, as an amateur, in a touring cabaret by Ernst Rolf and for the first time sang "Vill ni se en stjärna," which soon would become her signature tune.
In 1930, she participated in four cabarets in the capital, Stockholm, made her first records, including a cover of Marlene Dietrich's "Falling in Love Again," and played a part in a film. However, it was as operetta artist, as Anna Glavari in Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow that she had her definitive break-through (1931). By then she had divorced Nils Leander. In the following years, she embarked on a splendid career and could make a decent living as a popular artist on stage and in film in Scandinavia. Her fame brought her proposals also from the European continent and from Hollywood, where a number of Swedish actors and directors were working.
Zarah Leander opted for an international career on the European continent. As a mother of two school-age children, she ruled out a move to America. In her view it was, most of all, too insecure. What if she brought her children with her, and then some day found herself without employment? A mother could not divorce from her children, and she would not put them at such a risk. Austria and (Nazi) Germany were much closer. And she knew the language!
A second break-through, by contemporary measures her international debut, was the world premiere (1936) of Axel an der Himmelstür at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, directed by Max Hansen . It was a parody on Hollywood and not the least a parody of the German Marlene Dietrich, who had fled a Europe marked by Mussolini's, Stalin's and Hitler's stars. It was followed by the film Premiere, in which she played the role of a successful cabaret star.
At the same time, she landed a contract with UFA in Berlin, and became known as an extraordinarily tough negotiator, demanding influence, high salaries and half of it paid in Swedish currency. A stupefied Propaganda Minister Goebbels dubbed her "Enemy of Germany", but as a leading film star at UFA, she participated in ten films, most of them great successes, and great contributions to the Third Reich's propaganda, as a counterweight to the international isolation and criticism that not the least Swedish newspapers demonstrated. She played roles with, basically, the same personality in all her German films; some said she played herself. Her was the role of a femme fatale, independently minded, beautiful, passionate and self-confident. Many of her songs had a frivolous undertext, or could at least be interpreted that way.
Zarah Leander's last film in Nazi Germany went up at the theaters on March 3, 1943. Her villa in the fashionable Berlin suburb of Grunewald was hit in an airstrike, the increasingly desperate Nazis pressured her to apply for German citizenship, and she decided to break her contract with Ufa, leave Germany, and retreat to Sweden, where she had bought a mansion at Lönö , not far from Stockholm. After the Wehrmacht's defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad, Nazi criticism and pro-Americanism came to dominate totally in Sweden. Zarah Leander had been far too much associated with the Nazi propaganda, and was shunned. Step by step she would get engagements on Swedish stages and in Swedish films, but she would never regain the popularity she had enjoyed before and in the first years of World War II.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details