Landi, Elissa (1904–1948)

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Landi, Elissa (1904–1948)

Austrian-Italian actress . Born Elizabeth Marie Christine Kuehnelt on December 6, 1904, in Venice, Italy; died of cancer in New York City, in 1948; educated privately in Canada and Italy; married in 1928 (divorced 1936); married a second time, in 1943; children: (second marriage) a daughter (b. 1944).

Selected theater:

made London stage debut in Dandy Dick (Playhouse Theater, 1923); appeared in Storm (Ambassadors, 1924), The Painted Swan (1925), Lavender Ladies (1925), and The Constant Nymph (1926); made Broadway debut in A Farewell to Arms (1930).

Selected films:

London (UK, 1926); Bolibar (UK, 1928); Underground (UK, 1928); Sin (Sw., 1928); The Inseparables (UK, 1929); Knowing Men (UK, 1930); The Price of Things (UK, 1930); Children of Chance (UK, 1930); Mon Gosse de Père (The Parisian, Fr., 1930); Body and Soul (1931); Always Goodbye (1931); Wicked (1931); The Yellow Ticket (1931); Devil's Lottery (1932); The Woman in Room 13 (1932); A Passport to Hell (1932); The Sign of the Cross (1932); The Warrior's Husband (1933); I Loved You Wednesday (1933); The Masquerader (1933); By Candlelight (1934); Man of Two Worlds (1934); Sisters Under the Skin (1934); The Great Flirtation (1934); The Count of Monte Cristo (1934); Enter Madame (1935); The Amateur Gentleman (UK, 1936); After the Thin Man (1936); Mad Holiday (1936); The Thirteenth Chair (1937); Corregidor (1943).

A descendant of Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria on her mother's side, and the step-daughter of an Italian noble, Count Carlo Zanardi-Landi, actress Elissa Landi was educated in England and Canada and trained as a dancer. Intent on writing a play, she joined an Oxford repertory company to gain experience, but wound up on stage instead, making her acting debut in Dandy Dick (1923). She subsequently appeared in a number of London plays and made her film debut in London (1926), with Dorothy Gish. Her next films, Bolibar and Underground (both 1928), brought her a degree of stardom in Britain, and she also made films in Sweden and France.

Following her Broadway stage debut in A Farewell to Arms (1930), Landi was summoned to Hollywood where she signed to a long-term contract with Fox, who marketed her as the "Empress of Emotion." She starred in a series of films during the 1930s, the most memorable of which were Cecil B. De Mille's The Sign of the Cross (1932), with Fredric March, and The Count of Monte Cristo (1934). Landi's favorite was The Yellow Jacket, a 1931 melodrama in which she starred opposite Laurence Olivier and Lionel Barrymore. Despite her intelligent, ladylike demeanor and ethereal good looks, Landi failed to become a box-office draw. After a B thriller, The Thirteenth Chair (1937), she left Hollywood, returning in 1943 for a role in Corregidor, an independent film with Otto Kruger. Landi, who was married twice and had a daughter in 1944, also wrote several novels. She died of cancer in 1948.


Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Shipman, David. The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1995.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts