07 September 2012

Vera Molnar

Austrian actress Vera Molnar (1923) was a glamorous star of the German cinema during the 1950’s. Her Svengali was director Géza von Cziffra. An international career never really took off, despite a leading part in a film by Roberto Rossellini.

Vera Molnar
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin, no. A 457. Photo: Allianz Film.

Vera Molnar was born as Vera Kmet in Vienna, Austria in 1923 (some sources say in Frankfurt, Germany in 1924). She was the daughter of a Hungarian engineer. Among her German mother’s ancestors was the poet Gustav Freytag. In 1942 she went to Berlin without the approval of her parents, and made a successful screen-test with legendary actor-director Gustaf Gründgens. From 1943 till 1945, she studied drama at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna. By day she worked in a factory. When the Russians entered Vienna in April 1945, she fled and stayed with singer Maria Cebotari in Kitzbühl in Austria. In 1946 she married Austrian ski instructor-turned-businessman Sigi Moser. His modest income didn't provide an easy living and she got caught black-marketing sugar in post-war Austria. An Austrian court sentenced her for 16 to 30 months in prison. She fled to Germany, but was arrested four days later and returned to Austria. In 1947, she was released after 16 months imprisonment. During the Salzburg Festival of 1948, she was discovered by the Hungarian director Géza von Cziffra at the Café Bazar. He gave her a part in his upcoming Höllische Liebe/Very Passionate Love (1949) starring Elfie Mayerhofer, and renamed her Vera Molnar. She next played the female lead in Von Cziffra’s Gefährliche Gäste/Dangerous Guests (1949, Géza von Cziffra) opposite Wolf Albach-Retty. She appeared in Zarah Leander’s come-back film, the melodrama Gabriela (1949, Géza von Cziffra), but the film was a box-office failure. In 1950 Molnar was badly injured in a car accident. Géza von Cziffra drove her and actors Paul Kemp and Hannelore Müller in his British Standard to location filming at the casino in Travemuende, Germany, for Der Mann, der sich selber sucht/The man who searched for himself (1950, Géza von Cziffra). His car crashed into a truck carrying granite. Molnar suffered cuts to her face, a severe fracture at the base of her skull, and a fracture to the upper jaw. The four ended up at the hospital Luebeck-South. Her black poodle, Bumpi, riding on her lap, was killed.

Vera Molnar
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, no. 508. Photo: Lilo / Real-Film.

Vera Molnar
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, no. 569. Photo: Lilo / Pontus Film.

Open Secret
In September 1950, Vera Molnar returned in front of the camera for the filming of Die Dritte von rechts/Third from the Right (1950, Géza von Cziffra), the first German musical after the war. Her song Wenn ich will, stiehlt der Bill für mich Pferde (When I want, Bill steals horses form me) hit the German charts. At the time it was an open secret that the star and director made their home at a recently rented house in Hamburg. Von Cziffra’s wife, actress Petra Trautmann, stayed with their little daughter in Vienna, Austria. Von Cziffra directed Molnar in the the Vienna segment of the international anthology film A Tale of Five Cities (1950). Due to her criminal record, the US immigration office denied approval when RKO wanted her for a small part in an upcoming movie. In Germany she starred in Der bunte Traum/The colorful dream (1951, Géza von Cziffra), the most expensive German film since the war. Then she moved to Rome for five years and went to live in a two-room apartment with terrace in the gardens of the Villa Borghese. In Italy, she starred opposite Totò in Roberto Rossellini’s comedy Dov'è la libertà...?/Where Is Freedom? (1954) and had a small part in Ulisse/Ulysses (1954, Mario Camerini) starring Kirk Douglas and Silvana Mangano. She returned to Germany to play leading roles in the comedy Der Vetter aus Dingsda/The Cousin from Nowhere (1953, Karl Anton) opposite Gerhard Riedmann, and the crime drama Das Bekenntnis der Ina Kahr/Afraid to Love (1954, Georg Wilhelm Pabst) with Curd Jürgens. In 1956 she finally divorced Moser after ten years of marriage. She stayed in Italy and appeared in just one more film, the mediocre comedy Zwei Herzen im Mai/Two Hearts in May (1957, Géza von Bolváry) starring Dieter Borsche. In the early 1960’s she married a wealthy Italian businessman. In the following decades she lived in Rome and Vienna and devoted her time to painting. After a long illness, she died in 1986 in Rome. Vera Molnar was 62.

Scene from Gabriela (1949) with Zarah Leander singing Wenn der herrgott will (If the Lord Will). Source: Zarahlilawen (YouTube).

Italian trailer Dov'è la libertà...?/Where Is Freedom? (1954). Source: 59dommm (YouTube).

Sources: Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

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