German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 3749/1. Photo Atelier Jacobi, Berlin.
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. 3319. Photo: Mac Walten, Berlin.
German postcard by Verlag Herm. Leiser, Berlin -Wilm., no. 6374.
Drama school for only 14 days
Maria Zelenka, also called Mizzi, was born in 1894 in Höbersdorf (Lower Austria) as the first daughter of Johann Zelenka, a tramway coachman in Vienna-Döbling, and Johanna Kerschl.
After attending the Otto drama school for only 14 days, Maria Zelenka was already able to celebrate her first stage success in 1914 at the Linz Landestheater as Käthi in the play 'Alt-Heidelberg'.
Later Maria Zelenka received engagements at the Stadttheater Nuremberg, the Hoftheater Mannheim, the Hofburgtheater Vienna and the Hoftheater Munich. She played the title role in 'Minna von Barnhelm', Klärchen in 'Egmont' and Gretchen in 'Faust'.
In 1918, she made her film debut during the war as a supporting actress by companies like Luna and Deutsche Bioscop. IMDb: "In a newspaper, she read the advertisement: 'Young and pretty actress will be trained to a first-class actress by a capable director.'" She got in touch with the company, the May-Film-GmbH of director and producer Joe May, and got a contract on the base of two months. However, immediately after signing with Joe May, the Danny Kaden-Film GmbH offered her a two-year contract. IMDb: "They had to pay a transfer fee and Maria Zelenka signed the contract which was the beginning of an impressive film career."
She had her first lead as Mizzi in Das blonde Vergnügen/The blonde pleasure (Danny Kaden, 1918), followed by leads in Im Dienste der Liebe/In the service of love (Fred Sauer, 1919) with Friedrich Zelnik, Ewige Schönheit/Eternal beauty (Rudolf Walther-Fein, 1919) and Das Schicksal der Maria Keith/The fate of Maria Keith (Walther Fein, 1919).
She also had the female lead in Alkohol/Alcohol (Alfred Lind, E.A. Dupont, 1920) as a young woman saved in a fire by the father from her fiancee, an ex-convict who has done time for murder. It was one in a series of 'Aufklärungsfilme' (Enlightenment films) examining social issues, which were produced around the time.
In the two-part Die Hafenlore/Harbour Lore (Wolfgang Neff, 1921) she was the title character, while she had the female lead opposite Conrad Veidt in Liebestaumel/Love and Passion (Martin Hartwig, 1921), and opposite Friedrich Zelnik again in C.d.E./Der Club der Entgleisten/The Club of the Derailed (Rolf Petersen, 1922).
She was again the title character Lotte in Neff's Bummellote/Strolling Lotte (Wolfgang Neff, 1922), and also had the female lead in Neff's Morast/Morass (Wolfgang Neff, 1922). Also in Ich bin Du/I am You (Urban Gad, Hans Mierendorff, 1921) Zelenka had the lead opposite Hans Mierendorff. Yet, at the same time, Zelenka also did many supporting parts, as in Neff's three-part Großstadtmädels/Big City Girls (Wolfgang Neff, 1921), a Hegewald-Film production - which produced many films directed by - the highly productive - Neff, including Die Hafenlore, Morast and Bummellotte.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 35/4. Photo: Koop-Film Co. Maria Zelenka and Walter Slezak in O alte Burschenherrlichkeit!/Oh Those Glorious Old Student Days (Helene Lackner, Eugen Rex, 1925).
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 51/5. Photo: Koop-Film, Berlin. Walter Slezak as Walter Thiermann, engineer of Franz Großmann, surrounded by his old mother (Frida Richard), his beloved Maria (Maria Zelenka), and his sister Renate (Elza Temary) in Die Wacht am Rhein. Aus des Rheinlands Schicksalstagen (Helene Lackner, 1925-1926). Elza is misspelled as Elga here.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, bo. 51/2. Photo: Koop-Film, Berlin. Ernst Winar as French Captain René Clavignac and Maria Zelenka as Maria Krenz, daughter of the castle owner August Krenz, in Die Wacht am Rhein. Aus des Rheinlands Schicksalstagen (Helene Lackner, 1925-1926).
German postcard by Ross Verlag, unnumbered. Helmut Rudolph and Maria Zelenka as Johannes Forster and his wife Katharina in Das deutsche Lied/The German song (Karl Pindl, 1928). The film honored the social status and historical significance of German songwriting.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, unnumbered. Helmut Rudolph, Franz Baumann and Maria Zelenka in Das deutsche Lied/The German song (Karl Pindl, 1928).
After 1922 Matia Zelenka's career became less intense. She stil had the female lead in Barfüßele - Ein Schwarzwaldidyll/Barfüßele - A Schwarzwald Idyll (Heinrich Lisson, 1924) with Sig Arno, Der Aufstieg der kleinen Lilian (Fred Sauer, 1925) with Bruno Kastner, and Die Erbin von St. Alban/The heiress of St. Alban (Fid. Robbra, 1925).
She also played the female lead in O alte Burschenherrlichkeit/Oh Those Glorious Old Student Days (Helene Lackner, Eugen Rex, 1925), set in the student milieu, and with Charles Willy Kayser, Walter Slezak, and Karl Beckersachs as students.
In the film Die Wacht am Rhein. Aus des Rheinlands Schicksalstagen/Watch on the Rhine (Helene Lackner, 1925-1926), Zelenka has befriended a French captain (Ernst Winar) during the French occupation of the Rhineland, until the French arrest her fiancee (Walter Slezak).
The last silent parts of Zelenka were in Die Fahrt ins Glück/The journey to happiness (Henrich Linsson, 1927), Kindertragödie/Children's Tragedy (Phil Jutzi, Karl Lutz, 1928) - made by the Communist-backed studio Prometheus-Film, and Das deutsche Lied/The German song (Karl Pindl, 1928) - produced by the German singers union.
Her final film part was in the short sound film Wie kommen die Löcher in den Käse?/How do the holes get in the cheese? (Erich Waschneck, 1932). In 1933 and 1934 Zelenka did guest appearances on stage with her husband, actor, singer, and director Alfred Läutner, who was, however, expelled from the Reich Theatre and Reich Film Chamber in 1935.
The advent of the talkies ended her career, and the once busy actress was completely forgotten after World War II. Since the death of her husband (1943), Maria Zelenka lived in Vienna. There she passed away in 1975.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1079/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Atelier Balazs, Berlin.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1079/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Atelier Balazs, Berlin.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1398/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Atelier Balazs. Mailed from former Yugoslavia in 1927.
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1079/3, 1927-1928. Photo: Atelier Balazs, Berlin.
Sources: Filmportal, Wikipedia (German and English), and IMDb.