Lya De Putti

Lya de Putti (January 10, 1897 – November 27, 1931) was a Hungarian film actress during the silent era. She was noted for her portrayals of vamp characters.

Lya de Putti
Amalia Putti

(1897-01-10)January 10, 1897
DiedNovember 27, 1931(1931-11-27) (aged 34)
Years active1918–1929
Spouse(s)Zoltán Szepessy (1913-1918)

Early life and career

Born as Amália Putti[1] (Hungarian: Putti Amália) in Vécse, Austria-Hungary (today Vojčice, Slovakia), she was one of the four children of Gyula Putti (Hungarian: Putti Gyula), a cavalry officer,[2] and his wife, the former Mária Holyos[3] (Hungarian: Holyos Mária). She had two brothers, Géza and Sándor, the latter serving as a first lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian army,[3] and a sister, Mária.

She began her stage career on the Hungarian vaudeville circuit. She soon progressed to Berlin, where after performing in the ballet, she made her screen debut in 1918. She became the premiere danseuse at the Berlin Winter Garden in 1924.

Around that time German film director Joe May noticed her and cast her in The Mistress of the World (1919), her first important film. She followed this success with noteworthy performances in Manon Lescaut and Varieté (1925). The latter featured her opposite Emil Jannings and directed by E.A. Dupont. Both films are UFA productions. While in Germany, de Putti starred with such actors as Conrad Veidt, Alfred Abel, Werner Krauss, Grete Mosheim, and Lil Dagover and was filmed by directors F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang.

De Putti came to America in February 1926. At the time, she told reporters she was 22 years old but her ocean liner's records list her as having been 26. De Putti generally was cast as a vamp character, and often wore her dark hair short in a style similar to that of Louise Brooks or Colleen Moore. De Putti starred in D.W. Griffith's The Sorrows of Satan (1926). The film was released in two versions, one in the U.S. and the other in Europe. In the U.S. version, one scene had de Putti fully dressed whereas the same scene in the European release had de Putti topless.

Private life

De Putti once was rumored to be engaged to Count Ludwig von Salm-Hoogstraeten, a former husband of oil heiress Millicent Rogers. She denied the engagement. In 1913, she married Zoltán Szepessy, a county magistrate. They divorced in 1918. The couple had two daughters, Ilona (b. 1914) and Judith (b. 1916).

Return to Broadway

The following year, de Putti went to Hollywood but found little success. Despite working with distinguished actors such as Adolphe Menjou and Zasu Pitts, she failed to make it big and left the screen by 1929 to attempt to restart her career on Broadway.

Later, she went to England to make silent movies and studied the English language. She then returned to the U.S. to attempt sound films.

Hospitalized to have a chicken bone removed from her throat, de Putti contracted a throat infection. She was taken to the Harbor Sanitarium, then located at 667 Madison Avenue where reportedly she behaved irrationally and eluded her nurses. Eventually, she was found in a corridor. She developed pleurisy in her right side, followed by pneumonia in both lungs.


She died in 1931, aged 34, at the Harbor Sanitorium, leaving just £800 (UK equivalent at the time) and a few bits of jewellery. Four years earlier, £800 was her weekly wage. She is interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

  • De Putti appears on the cover of Jessamine (band)'s 1995 self-titled.Jessamine (CD insert). Jessamine (band). Kranky. 1995. Kranky003.CS1 maint: others (link)
  • In the film Cabaret (1972), singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) tells a friend that Lya de Putti is her "favorite screen siren". In a subsequent scene, Bowles dismisses de Putti, claiming that she "makes too many faces."



Short Subjects

  • A Christmas Movie for Adults (1924)



  • Herzog, Peter and Roman Tozzi. Lya de Putti: Living Life and Not Fearing Death. Corvin: 1993.
  • Los Angeles Times. "Film Star Succumbs." November 27, 1931, Page 1.
  • New York Times. "Lya de Putti Dead Here of Pneumonia." November 27, 1931, Page 20.
  1. Kőniger, Miklós (October 1996). "Egy elfeledett sztár" [A forgotten star]. (in Hungarian). Budapest, Hungary: Filmvilág Alapítvány. pp. 13–14. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  2. Schöpflin Aladár (2010) [1929-1931]. B. Kádár Zsuzsanna (ed.). Magyar Színművészeti Lexikon [Hungarian Actors Encyclopedia] (in Hungarian). Vienna, Austria-Hungary: Wesley Egyház- és Vallásszociológiai Kutatóközpont. p. 503. ISBN 1161272968. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  3. "Pesky-Rosenzweig" (PDF). (in Hungarian). Budapest, Hungary: Hadtörténeti Intézet és Múzeum. 20 January 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
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