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1960-1969: Stardom at Last

29 November 1960: Arrives in London to film The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, based on a novel by Tennessee Williams, directed by José Quintero, and distributed by Warner Brothers. Lenya plays Countess Magda Terribili-Gonzales, a procuress. She is nominated both for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award as best supporting actress, although she does not win either. While in London, she records a half-hour program of songs for BBC Television, directed by Ken Russell.

August 1961: Returns to Great Britain to meet with David Drew and to begin rehearsals for a new production of The Seven Deadly Sins at the Edinburgh Festival, but she decides not to perform due to artistic differences with director Kenneth McMillan.

3 January 1962: Opens in Brecht on Brecht at the Theater de Lys, the first show to play there after The Threepenny Opera. Director and translator George Tabori has assembled a collection of poems, songs, and scenes delivered by the six cast members (The others are Dane Clark, Anne Jackson, Viveca Lindfors, George Voskovec, and Michael Wager.) The original cast soundtrack is recorded by Columbia. Originally scheduled for a limited six-week run, the show logs over 200 performances.

Spring 1962: Meets American painter Russell Detwiler at a party given by W.H. Auden in New York and feels an immediate attraction, unaware that he is an alcoholic.

16 August 1962: Forms the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music as a non-profit corporation on the advice of her attorney John Wharton.

2 November 1962: Marries Russell Detwiler in London, where she is appearing in Brecht on Brecht.

April-July 1963: Films From Russia with Love, the second James Bond film, at various locations in Europe. She plays Rosa Klebb, a Russian agent. Her memorable scene at the end of the film, in which she tries to kill Bond (Sean Connery) with a poisoned knife blade projecting from the toe of her shoe, introduces her to her widest audience yet.

13 October 1963: Embarks on a U.S. tour with Brecht on Brecht, mostly at colleges and universities. In Detroit, she meets the 16-year-old Ted Mitchell, who becomes a close friend and photographs her many times.

9 May 1964: Suffers back injuries in a car accident, which forces her to cancel an engagement in Berlin

28 October 1964: Broadcast of “Lotte Lenya: The Broadway Years of Kurt Weill” as part of the “Stage 2” series on CBS-TV. The program is directed by Jack Landau and co-stars Russell Nype.

8 January 1965: Gives her third Carnegie Hall concert, with a similar program to the first two and many of the same collaborators. It is a smashing success; years later, a pirated recording is released on the Rococo label. She described her performance in a letter to friends: “How I did it, nobody including me will ever know. Some unknown strength took hold of me and I was never as good as that evening. . . . I am sure Kurt Weill was sitting on my shoulder to watch over me.”

12 June 1965: Plays Mother Courage in the premiere of Brecht’s play Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder at the Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, directed by Harry Buckwitz. Her characterization is not well-received by German drama critics, who are accustomed to the interpretation of Brecht’s widow, Helene Weigel. Adding to Lenya’s difficulties is her husband’s drinking problem, which becomes so severe that she must send him back to the U.S. for treatment so she can work undisturbed.

May 1966: Tapes a one-hour program, “The World of Kurt Weill,” with George Voskovec and others, for broadcast later on WGBH in Boston.

7 October 1966: Broadcast of Ten Blocks on the Camino Real, an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s play, on National Educational Television. Lenya plays the Gypsy, a fortuneteller.

20 November 1966: Plays Fräulein Schneider in the world premiere of the musical Cabaret by Joe Masteroff, John Kander, and Fred Ebb, at the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway, directed by Harold Prince. She remains in the cast for most of the three-year run and is nominated for a Tony Award (Best Actress in a Musical) in 1967, though she loses to Barbara Harris from The Apple Tree. Cabaret wins eight Tonys overall.

2 March 1967: Severely injures her shoulder but remains in the cast of Cabaret. Detwiler’s alcohol problems continue; Lenya is forced to commit him to Bellevue Hospital for treatment.

April-May 1968: Films The Appointment in Rome, directed by Sidney Lumet. Lenya plays Emma Valadier, a procuress. The film is not released in the U.S. When filming is completed, Lenya returns to Cabaret.

27 September 1968: Transfers the American rights in most of Weill’s music to The Richmond Organization and receives an advance of $250,000.

May 1969: Leaves the cast of Cabaret a few months before it closes. Within a few months, Alan Jay Lerner offers her the title role in his musical, Coco, based on the life of Coco Chanel. She declines, and Katherine Hepburn takes the part.

30 October 1969: Russell Detwiler dies at Brook House from a fall caused by an alcoholic seizure. Although his alcoholism had been a thorn in her side and even a source of despair, Lenya, now a three-time widow, is devastated.

9 November 1969: Despite her grief, Lenya participates as planned in a Weill concert at Lincoln Center, where she sings “Bilbao-Song” and “Surabaya-Johnny.” The second half of the program is a complete performance of Lady in the Dark starring Angela Lansbury.

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