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1960 - 1969

Stardom at Last

In her work on stage, film, and television, Lenya moves far beyond Weill and Brecht, although she is still considered a standard-bearer for their work and an unmatched interpreter. Her third marriage, to American painter Russell Detwiler, ends with his death in 1969, making Lenya a three-time widow.

Read Text-Only Chronology
Read Text-Only Chronology

1960

  • 29 November

    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.

    • Lenya on set of the film The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

    • Still photo issued by the studio shows Lenya, Vivien Leigh, and Warren Beatty

    • Lenya's Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress

1961

  • August

    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

1962

  • 3 January

    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 recording is released by Columbia. Originally scheduled for a limited six-week run, the show logs over 200 performances.

    • Lenya with the rest of the cast behind her during a performance of Brecht on Brecht

    • "The Burning of the Books"

      Excerpt performed by Lenya from the original cast recording, released by Columbia in 1963

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    • Flyer from the production at the Royal Court Theatre, London

  • Spring

    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

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

  • 2 November

    Marries Russell Detwiler in London, where she is appearing in Brecht on Brecht

1963

  • April - July

    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.

    • Lenya as Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love

    • Attacked by Klebb (Lenya), James Bond (Sean Connery) has no choice but to defend himself

    • Rosa Klebb (Lenya) instructs Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi) to trap James Bond and lure him to his death

  • 13 October

    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.

1964

  • 9 May

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

  • 28 October

    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.

1965

  • 8 January

    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.”

    • Still in costume, Lenya celebrates in her apartment after the concert

    • "Bilbao-Song"

      Excerpt sung by Lenya live at Carnegie Hall, 1965

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    • Handbill for Lenya's Carnegie Hall performance

  • 12 June

    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.

1966

  • May

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

  • 7 October

    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

    Martin Sheen co-stars, Jack Landau directs.

  • 20 November

    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 its 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.

    • Lenya and Jack Gilford perform "It Couldn't Please Me More (A Pineapple)" from Cabaret

    • "So What"

      Excerpt sung by Lenya for the original cast recording of Cabaret

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    • Lenya dancing with a sailor during the Act I finale

1967

  • 2 March

    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.

1968

  • April - May

    Films The Appointment in Rome, directed by Sidney Lumet

    Lenya plays Emma Valadier, a procuress; Omar Sharif and Anouk Aimée take the leading roles. The film is not released in the U.S. When filming is completed, Lenya returns to Cabaret.

    • Lenya with Omar Sharif in Lumet's film The Appointment

    • Lenya (Emma Valadier) sets up a rendezvous in The Appointment

  • 27 September

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

1969

  • May

    Leaves the cast of Cabaret a few months before it closes

    Shortly afterwards, 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

    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

    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 performance of the score of Lady in the Dark starring Angela Lansbury.

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