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Lilia Skala Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trivia (8)

Overview (3)

Born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary [now Austria]
Died in Bay Shore, Long Island, New York, USA
Birth NameLilia Sofer

Mini Bio (1)

Born and raised in Vienna, Austria, Lilia Skala's parents were Katharina Skala (Catholic) and Julius Sofer (Jewish). Her father worked as a manufacturers representative for the Waldes Kohinoor company. Lilia Skala had two sisters, Lisl (later known in the United States as Elizabeth Polk, later a renowned dance therapy pioneer) and Felicitas ("Lizi"; pronounced Litzi; an infant/baby nurse). All three sisters adopted their mother's gentile maiden name of "Skala" and later emigrated to the United States.

Lilia Skala would become a star on two continents. In pre-World War II Austria she starred in famed Max Reinhardt's stage troupe, and in post-war America she would become a notable matronly, award-worthy character star on Broadway and in films. Forced to flee her Nazi-occupied homeland with her Jewish husband, Louis Erich Pollak (who also adopted his mother-in-law's gentile maiden name of "Skala") and two young sons in the late 1930s, Lilia and her family managed to escape (at different times) to England. In 1939, practically penniless, they immigrated to the USA, where she sought menial labor in New York's garment district. She quickly learned English and worked her way back to an acting career, this time as a sweet, delightful, thick-accented Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee.

She broke through the Broadway barrier in 1941 with "Letters to Lucerne", followed by a featured role in the musical "Call Me Madam" with Ethel Merman. In the 1950s, she did an extensive tour in "The Diary of Anne Frank" as Mrs. Frank, and performed in a German-language production of Kurt Weill's "The Threepenny Opera". Lilia became a familiar benevolent face on TV in several early soap operas, including Claudia: The Story of a Marriage (1952).

She won her widest claim to fame, however, as the elderly chapel-building Mother Superior opposite Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Field (1963), for which she won both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. That led to more character actress work in films, most notably as the dog-carrying Jewish lady in the star-studded Ship of Fools (1965) and as Jennifer Beals's elderly friend in Flashdance (1983). On TV she played Eva Gabor's Hungarian mother in Green Acres (1965) and earned an Emmy nomination for her work in the popular miniseries Eleanor and Franklin (1976)). She died in 1994, aged 98.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / Robert Sieger

Spouse (1)

Louis Erich Pollak (later Louis Erich Skala) (1922 - 5 December 1980) ( his death) ( 2 children)

Trivia (8)

At the time of her Oscar nomination for Lilies of the Field (1963), Skala was working at the Lost and Found desk of New York's Transit Authority, and was only able to attend the ceremonies when United Artists agreed to pay her fare. Within a year, Skala was supporting herself as an actress.
Since 2001, actress Libby Skala, Skala's granddaughter has been performing a one-woman show "Lilia!", based on the life of her grandmother, with portrayals of both her grandmother and herself in these shows.
A performance in a lesser-known George Bernard Shaw play put Lilia in danger of arrest for its mocking of the ruling elite, a vague satire of Hitler.
During the Nazi invasion of the late 1930s, Lilia's Jewish husband, Louis Erich Pollak (who had adopted his mother-in-law's gentile maiden name of "Skala"), was arrested at one point and placed in a Viennese detention center. He was rescued when Lilia bribed the prison guards with a gold cigarette box to let him go. He managed to escape over the border that same evening but was forced to leave his wife and two young sons behind. They eventually fled the country and joined him in England. The family immigrated to the United States in 1939.
She was not shown in the "Memorial Tribute" at the 67th Annual Academy Awards ceremony in 1995, although she died in December 1994 and had been nominated for an Oscar in 1964 for her role in "Lilies on the Field".
Gave birth to her 1st child at age 27, a son Peter Skala on September 3, 1924. Child's father was her husband, Erich Skala.
Gave birth to her 2nd child at age 38, a son Martin Erich Skala on January 10, 1935. Child's father was her husband, Erich Skala.
Grandmother of Christopher Skala (b. November 12, 1961) via son Peter, Libby Skala (b. April 20, 1967) and Emily Skala Hull (b. February 3, 1970) via son Martin.

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