Mia May

Active - 1917 - 1922  |   Born - Jun 2, 1884 in Vienna, Austria  |   Died - Nov 28, 1980 in Los Angeles, CA  |   Genres - Adventure, Drama

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One of the German silent screen's most prominent leading ladies, the rather matronly but graceful Mia May at one point rivaled Henny Porten and the great Asta Nielsen in popularity. On stage from the age of 14 under the pseudonym of Herma Angelot, May (real name: Maria Pfleger) assumed her new moniker in 1902 during a production in Hamburg of the light opera Clou-Clou. Mia May sounded good on a marquee and her husband Julius Mandl, then a novice film director, followed suit and renamed himself Joe May. Often working in tandem, the Mays went on to produce popular screen escapism that culminated with the still extant two-part Das Indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb) (1921), a mammoth undertaking starring the hypnotic Conrad Veidt and featuring Danish matinee idol Olaf Fönss, Lya de Putti, and, as Fönss' fiancée and the film's leading lady, Mia May. Alas, Das Indische Grabmal in general and May's performance in particular were panned outright in both Germany and the United States, one stateside critic rather unkindly commenting that the 36-year-old Frau May's endangered heroine was "so big that she looked like she could overpower her Asian captors." By then, however, she had all but retired, reportedly to make room for her beautiful daughter, Eva May. A troubled personality, Eva committed suicide in 1924 and Mia May retired for good. She emigrated to Hollywood with her husband in 1934 but although he enjoyed some success in Hollywood (Music in the Air, 1934, The Invisible Man Returns, 1939, The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler, 1943), she never filmed again.