Nora Ney, Polish film star before World War II, died Feb. 21 of pneumonia in Encinitas, Calif., where she had been a resident. She was 95 and had been battling Alzheimer’s disease for the past five years
Born Zoscia Neyman near the city of Bialystok, she made 11 films in her native Poland and won an audience poll as most popular screen star of 1934. Known as an exotic beauty, she specialized in dramas and melodramas.
Featured roles included “The Oriole” (1926), “The Red Clown” (1927), “Police Chief Tageyev, (1929), “Voice of the Desert” (1932), “The Beauty of Life” (1930) and “Daughter of General Pankratov” (1934), which was shown at the Walter Reade Theater in 1995 as part of a Polish film retrospective. Her final film, “Dr. Murek” (1939), was shown in New York in the late 1940s.
With the outbreak of World War II, she fled Poland (it was not generally known that she was Jewish), accepting an invitation from Mosfilm to work in the Soviet Union. She performed on radio, but no films materialized. As Polish aliens, she, a sister and her daughter were deported to northern Kazakhstan, where they spent a major portion of the war. Other members of her family were killed in concentration camps.
In 1945, with the help of Polish actress Wanda Wasilewskam she returned to Poland, expecting to resume her film career, but that didn’t come to pass. She emigrated to New York in 1946 and did odd jobs to support herself and her daughter.
Her first husband was cinematographer Seweryn Steinwurcel, who guided her to stardom in Poland. Her second husband, Joseph Fryd, was a Polish journalist who in the postwar years was a film producer and promoter in Rome. Her third husband was Czech physician Eugene J. Braun, a resident psychiatrist at Brooklyn State Hospital and Central Islip State Hospital. All three marriages ended in divorce. Then for 25 years, she was married to fourth husband Leon Friedland, originally of St. Petersburg, Russia. He died in 2001 in La Jolla, Calif., where the couple lived.
She is survived by daughter Joanna Ney, curator of Dance on Film and producer of Special Programs at the Film Society of Lincoln Center as well as its public relations director; and by a sister.