Zita Johann was born in Temesvar, Austria-Hungary (now Timisoara, Timis, Romania) on July 14, 1904. At age seven she moved to the United States and in high school she began to act in school plays. In 1924 she debuted on Broadway in a Theater Guild production, and over the next several years established herself as a prominent leading lady onstage.
Zita was a dark, intriguing leading lady who appeared in seven films of the early 1930s after enjoying success on the New York stage. Zita made her screen debut in a leading role in D.W. Griffith's last film, the extremely low-budgeted, uneven, but striking Depression-era document, "The Struggle" (1931). The following year she played Helen Grosvenor, the Princess Anckesen-Amon, the role for which she is best remembered, the woman that revived Egyptian high priest, Boris Karloff, who is convinced is the reincarnation of his love from thousands of years ago in the poetic horror classic, "The Mummy" (1932).
Zita brought an appropriately haunted, vague quality to the role, but despite leads in several others films, including the lively actioner "Tiger Shark" (1932), late in 1933 she went to playing the title role in a poverty row drama, "The Sin of Nora Moran" (1933), and after one more film Zita, who disliked Hollywood, returned to the stage to continue her career. Yet, in 1989 she went back to film acting and appeared as a librarian in the film "Raiders of the Living Dead."
Zita was in many Broadway productions from the mid 1920's to early 1940's. Some of them include "Dawn" (1924) at the Sam H. Harris Theatre, "The Goat Song" (1926) at the The Theatre Guild, "Machinal" (1928) at the Plymoth Theatre, "Troyka" (1930) at the Hudson Theatre, "Uncle Vanya" (1930) at the Booth Theatre, "Tomorrow and Tomorrow" (1931) at the Henry Miller's Theatre, "Seven Keys To Baldpate" (1935) at the National Theatre, "The Burning Deck" (1940) at the Maxine Elliott's Theatre and "Broken Journey" (1942) at the Henry Miller's Theatre.
She was married to producer/actor John Houseman (Jacques Haussmann) in 1929, but they later divorced. She passed away in NY on September 20, 1993, but will always be remembered as the original Helen Grosveno in "The Mummy," which has been remade numerous times since 1932.
*** Turns out that she was a famous actress in my family and would have been a distant cousin on mine. We have some original pictures of her as well as newspaper articles and I am doing some more research on her as well as tracing my family tree. I will be posting more pictures and informaton as soon as I access them. Enjoy!
I want to send a special Thank You to my Aunt, Jane Moore, who has been spending extensive hours researching original census reports from when Zita lived in NY as well as tracing back to her original name along with anymore information that she can find to tie it all together! She is finding the last pieces to the puzzle! Thank you Aunt Jane! :)
I would like to send another Thank You to John Norris who knows David Manners who appreared in "The Mummy" with Zita in 1932. He has been so helpful and kind in sending me copies of pictures that he has and exchanging information.
You can visit his site at the David Manners Homepage.
Here is a picture of Zita from the 1930's and a picture of me from 2001. I have animated them together slowly, to show the resemblance that people see in Zita and myself. I think it is pretty cool seeing that she is one of my distant cousins and was a big actress in her time, something I hope to be in mine! Now, all I need to do is become a brunette! :)
*** To view full size image, just click on the picture and the full size picture will pop up! :)
These are candid and posed pictures of Zita Johann, the one on the end is of Zita and her first husband, director/producer, John Houseman.
These are pictures of Zita Johann from the 1932 film "The Mummy" also starring Boris Karloff.
These are pictures of Zita Johann from the 1932 film," Tiger Shark," also starring Edward G. Robinson.
These are pictures from the 1928 Broadway Play "Machinal" also starring Clark Gable, who was an unknown at the time in his Broadway debut.
These are pictures of Zita, some of which I am unsure of what they are from, others are art work and just unique pictures.
These are pictures of or about Zita Johann from Newspaper and Magazine clippings and letters.
These are pictures of or about Zita from various Broadway Playbills from productions she was in over the years.
These are pictures from the August/September 1984 "Films In Review" Magazine article on Zita Johann entitled "'The Mummy' Revisited."