From “Ionel, Ionelule” to Hollywood actress: the memorable diva of interwar Bucharest, Lisette Verea

It was Lisette Verea who first performed “Ionel, Ionelule”. From cabaret in the interwar period, she became a Hollywood actress. Find out the story of one of Bucharest’s most famous artists of yesteryear.

In inter-war Bucharest, Lisette Verea was one of the most famous people to appear on the cabaret stage, as well as the first to perform the song “Ionel, Ionelule”. Although her career didn’t reach the pinnacle she wanted, the payoff came the other way.

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Lisette Verea debuted on the stage of the Majestic Theatre at just 13 years old

Lisette Verea was born in Bucharest on August 27, 1914, and became one of the country’s best-known artists. She made her debut on the stage of the Majestic Theatre at the age of 13, performing a couplet written by F.O. Fosian. Later, thanks to her remarkable voice and talent, she made it to the stage of the “Alhambra”, and then to the Comedy Theatre.

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Lisette Verea – Snapshot from the 1946 film A Night in Casablanca, directed by the Marx Brothers

It was not only her voice that brought her to the spotlight, but her beauty and elegance also put her in the spotlight. Throughout her career, Lisette has had numerous roles in both films and shows in Romania.

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Lisette Verea becomes a Hollywood actress

After her debut, Lisette Verea receives an offer from N. Kanner to act in “Colos”, in the magazine “Nimic nou pe frontul București”. She then went on to perform at the Cărăbuș, Constantin Tănase’s theatre, where she played from 1933 to 1935.

Together with Lulu Nicolau, she works and launches the play “Ionel, Ionelule” composed by George Sbârcea, on the Alhambra stage in 1937, being the first artist to perform this song. Her beauty also propelled her into the cinema, starring in “The Call of Love” in 1932 and “The Ghost Train” in 1933, the first sound film in Romanian, appearing alongside Tony Bulandra.

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During World War II, she flees to America

Of Jewish origin, Lisette decides to flee during World War II to the land of opportunity, the USA. Although she had hoped her career would soar even higher because of her Eastern European accent, her star doesn’t seem to shine on the Hollywood stage, and her career comes to an end. She marries the son of the Chesterfield Company, makers of cigarettes and silk stockings.

“Unschooled, but extremely beautiful, armed with nerve and possessing a lot of charm, she went from shop girl to starlet at the Tanase. Later, she even managed to escape to America under the eyes of the Gestapo and make her Broadway debut, then starred with the Marx Brothers in Hollywood, becoming an American star with a mansion in Beverly Hills. She never forgot that she was Romanian, missing her country,” Al notes. Lazăr in the publication “2012: 140 years of Romanian magazine”.

She died in New York on 27 August 2003, on her 89th birthday.

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