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Lilia Skala (née Sofer; 28 November 1896 – 18 December 1994) was an Austrian-American actress. She is perhaps best known for her role in the film Lilies of the Field (1963), for which she received critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination.

Lilia Skala
Lilia Skala.jpg
Skala in 1969
Lilia Sofer

(1896-11-28)28 November 1896
Died18 December 1994(1994-12-18) (aged 98)
Resting placeLakeview Cemetery
New Canaan, Connecticut, U.S.
EducationTU Dresden
Years active1931–1990
Louis Erich Skala
(m. 1922; his death 1980)

During her career, Skala was also nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award.


Personal lifeEdit

Skala was born Lilia Sofer in Vienna. Her mother, Katharina Skala, was Catholic, and her father, Julius Sofer, was Jewish and worked as a manufacturers representative for the Waldes Koh-i-noor Company.[1][2] She was one of the first women to graduate in architecture and engineering from the University of Dresden, before practicing architecture professionally in Vienna.[3]

In the late 1930s, she was forced to flee her Nazi-occupied homeland with her husband, Louis Erich Skala, and their two young sons.[2][4] (Lilia and Erich adopted the non-Jewish sounding surname of Lilia's mother.) Skala and her husband managed to escape (at different times) from Austria and eventually settled in the United States.[citation needed]

Skala was a Christian Scientist.[5][6] She was introduced to the religion in Vienna in the 1920s.[7]


Lilia Skala appeared on countless television shows and serials from 1952 to 1985 (for example, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965), and as Grand Duchess Sophie kept company on Broadway with Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam not too many years after toiling in a Queens zipper factory as a non-English-speaking refugee from Austria.

She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress for her most famous role as the Mother Superior in 1963's Lilies of the Field opposite Oscar-winning Sidney Poitier. Skala also appeared in Ship of Fools (1965), Charly (1968), Deadly Hero (1976), Eleanor and Franklin (1976), Roseland (1977), Heartland (1979) Flashdance (1983) and House of Games (1987).[8]

She died in Bay Shore, New York, of natural causes at age 98. Her life is the subject of an eponymous one-woman play Lilia! The play is written and performed by her granddaughter, Libby Skala.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Tallmer, Jerry (2009-08-14). "Libby Skala encapsulates 100 years of life, love, dance". Chelsea Now. Archived from the original on 2009-08-19. Retrieved 2009-08-18.
  2. ^ a b "Guide to the Papers of the Grace Polk Family, 1877-1975 AR 25104/MF 964". Retrieved 2016-11-13.
  3. ^ "Lilia Skala biodata". Retrieved 2016-11-13.
  4. ^ "Theatrical tribute to a special grandmother". Retrieved 2016-11-13.
  5. ^ "Actress profile @ Newsday - The Long Island and New York City News Source". 1986-01-07. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
  6. ^ Gibson, Gwen (March 31, 1988). "Versatile Lilia Skala Is Seeking New Fields". Chicago Tribune.
  7. ^ "News | Longyear Museum". 2011-03-14. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
  8. ^ Taylor, Clarke (November 24, 1977). "Skala as Rosa; Grande Dame of 'Roseland'". Los Angeles Times. p. H30. Retrieved December 3, 2010.
  9. ^ "Libby Skala Interviews & Press". Retrieved 2016-11-13.

External linksEdit