Miliza Korjus

Miliza Elizabeth Korjus [militsa] (August 18, 1909[3] – August 26, 1980) was a Polish-born ethnic Estonian coloratura soprano opera singer, who later appeared in Hollywood films. Her birth year has been reported as uncertain, and ranges from 1900 to 1912,[4] according to various sources but her daughter, Melissa Wells, is absolutely certain the year was 1909 and that her mother knew such. She later became a naturalized United States citizen. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1938 for her performance in The Great Waltz.

Miliza Korjus
Miliza Elizabeth Korjus

(1909-08-18)August 18, 1909
Varshava, Russia
(now Warsaw, Poland)
DiedAugust 26, 1980
Culver City, California, U.S.
Resting placeWestwood Memorial Park
OccupationSinger and actress
Years active1938–1980
Spouse(s)Kuno Foelsch (1929-?)
Walter Shector (1952-1973; his death)[1][2]
ChildrenMelissa F. Wells

Early lifeEdit

She was born in Warsaw (then part of the Russian Empire), the daughter of Anna (née Gintowt) and Artur Korjus, an Estonian lieutenant colonel in the Imperial Russian Army and later chief of staff to the war minister of Estonia. Her mother was descended from the Lithuanian-Polish nobility. Korjus was born during her father's military posting there, later the family moved to Moscow. She was the fifth of six children (she had one brother, and four sisters). Her mother and father separated during the Russian Revolution of 1917 - or about 1912[4] - and in 1918, she moved from Moscow to Kiev with her mother and sisters, where she began her musical training.


As a teenager, Korjus toured the Soviet Union with the Dumka Choir. In 1927, while performing in Leningrad, she managed to cross the border into Estonia, where she was reunited with her father. She then began touring the Baltic countries and Germany, and in 1929, married Kuno Foelsch (1894-1965), a physicist. Korjus continued her concert career as a soprano in Germany and was eventually engaged by the Berlin State Opera in 1933. Her operatic appearances and recordings quickly propelled her to the forefront of European singers and earned her the nickname "The Berlin Nightingale" and "Gorgeous Korjus". Irving Thalberg, head of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, heard her recordings and signed her to a ten-year film contract, sight unseen. She arrived with her husband and daughter in the US in March 1936.[5]

Her sole film for MGM was The Great Waltz (1938), which Frank Nugent of the New York Times called "a showcase for Miliza Korjus" while also noting her resemblance to Mae West.[6] She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role. Korjus was scheduled to star in a film version of the novel Sandor Rozsa in 1940, but an automobile accident caused her leg to be crushed, and although she avoided amputation, she required extensive recuperation, causing the film to be canceled.

By 1941, she had healed well enough to begin a tour of South America. During her tour, the United States became involved in World War II, and she decided to stay in Mexico for the duration. While living there, she made the Spanish-language film Caballería del Imperio. In 1944, Korjus returned to the United States, where she performed at Carnegie Hall. She toured the country for several more years, eventually settling in Los Angeles, California. She later founded Venus Records to release many of her earlier recordings.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1952,[7] she married Dr. Walter Shector (1925-1973),[8] a Canadian-born physician, and retired from the concert stage, preferring to concentrate on making records. She died of heart failure in 1980 at Culver City, California. She was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[1] She was survived by her two sons, Ernest (b. 1943)[4] and Richard (b. 1946),[4] and her daughter Melissa Foelsch (later Melissa Wells). Her daughter was born in Estonia in 1932, and served, for more than forty years, as a career officer of the U.S. foreign service. Wells served as U.S. ambassador to Estonia from 1998 to 2001.[citation needed]


References and notesEdit

Date of birth confirmed by Miliza's daughter, Ambassador Melissa Wells, 11/23/2019.

  1. ^ a b Miliza Korjus on IMDb
  2. ^ "Miliza Korjus - Official Site".
  3. ^ "Ancestry Library Edition".
  4. ^ a b c d Miliza Korjus bio (in German). "". Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  5. ^ Passenger list March 1936. "".
  6. ^ a b Obituary, New York Times, September 1, 1980.
  7. ^ Marriage date. "".
  8. ^ Birth death years. "".

External linksEdit