We start today by offering two views of this pulchritudinous foreign import. (We prefer the picture above.)
Yes, she was brought over from Sweden. While she never became a star she worked constantly, and was paired opposite some of Hollywood’s top leading men.
Her given name was pronounced SIG-NEE. Ah, so!
(We still love to conjure her exotic sounding name, along with those of our other tripping-off-the- tongue favorites, Zasu Pitts, Tamara Toumanova, Vera Hruba Ralston and Maria Ouspenskaya.)
Signe Eleonora Cecelia Larsson was born in Stockholm in 1910, and began her career as a 12-year-old child extra at Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theater. Over the ensuing five years, she landed leading parts on stage and in movies.
After a tortuous six-month trip to the U.S. in the early 1940’s — taking the Siberian Railroad from Sweden to Russia, and then to China, by ship from Singapore to San Francisco and on to Los Angeles by train — necessitated by various regional Nazi threats, Hasso would up in the executive offices of RKO, signing a contract and discussing future roles. Her Hollywood career had begun.
Since Greta Garbo had just retired from the screen, Hasso was conveniently dubbed the “Next Garbo.” That never really stuck but Hasso was versatile and talented enough to play principal parts in many 1940’s films including 1944’s The Seventh Cross, 1945’s Johnny Angel and 1945’s spy thriller, The House on 92nd Street. (In the latter, she is costarred with William Eythe, whom we have profiled this week.)
After signing with MGM, Hasso made as host of titles including 1947’s A Double Life, in which she undertook what she described as her favorite screen part as Ronald Colman’s ex-wife. The picture, directed by George Cukor, has Colman as a overly enthusiastic actor who identifies much to closely to his role as Othello to Hasso’s Desdemona
No question that Hasso costarred with some Hollywood heavyweights. Besides Colman there were Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, George Raft and, as seen above, Lloyd Nolan.
Hasso was married twice, the second time to German national Harry Hasso (from 1933 to 1941). The union produced a son, who was killed in an auto accident in 1957 at the age of 22. That pretty much marked the end of Hasso’s on the screen, although she continued to carve out an impressive roster on stage and on television.
In all Hasso’s career lasted more than 60 years covering about 95 credits. Her last film was 1998’s One Hell of a Guy, a low-budget indie romantic comedy starring Rob Lowe. Hasso plays an energetic actress with a past in 1940’s movies — which is what she pretty much was. A heavy smoker, Hasso died in 2002 of complications of lung cancer. She was 91.