Lila Kedrova is the only actor or actress to win an Academy Award for a role followed by a Tony Award for the same role, instead of the other way around. Usually it’s the stage version that’s honored first then the movie adaptation.
Kedrova also holds the record as the actor or actress with the longest time between winning an Oscar and Tony for the same role. Twenty years had elapsed between the 1964 film Zorba the Greek, and the musical Zorba.
It was her only Broadway role, though the Russian actress made scores of many screen appearances, but mostly in foreign films. And some very interesting foreign movies at that, some of which you may not know about.
In Zorba the Greek, her first English-language role, Kedrova plays Madame Hortense, an inn-keeper who takes up with the title character (Anthony Quinn). (There is the improbable couple pictured above.)
Word is that French actress Simone Signoret was first offered the part but declined after recommending Kedrova for the part.
Frank is afraid that Zorba the Greek, despite Kedrova’s best efforts, does not stand up to the test of time too well. Nonetheless, the picture gave a real boost to her international career.
Zorba’s sentimental plot premise — an constipated British intellectual (Alan Bates) goes to Greece to discover LIFE in capital letters after encountering Quinn’s roistering local peasant character, inevitably described as “lusty” and “life affirming” — is dated.
You know, an uptight Brit find the meaning of it all in idylic southern Europe. And much depends on your view of Quinn’s performance as Zorba. A little goes a long way in this case.
Kedrova stands out, though. She was born in 1918 in St. Petersburg, and was spirited out of Russia when her family found itself on the wrong side of the Revolution.
She began her movie career in France in the early 1930’s, and subsequently worked all over Europe. She made some interesting pictures in France. One is the 1966’s crime drama, Maigret a Pigalle (Maigret in Pigalle), based on a novel by the incomparably entertaining Georges Simenon. (The beloved Inspector Maigret is played by Italian actor Gino Cervi.)
For Alfred Hitchcock, Kedrova plays an enigmatic Countess (one of her more glamorous roles) in 1966’s Torn Curtain. For John Huston, she turns up as Madame Sophie in the 1970 cold was drama, The Kremlin Letter.
Kedrova is the first Russian actress to win an Oscar. Zorba The Greek for better or worse remains her legacy.