Weitere Namen
Hermine Pfleger (Geburtsname)
Cast, Screenplay
Wien, Österreich-Ungarn (heute Österreich) Hollywood, Kalifornien, USA


Hermine 'Mia' Pfleger was born on 2 June 1884 in Vienna. Already as a small child she took ballet lessons and completed her first stage appearance at the Viennese Jantsch-Theater in the K.K. Prater at the age of five. There she played numerous child roles until the age of 14. Afterwards she had engagements at Gabor Stein's summer theater "Venice in Vienna" and at Ben Tieber's Apollo theater. During this time she had the stage name "Herma Angelot".

In the year 1902 she married Julius Otto Mandl (better known as Joe May), who came from one of the wealthiest families in Austria, but soon spent all his money. Still in the same year, on 29 May 1902, she gave birth to their daughter Eva Maria, who then also became active as an actress from her childhood years on. After her daughter’s birth, Mia temporarily retired from acting for some years. Only from 1910 on, she appeared again with Ben Tieber at the Apollo-Theater, now under the stage name Mia May - her husband also took over this surname when he started his career as a film director a little later.

In 1911, Mia May made her stage debut in Germany in the role of Clo-Clo in the operetta "Madame Serafin" at the Neue Operettentheater Hamburg. In the same year, Joe May realised his first movie: a nearly 27-minute (two acts) introduction film for the immensely elaborate stage play "Rund um die Alster"; Mia May took on several roles in the play, for example as a rower and as Hammonia. Afterwards the couple moved to Berlin, where Mia May took part in the Friedrich-Wilhelmstädtisches Theater in "Yvonne in Grigri". Meanwhile, Joe May was employed as a director by Continental-Kunstfilm GmbH. In his first movie, the about 27-minute "In der Tiefe des Schachtes" (1912) he cast his wife in the leading role: as the daughter of a captain who kills herself out of disappointed love for a baron; the married couple May co-wrote the script. After that Mia May took part in some movies of other directors, also because her husband had to return to Vienna to do his military service.

In 1915 Mia followed her husband to Vienna and played under his direction in the grotesque "Charly, der Wunderaffe" (AT/HU 1915) a leading role as an eccentric American. When Joe founded the production company May-Film GmbH in Berlin in May 1915, Mia acted as managing director for a time. At the same time she played leading roles in some of his successful Joe Deebs detective movies alongside Max Landa (among others in "Sein schwierigster Fall", 1915 and in "Die Gespensteruhr", 1916). Because of the great success of these movies Joe May started his own Mia May movie series in 1916, partly also directed by other filmmakers. Through melodramas like "Die Sünde der Helga Arndt" (1916) and "Nebel und Sonne" (1916) Mia May became one of the first divas of the German film: With Asta Nielsen and Henny Porten she belonged to the most popular actresses of her time. Among Mays greatest successes were "Hilde Warren und der Tod" ("Hilde Warren and Death", 1917, screenplay: Fritz Lang), about a successful actress whose life takes a tragic turn through the marriage with a nefarious murderer, and the romance "Die Bettelgräfin" (1918), about an impoverished noble daughter who falls in love immortally with her wealthy cousin.

In the last months of the First World War, between July and September 1918, the three-hour episode film "Veritas vincit" was realised, which is regarded as the first monumental film in German film history. In it May played three leading roles: an unhappy lover in ancient Rome, the daughter of a goldsmith in a medieval castle and a comtessa in a small castle "in the present". "Veritas vincit" was released in the cinemas in the spring of 1919.

In December 1919, "Die Freundin des gelben Mannes" ("The Dragon's Claw"1919), the pilot film of the elaborate eight-part series "Die Herrin der Welt" ("Mistress of the World") was released in cinemas. The other seven parts started within a few weeks until the end of January 1920. In the monumental and enormously successful series Mia May played a Danish educator who becomes a billionaire and philanthropist through her numerous adventures in Europe, Asia, Africa and America; in the end she takes revenge on a diabolical baron who seduced her and is responsible for the death of her father and her lover.

Directed by Fritz Lang, Mia May starred in "Das wandernde Bild" ("The Wandering Image", 1920), about the dramatic love of a pregnant woman to a writer unwilling to marry. Under the direction of her husband, Mia May then played the female leading role in the extremely elaborate two-parter "Das indische Grabmal" (1921), which was co-written by Thea von Harbou and her husband Fritz Lang.

Afterwards Mia May reduced her screen appearances in favour of her daughter who was aspiring as a movie star. In the four-parter "Tragödie der Liebe" ("The Tragedy of Love"1923) she impersonated a countess who is looking for her husband's murderer. In contrast to her earlier successes she was not judged very positively by the critics in this role. After " Die Liebesbriefe der Baronin von S... " (1924) Mia May retired from the film business at the end of 1924 - a decision which is often attributed to the suicide of her daughter Eva († 10.9.1924). In the middle of 1926 another movie with her was announced: Joe May wanted to film Henri Batailles "Maman Colibri" with her. But the production was never realised.

After the Nazis took power in 1933 Mia May emigrated with her husband, who as a Jew wasn't allowed to work in Germany anymore, via France to America. While Mia couldn't (or didn't want to) gain a foothold in the film business there, Joe realised some movies in Hollywood until the middle of the 1940's; but after that there were no offers.

With the support of emigrated friends and colleagues (among them Hedy Lamarr, Otto Preminger, Walter Reisch and Robert Siodmak) the Mays opened the Viennese restaurant "Blue Danube" in West Los Angeles in April 1949. However, the restaurant only lasted a few months. In the following years the couple stayed afloat with the help of friends and the aid organization 'European Film Fund'. Joe May died in 1954; Mia survived him by 26 years. She died on 28 November 1980 in Hollywood.



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