(October 18, 1898–November 27, 1981; birth name: Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer): Academy Award–nominated Austrian character actress and international singing star who portrayed one of the best villains in the James Bond series: SPECTRE agent number 3, Rosa Klebb, former head of operations for SMERSH (Soviet counterintelligence) in From Russia with Love. At the time, she was probably best known as the performer of her late husband Kurt Weill’s famous song repertoire. It’s hard to picture the woman who portrayed Klebb as a world-famous entertainer, but it’s true. The part of Klebb was apparently a romp for her, and her comfort in the role is evident.
Lenya truly inhabits the role of Rosa Klebb. Her military outfits and bearing, her whiplike screaming voice, her knuckle duster to the abdomen of Donald Grant (Robert Shaw), and her terror in the presence of Blofeld are riveting. At one point, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) balks at an espionage assignment, asking Klebb what the punishment will be if she refuses. Klebb turns to her and replies straightforwardly, “Then you will not leave this room alive.” When Tania agrees to the assignment, the film gets one of its biggest laughs.
Lenya, born in Vienna-Penzing, Austria-Hungary, made only a few motion picture and television appearances. Her motion picture debut was director Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s The 3 Penny Opera (1931), filmed in German. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her English-language film debut, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961), which also featured future Bond players Edward de Souza (The Spy Who Loved Me), Jill St. John, and Paul Stassino.