Nora Gregor (1901-1949)

15/03/2020

On 3 February 1901 Gregor was born in Gorizia Eleonora (Nora) Gregor, daughter of a Bohemian watchmaker and optician who had opened a shop in Gorizia and his Carinthian wife. The family belonged to the German-speaking community of origin, which in the city was a minority, although it was within the empire of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nora didn't have much time to participate in the cultural atmosphere of the city: she was just a teenager when the First World War began in 1914, which was destined to upset so many lives and the way of being of the whole of Central Europe. When the war ended the Habsburg Empire had dissolved, Gorizia became part of the Kingdom of Italy and the Gregor family chose to move to Austria, in Graz. Nora Gregor was eighteen years old and her profession was already that of dramatic actress. She had already performed in the theatres of Vienna, Wiener Neustadt and Graz, and continued her career as a theatre performer and since 1921 also as a film actress in Austria and Germany.

So she was one of the protagonists of the transition from silent movies to sound. She took part in many films, but the turning point that gave her the role of diva took place in 1924, in Berlin, when she played the leading role in Carl Theodor Dreyer's Michael. For some time she moved to California, home to the most prestigious studios. The stage remained her vocation, and in fact she divided her time between Los Angeles theaters and Hollywood films, where she starred alongside the likes of Lionel Barrimore and Joan Crawford; but she preferred love to her career, marrying Prince Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg in 1933 (it was her second marriage). Nora then thinned out her commitments in films, which she shot on European sets, and resumed acting in Vienna. She became the mother of a son, Heinrich. In the meantime, her husband, who was involved in politics, held the post of vice-chancellor with Dolfuss and, after his assassination, with Schuschnigg. In 1938, at the time of the invasion of Austria by Nazi troops and the annexation of the country to the Reich, the Starhembergs had to take refuge abroad, first in Switzerland and then in France.

In Paris, the couple met the director Jean Renoir, who, struck by Nora and her melancholy charm ("One could write a novel about the exiled woman's state of mind", he wrote about her), offered her the leading role in his The Rules of the Game. In the film, Renoir's masterpiece, shot in 1939, Nora Gregor gave the best of herself, but the war did not allow her to play the role of movie star again. In 1942 the Starhemberg family emigrated to South America, where Nora continued to act in several films. But that was not her homeland or her culture. She could not adapt to that new life and on January 20, 1949 she committed suicide in Viña del Mar (Chile).

He had never wanted to adopt a pseudonym, as was common in the entertainment world, always keeping his name: Nora Gregor. And the name survived her, in the pseudonym of her son who acted and wrote under the name of Henry Gregor and in the film company that Heinrich, who became a producer, dedicated to his mother: Nora Productions.