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Elfi von Dassanowsky

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Elfi von Dassanowsky (born February 2, 1924) is an Austrian singer, pianist and film producer. She was born in Vienna as Elfriede Maria von Dassanowsky.

Recognized internationally for her unique work as a pioneering woman in film production and as a multi-talent in postwar Austrian arts and culture, von Dassanowsky is the only Austrian woman to receive the Women’s International Center’s prestigious Living Legacy Award, and has been honored with the UNESCO Mozart Medal, the French Ordre des Arts et Lettres, and by the cities of Vienna and Los Angeles, where von Dassanowsky has lived since 1962.

At age 15, she became the youngest woman ever admitted to Vienna's Academy of Music and Performing Arts as the protégé of concert pianist, Emil von Sauer. While a student, film director Karl Hartl chose her to instruct Curd Jürgens in piano, so that he could play the instrument on screen. But her studies and early career were halted for extended labor service when she rejected membership in Nazi organizations. But her talent and beauty allowed her a second chance, and the powerful UFA Studio in Berlin offered her a film contract in 1944, which she also declined. In 1946, von Dassanowsky made her opera debut as Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at the Stadttheater St. Pölten and created in concerts for the Allied High Command. She remains one of the few women in film history, and at age 22 one of the youngest, to co-found a film studio -- Belvedere Film -- the first new studio facility in postwar Vienna. With senior partners August Diglas and Emmerich Hanus, the studio created such German language classics as "Die Glücksmühle" (The Mill of Happiness, 1946), Dr. Rosin (1949), and "Märchen vom Glück" (Kiss Me, Casanova, 1949), and gave Gunther Philipp and Nadja Tiller their first screen roles. She starred in operas, operettas, theatrical dramas and comedies, helped initiate several theater groups, was announcer for Allied Forces Broadcasting and the BBC, toured West Germany in a one-woman-show and gave master classes in voice and piano. An expert in the Ignace Paderewski piano technique, her musical pedagogy continued in Canada and New York in the late 1950s.

In Hollywood in the 1960s, she resisted becoming a trendy Euro-starlet and preferred to remain behind the camera as a vocal coach for director/producer Otto Preminger. She later became a successful Los Angeles businesswoman and in 1999, re-established Belvedere Film as a Los Angeles/Vienna-based production company with her son, film professor and producer Robert von Dassanowsky. As executive producer of the award-winning dramatic short film, "Semmelweis" (USA/A 2001) and of the spy-comedy, "Wilson Chance" (USA 2005), she is now among the few senior female producers in the world.

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