Date of birth : 1915, Berlin, Germany (or Vienna, Austria).
Date of death : 1964, in Switzerland.
Places of living :
Practise: Art drama teacher at the Columbia, then privately for Marilyn.
She studied in Europe and taught theater in Hollywood since 1941.
In 1943, she had a daughter, Barbara.
During the Second World War, she had found 2 small parts in two B movies. Then Samuel Goldwyn had given her the responsability of giving courses to actors under contract and, finally, she had accepted the same offer from the Columbia studios.
1948 : she met Marilyn, sent by the Columbia (for her first supporting role in "Ladies of the Chorus").
1949 : shooting of "Love Happy" :
She kept on supporting Marilyn for the next 20 movies, until 1955 ("The Seven Year Itch").
She played the part of a mother and embodied the stability to Marilyn; she invested in Marilyn's career at an era when nobody had the courage to do it; she helped Marilyn to develop and express her talents and her curiosity for the theater world and general knowledge.
In some biographies, she is described as a bitter woman, full of resentment. It's true that, when their complicated relationship as teacher and student ended, the shock was tough and painful for her.
In terms of theatrical playing, she taught Marilyn the subtlety of gesture, elocution, diction and breath; she encouraged her to speak in a natural way. She thought that "the voice register expresses the human feelings variety, because, to each feeling suits a voice modulation".
She gave Marilyn intensive courses before each
audition, and that, since the first time of their collaboration. They worked
together during 3 days and 3 nights in order to prepare the second
audition of "The Asphalt Jungle"
(1950), directed by John
Huston. When Marilyn obtained the part, Natasha left the Columbia
to serve Marilyn in full-time.
John Huston was the first director confronted to Marilyn's complete dependency towards Natasha : after each shooting, she looked at her teacher to find approval or disapproval. This instant is visible in the first scene of the movie "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950).
When Marilyn finally signed a long-term contract with the Fox studios in 1950, the only change she brought to her contract, was to include Natasha Lytess as her personnal art drama teacher. Natasha earned 500$ a week, plus 250$ for the private courses she gave to Marilyn (which means that, during her first year at the Fox, Marilyn earned less money than Natasha).
Her continuous interventions, secretely, made Natasha extremely unpopular to the directors. Natasha and Marilyn perfected a serie of hand signs, which allowed Marilyn to know if she played in the same way than during the rehearsals.
In Fall 1950, Marilyn moved in Natasha's house on Harper Avenue, West Hollywood. She slept on the sofa, studied, read, looked after Natasha's daughter and the chihuahua Joe Schenck had offered her for her 24th birthday.
Beginning of 1951 : Natasha bought a house; she missed 1 000$ to make a loan and Marilyn, who then lived at the Beverly Carlton Hotel, immediately tried to find a solution. She sold a mink stole offered by Johnny Hyde.
End of 1951, Marilyn came back to live at Natasha's house, 611 North Crescent Drive, during the shooting of "Don't Bother to Knock" :.
At Natasha Lytess's home :
With Natasha Lytess's daughter :
1952 : when Marilyn began to date Joe DiMaggio, Natasha considered him as an enemy. Joe paide her anomosity back. Marilyn hugely liked the two people, trying vainly, to bring them back together.
At the time of her marriage with DiMaggio, they didn't see each other a lot, apart from the work sessions; but she went with her to "There's No Business Like Show Business" (1954). She consoled Marilyn from fits of violence from a jealous husband, suspecting her to have an affair with her singing teacher, Hal Schaefer.
October 17, 1952, Marilyn's check for Natasha Lytess :
The directors protested more and more against Natasha's constant presence on the sets. Fritz Lang dismissed her from the set of "Clash by Night" (1952) and Howard Hawks too in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953).
But they immediately called her back to end Marilyn's panic facing the camera.
Billy Wilder was the only director who considered her as his ally.
Pictures "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" :
In 1953, on the set of "How to Marry a Millionaire?", the director exasperated by Natasha's unceasing interventions, lost patience and dismissed her. The next day, Marilyn wasn't present at the studios, pleading a bronchitis. Charles Feldman, Marilyn's agent announced that she couldn't shoot without her; she was re-hired with a bonus.
"How to Marry a Millionaire ?" :
On September 13, 1953, she accompanied Marilyn to the Jack Benny Show :
On the set of "The Seven Year Itch" :
Mae West costume
During the years of Marilyn's absence, the Fox, not knowing no more which was Natasha's status, kept her as an employee. Despite Marilyn never answered to the written petitions, Natasha, had, at least, hoped to take her place back, neside her, as soon as the contract dispute would be solved.
Because of a lack of protection from Marilyn, the Fox was about to dismiss Natasha, who made several desperate attempts to contact Marilyn (during the first week, she called a dozen of times and dropped herself some letters off). Marilyn asked her lawyer, Irving Stein, to call Natasha to order her to stop bothering her.
Few days later, on March 5, 1956, Natasha went to Marilyn's home. Her agent, Lew Wasserman, prevented her from coming in the house. She saw Marilyn who looked at her, impassive, from the second floor.
she was dismissed from the Fox; she tried to live by teaching
drama courses. She sold the house purchased with Marilyn's help.
In 1962, few months before Marilyn's death, Natasha's health began to deteriorate. At that time, she lived in Roma, Italy.
In 1964, she left her apartment in Roma, where she lived, and entered a private hospital in Switzerland, where she was treated for a cancer from which she would die.