Eva Von Berne: The Actress Who Died Twice

Eva Von Berne, the Austrian actress brought to Hollywood as a potential Greta Garbo rival and who played the ingénue in the 1928 silent film The Masks of the Devil, died in 2010. According to many sources, Von Berne had already passed away in 1930, purportedly from “excessive dieting.” The 18-year-old was working as a dance instructor and model when she was discovered in Vienna by Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg who was there on his honeymoon. Convinced that she had star potential, Thalberg signed her up with MGM and she was heavily promoted by the studio's publicity department. However, after making her debut, concerns grew at the studio about her weight and her inability to speak English, which was a requirement due to the arrival of sound films. She returned to Europe without making another film in America. In Germany she appeared in four productions and then announced her retirement from films in 1930 at the age of 20. However, a PR consultant with MGM made a mistake, and instead of announcing her retirement, he said she died. This was still accepted as fact in the 1980s, and it wasn’t until the 2000s that the public became aware that Von Berne was still alive. In a 2006 interview, Von Berne said, "It was fortunate that the world thought that I died, so I didn't have to deal with autograph hunters.” Eva von Berne worked as a window display executive in Vienna. She fled to Salzburg after the beginning of World War II, where she married Helmut Krauss, a former major in the Austrian army. Eva Von Berne died on Nov. 9, 2010 at the age of 100.