Charlotte Susa, born Charlotte Wegmüller in Prussia in 1898, was about as Aryan as they come. Tall, blonde, and blue-eyed, she first became a film star in the German cinema before Irving Thalberg signed her to a contract with M-G-M in 1932.
Even though Susa didn’t know any English when she arrived in Los Angeles, the studio used her as a threat to replace Marlene Dietrich. Here is a typical example of the press Susa (and Dietrich) received in 1932-33:
Irving Thalberg has a German star up his sleeve – Charlotte Susa by name. A beautiful blonde, she had a high position in her own country in films and is now learning English on the M.G.M. lot; she could quite well be a successor to the crown Dietrich is laying aside so cavalierly. In appearance she is much like Vilma Banky, who was one of the first foreign stars to make good in a big way in silent films.
Meanwhile if Marlene Dietrich resumes work in Germany will be seen here, and loved here, as she was in the ‘Blue Angel’ or will she become one of those names like Kaethe von Nagy, Bridgette Helm, Frau Henny Porten and other German stars, excellent artists all, but practically unknown to the vast American public, which is, after all, the world’s fan center.
Publicists had little to say about Susa’s personality. In fact, here are the bullet points:
She doesn’t smoke or drink. Well, okay, she has one glass of beer on her birthday.
Archery keeps her fit
Turtles are her pets
She has a beautiful operatic singing voice
With such a dull build-up, Susa never had a chance in Hollywood. She also never made a Hollywood movie. In 1934, she returned to Germany and resumed film work under Nazi Germany.
Throughout the mid and late 1930s, her film work was sporadic, which kind of leads me to believe that she, along with others who had spent time in Hollywood, was regarded with suspicion. However, according to J. Paul Getty biographer Robert Lenzner, Susa was well-connected with high-ranking Nazi officers, while also seeing Getty on the side, but that is another story…
Sousa’s film career ended around 1941, and she ended up dying in Switzerland in 1978.
Susa gave her debut as a film actress in the German Silent movie Der Prinz und die Tänzerin in 1926 and became popular for her roles as a Femme fatale. In 1932 she signed a contract with MGM and moved to the United States to start an international career.
Elizabeth Yeaman wrote in her newspaper column on 15 August 1932:
Lilian Harvey, Henry Garat, Anna Sten, and now Charlotte Susa, comprise a quartet of important foreign talent that soon will be seen in Hollywood pictures. (…) Miss Susa has arrived in New York and soon will reach these shores with an MGM contract. She was born in Lithuania of German parents and has won great fame in Germany. She first went on the stage as a singer, then as a dramatic actress, and three years ago she took up screen work. Who knows, she may be the actress who will take Garbo’s place, provided Garbo never returns.
However, Susa did not succeed in Hollywood, returned to Germany soon and canceled the MGM contract in 1934. Her last role in a movie was a minor one in the 1941 comedy Der Gasmann next to Heinz Rühmann and Anny Ondra. After that she returned to theater stages.
Susa was married to Paul Cablin, Fritz Malkowsky and after 1939 to Andrews Engelmann. Susa died at Basel in Switzerland in the age of 78.