Ilona Massey Cause of Death: How the Hungarian Actress Died of Cancer

Ilona Massey was a Hungarian-American actress who starred in several films, stage shows, and radio programs in the 1930s and 1940s. She was known for her singing voice, her glamorous appearance, and her anti-communist activism. But how did she die and what was her cause of death?

Early Life and Career

Ilona Massey was born as Ilona Hajmássy in Budapest, Hungary, on June 16, 1910 (some sources cite 1912). She began her career in the music halls of Vienna under her real name, and made two films in Austria in 1935. She was discovered by a scout from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who brought her to Hollywood and changed her surname to Massey.

She was billed as “the new Dietrich”, referring to the German actress Marlene Dietrich, and acted in three films with Nelson Eddy, including Rosalie (1937) and Balalaika (1939). She also starred in some international espionage tales during World War II, such as International Lady (1941) and Invisible Agent (1942). In 1943, she appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway, and in the horror film Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. In 1947, she starred with Eddy again in Northwest Outpost, a musical film composed by Rudolf Friml. In 1949, she starred in Love Happy with the Marx Brothers.

Anti-Communist Activism and Politics

Massey became an American citizen in 1946, and remained strongly anti-communist for what she saw as the destruction of her native country by the Soviet Union. She obtained entry visas for some of her family members who escaped from Hungary, and learned from them and other emigrés about the atrocities committed by the communists. She testified before a U.S. House Committee on Eastern Europe about the treatment of Hungarians by Soviet forces, and picketed the United Nations during the 1959 visit of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. She was a registered Republican, and supported the campaign of Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election.

Television and Radio Work

Massey also worked in television and radio in the 1950s. In 1950, she was one of the stars of the NBC spy show Top Secret. In 1952, she began starring in Rendezvous, a mystery-drama series on ABC. In 1954, she hosted The Ilona Massey Show, a musical variety show on DuMont, where she sang songs with guests in a nightclub set. The series ended in 1955, after 10 episodes.

Personal Life and Death

Massey was married four times, to Nick Szavazd, a Hungarian actor, in 1935 (divorced 1936); to Alan Curtis, an American actor, in 1941 (divorced 1942); to Charles Walker, a jeweler, in 1952 (divorced 1954); and to Donald Dawson, a U.S. Air Force general, in 1955. She had no children.

Massey died of cancer in Bethesda, Maryland, on August 20, 1974, at the age of 64. She is buried in Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery near her last husband.