Ilona Massey was born in Budapest in 1910, while it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Trained as an opera singer, she worked as a dress maker and theater singer to save money for the trip to Vienna where she joined an Opera Company. Eventually she landed a screen test in London and was offered a Hollywood contract. She appeared in a couple Nelson Eddy operettas, and was billed as “the new Dietrich.” Her acting talent was not quite strong enough, and her soprano voice too light to live up to the hype. She would be called upon to play the alluring sophisticated beauty in Thriller pictures. Notable are Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943) with Lon Chaney Jr. and Love Happy (1949) with the Marx Brothers. Ilona Massey‘s character in Love Happy, the spy Madame Egelichi, was the inspiration for the Steve Canyon comic character Madame Lynx. Steve Canyon artist Milton Caniff went so far as to hire Massey to model for him.
Madame Egelichi/Madame Lynx may have helped lead Massey to her one Radio starring role, as Baroness Karin Geza in Top Secret. Supposedly the character and her stories were inspired by a “personal friend” of Ms Massey’s who worked as an Allied Spy during WWII and its aftermath.
The Baroness takes the audience around the globe in her assignments. In a departure from the usual femme fatale formula the Baroness doesn’t depend solely upon her considerable feminine charms in her espionage/counter-espionage radio work. When it is necessary she can get as physical as any male spy to defend her secrets, or her life.
Her work on Top Secret mixed well with Massey’s political posture. Her Austrio-Hungarian upbringing had brought home to her the evils of Communism and Fascism. She became an American Citizen in 1946, and was seen protesting Soviet Premier Khrushchev’s visit to the UN in 1956.