Born Stephanie Berindey in Budapest of Czech extraction, Steffi Duna started dancing at the age of nine and first attracted attention as a thirteen-year-old ballet dancer in Europe. Duna made her first stage appearance performing dramatized fairy tales at the Children’s Theater of Budapest. Initially opposed to the idea, her father sent her to the best schools in the Hungarian capitol to learn dancing and soon she had danced in most of the capitals of Europe. In 1932, she appeared on the London stage in the revue Words and Music by Noël Coward, being one of the four actresses to create the song “Mad about the Boy”. When she first came to Hollywood in 1932, Steffi Duna could not speak a word of English. She made up her mind to learn quickly. Directors advised her to stay away from her Hungarian friends to speed up her learning of English. Within a few years she could speak six different languages. During the 1930s Duna played a variety of nationalities. However, despite her European background, she was often cast as fiery Latin femmes fatales in films that made full use of her exotic and glamorous persona, such as La Cucaracha (1934), the first live-action short film made in three-strip Technicolor. She made her film debut in The Indiscretions of Eve (1932) in the starring role (along with Jessica Tandy, also making her debut). Signed by RKO Radio Pictures, Duna played “Guninana”, the Eskimo wife of Francis Lederer, in Man of Two Worlds (1934). Lederer had performed with Duna in the Berlin, Germany presentation of Die Wunderbar. In 1936, she played the part of Nedda in the British film version of Pagliacci, starring Richard Tauber. Films in which she played lead roles, such as Panama Lady (1939) with Lucille Ball, were popular but did not make her a major star. Her best remembered films include Anthony Adverse (1936) and Waterloo Bridge (1940). Steffi Duna retired from films in 1940, and died in Beverly Hills, California, in 1992, aged 82.
- February, 08, 1910
- Budapest, Austro-Hungarian Empire
- April, 22, 1992
- Beverly Hills, California