Lilia Skala (Lilia Sofer)

Lilia Skala

Skala was born Lilia Sofer in Vienna, Austria. Her mother, Katharina Skala, was Catholic, and her father, Julius Sofer, was Jewish and worked as a manufacturers representative for the Waldes Koh-i-noor Company. Skala was one of the first women to graduate in architecture and engineering from the University of Dresden, before practicing architecture professionally in Vienna.  In the late 1930s, she was forced to flee her Nazi-occupied homeland with her husband, Louis Erich Skala, and their two young sons. (Lilia and Erich adopted the non-Jewish sounding surname of Lilia’s mother.) Skala and her husband managed to escape (at different times) from Austria and eventually settled in the United States.  Skala was a Christian Scientist. She was introduced to the religion in Vienna in the 1920s.  Lilia Skala appeared on countless television shows and serials from 1952 to 1985 (for example, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965), and as Grand Duchess Sophie kept company on Broadway with Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam not too many years after toiling in a Queens zipper factory as a non-English-speaking refugee from Austria.  She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress for her most famous role as the Mother Superior in 1963’s Lilies of the Field opposite Oscar-winning Sidney Poitier. Skala also appeared in Ship of Fools (1965), Charly (1968), Deadly Hero (1976), Eleanor and Franklin (1976), Roseland (1977), Heartland (1979) Flashdance (1983) and House of Games (1987). She died in Bay Shore, New York, of natural causes at age 98. Her life is the subject of an eponymous one-woman play Lilia! The play is written and performed by her granddaughter, Libby Skala.

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  • November, 28, 1896
  • Vienna, Austria


  • December, 18, 1994
  • USA
  • Bay Shore, New York

Cause of Death

  • natural causes


  • Lakeview Cemetery
  • New Canaan, Connecticut
  • USA

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