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Ernst Matray papers

Identifier: 0237

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Scope and Content

The collection consists of the personal papers of Hungary-born actor, director, and choreographer Ernst Matray. The collection includes personal correspondence and correspondence related to Ernst Matray’s artistic life, as well as photographs, invoices & statements, press clippings, artwork by Ernst Matray, autobiographical manuscripts and creative writing, some audio-visual materials, and some correspondence and invoices & statements of Matray’s third wife Elizabeth McKinley Matray. The papers comprise materials from the years 1933-1984, the bulk being from Matray’s second stay in the U.S. from 1955-1978.


  • Creation: 1933 - 1955


Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical/Historical note

Ernst Matray (1891-1978) was born in Budapest, Hungary on May 27, 1891. He was an actor, director, producer, and choreographer.

In 1907, Max Reinhardt saw Matray as a dancer in Budapest and brought him to the Deutsche Theater in Berlin. Here, Matray became famous for odd roles which were written specifically for him. He worked at the Deutsche Theater as an actor, dancer, pantomime, and choreographer.

Matray also starred in film adaptations by Max Reinhardt and starred as a grotesque dancer in comedies during World War I. Matray made his film debut in Das Mirakel. He also starred in other films such as Die Insel der Seeligen, Die Erbtante, Weltbrand, and Nathan der Weise. He also directed some of these films.

In 1915, Matray founded the Malu-Film company together with Ernst Lubitsch.

Together with his first wife Greta Schröder, Matray also wrote screenplays.

In 1922, Matray became the artistic director of the Internationale Pantomimegesellschaft (International Pantomime Society). He toured with his ensemble nationally and internationally. In 1924 he divorced Greta Schröder, who later married Paul Wegener.

In 1927 Ernst Matray married the actress Maria Solveg. Maria and Ernst Matray closely developed new choreographies together.

After a last performance of the Matray-ballet at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin, the couple emigrated via England to the United States in 1933. With the help of William Dieterle and Reinhold Schünzel the couple gained a foothold in Hollywood. Here, Matray, together with his wife, started a new career as choreographers for the movies. Movies for which Matray worked as a choreographer include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pride and Prejudice, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Matray also co-directed the film Adventure in Music.

In 1953 the Matrays returned to Europe and moved to Zurich, Switzerland. In Hamburg, Matray directed Molière’s George Dandin and Offenbach’s Pariser Leben for the Deutsches Schauspielhaus. At the same time he worked as a choreographer for TV shows.

In 1955, Matray left Maria Solveg and returned to the USA. After the divorce from Maria, he married his third wife Elisabeth McKinley, in 1962.

During his last years, Matray started to paint. He died in Los Angeles on November 12, 1978.


As actor: Das Mirakel (1912), Tangofieber (1913), Die Insel der Seligen (1913), Das Liebesbarometer (1914), Eine venezianische Nacht (1914), Die Erbtante (1914), Zucker und Zimt (1915, also screenplay & production), Die Direktion verlobt sich (1915), Die bösen Buben (1915), Marionetten (1915, also screenplay and production), Die Goldfelder von Jacksonville (1915), Hilde Warren und der Tod (1917), Ticky-Tacky (1918), Weltbrand (1920), O du Quetschfalte meines Herzens (1920), Kameraden (1921), Nathan der Weise (1922), Die wunderlichen Geschichten des Theodor Huber (1924) As choreographer: Dolly macht Karriere (1930), Pariser Leben (La vie parisienne) (1936), Balalaika (1939), Der Glöckner von Notre Dame (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) (1939), Ihr erster Mann (Waterloo Bridge) (1940), Stolz und Vorurteil (Pride and Prejudice) (1940), Die Frau mit der Narbe (A Woman's Face) (1941), Arzt und Dämon (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) (1941), Sieben junge Herzen (Seven Sweethearts) (1942), Gefundene Jahre (Random Harvest) (1942), ...und das Leben geht weiter (The Human Comedy) (1943), Bühne frei für Lily Mars (Presenting Lily Mars) (1943), Bezaubernd aber gefährlich (Delightfully Dangerous) (1945), Die Privataffären des Bel Ami (The Private Affairs of Bel Ami)(1947), Fräulein vom Amt (1954)

As director: Ramara (1916), Das Phantom der Oper (1916), Adventure in Music (1944), Abschiedsvorstellung (1955), Musik, Musik und nur Musik (1955)


18 Linear Feet (18 boxes and 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials




The papers include personal correspondence and correspondence related to actor, director, mime, and choreographer Ernst Matray’s artistic life, as well as photographs, invoices & statements, press clippings, artwork by Ernst Matray, autobiographic manuscripts and creative writing, some audio/visual materials, and some correspondence and invoices & statements of Matray’s third wife Elizabeth McKinley Matray. The papers comprise materials from the years 1933-1984, the bulk beeing from Matray’s second stay in the US from 1955-1978.

Processing Note

Collection initially processed by Margaret Phung and Ranjanabh Bahukhandi.

Finding Aid of the Ernst Matray papers
Jacqueline Morin and Michaela Ullmann
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2021 April: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub: created new container records for unprocessed material found during the 2020 move out of East Library.
  • 2021 November: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub to include description of photographs that had been separated from the collection.

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States