At Galveston, Texas in 1929, a Jewish princess from Vienna made history. Lisl Goldarbeiter was crowned Miss Universe, Austria’s first and only winner of the coveted title. But who was Lisl Goldarbeiter and why did she turn her back on Hollywood for an uncertain future in Austria? The latest marvel from Hungarian documentary pioneer Péter Forgács sheds light on this forgotten beauty, with a little help from Lisl’s cousin and childhood sweetheart Marci Tenczer, who hailed from the Hungarian branch of her family in Szeged.
Marci fell in love with Lisl and began filming her religiously, long before she was world news. With archive and found footage Forgács is both an archaeologist and a master-craftsman, here combining Marci’s astonishing film library with meticulously-researched footage and photographs to tell an entirely new story of a love that endured through seven decades of horror and upheaval. It is an absorbing and often heartrending achievement, though Lisl herself remains tantalisingly out of reach, a beautiful but ghostly presence. SM