Born Elisabeth Johann on July 14, 1904 in Temesvar, Austria-Hungary (now Timisoara, Timis, Romania). Her parents were Stefan Johann (a hussar officer) & Magdalena Zimmermann. When Elisabeth was seven years old the family immigrated to the United States, this was about 1911.
Elizabeth would appear in many school productions and in high school she applied to be an understudy with the Theater Guild. She won roles in touring productions of 'Peer Gynt', 'The Devil's Disciple' and 'He Who Gets Slapped'.
At the age of 20 in 1924, Zita made her Broadway debut. She worked pretty steady on Broadway and established herself as a leading lady and powerful actress onstage. In 1929 she married John Houseman and they would live near Malibu.
Zita was a spiritual actress, she called it “Theater of the Spirit.” Before a scene or performance, Zita would sit alone a say a few prayers and then do the scene. She took her acting very serious.
In 1931, after extablishing herself on Broadway, Zita made her film debut in D.W. Griffith's (1931) 'The Struggle'. In 1932 she would make 'Tiger Shark'. She would then make the film she will always be remember for (1932) 'The Mummy' with Boris Karloff. In February 1933, the car Johann was driving was hit by John Huston where she recieved minor injuries. Zita would make 3 films in 1933 and also become divorced from John Houseman on September 13, 1933. In 1934, Zita made 'Grand Canary' and then quit films to work in the theater.
Zita would marry for the second time to John McCormick on July 09, 1935. She continued to work in theater. Zita would divorce her second husband on July 15, 1938.
Zita marred her third and final time to Bernard E. Shedd on April 19, 1941. Zita would retire from acting in 1942. When World War II began, Shed joined the militay and Zita would work to support the war effort. She arrange Entertainment soldiers in New York and New Jersey including working as a fight promotor. She would divorce him later. Zita bought a pre-Revolutionary War house in West Nyack, New York where she would live the rest of her life. Zita did attend a few conventions where her fans could get photos and autographs of her.
Zita would work with children with learning disorders and give the private acting lessons.
In 1986, at the age of 82 Zita Johann came out of acting to make her final film appearance in (1986) 'Raiders of the Living Dead'. Why she came out of retirement to make this low grade horror film is a mystery.
Zita died at the age of 89 on September 20, 1993 in Nyack, New York of pneumonia. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered in a stream in upstate New York. She will always live on in all Monster Fan Heart's as 'Princess Ankhesenamón' from the classic (1932) 'The Mummy'.
Also please visit http://www.angelfire.com/nj4/lieslehardtzita/ a site dedicated to this wonderful actress as presented by her second cousin Liesl Ehardt. There are many photos, clippings, and letters of Zita Johann there.