Trivia Minute August 7, 2015

148: Mata Hari

by Marcus Michelson
Mata Hari, center. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Mata Hari, center. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod, better known by her stage name of Mata Hari.

Here are some things you may not have known about the dancer and German spy during World War One.

She was born in 1876 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. At the age of 13, her father went bankrupt, throwing the family into chaos. When she was 18, she answered an advertisement from an army captain stationed in the Dutch East Indies seeking a wife. She moved to what is now Indonesia to marry the captain and give birth to two children.

While there, MacLeod studied the local customs and joined a dance company. She moved back to Europe leaving her surviving child and her violent, alcoholic husband behind. In 1905, going by the name Mata Hari, which means eye of the sky or sun, she began working as an exotic dancer and portraying herself as a princess of Java.

In the course of her career, MacLeod became involved with high-ranking military, political and diplomatic officials. She was arrested by British authorities, where she said she was working as a spy for France. An intercepted German message implied she was also working for the Germans. In 1917, she was charged with causing the deaths of at least 50,000 soldiers and was executed by firing squad.

In the 1970s, unsealed German documents proved that Mata Hari was working for them.

Our question: Who played Mara Hari in the 1931 fiilm?

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