Lisa Janti, known as Lisa Montell as a Hollywood actress of the 1950-60s, was born Irena Augustynowic and her family fled Poland before World War II. On arrival in New York they changed their last name to Montwill so she grew up Irene Montwill. Lisa was known as the "Starlet of many faces" probably portraying more diverse ethnic roles including Polynesian, Native American, Mexican, Burmese, French, Italian, Spanish, East Indian and Persian. Among the productions Janti was cast in are She Gods of Shark Reef, Ten Thousand Bedrooms, Jump Into Hell, The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold, World Without End. Read our exclusive Interview with Lisa Montell.
Annick: Hello Lisa, very glad you could meet with us at Treasures of Wonderment. Your interview with Mike Barnum in the February 2010 issue of Classic Images Magazine is captivating, it was a real eye-opener to read about Hollywood almost 50 years later.
LISA JANTI: Glad you liked it.
ANNICK: We will give our readers the opportunity to enjoy the Classic Images interview but before we do that, I would like to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind.
LISA JANTI: Not at all.
ANNICK: Today, your name is Lisa Janti but your Hollywood stage name in the 50’s was Lisa Montell which explains your initials of LJ and LM. Do you still have some good memories about working in Hollywood that seems to be so demanding?
LISA JANTI: Yes. It was a very enjoyable time in my life. I got to see places I might never otherwise have visited, met a lot of interesting people, worked in a field that was a lot of fun, and got paid very well for doing it. I remember it all very fondly.
ANNICK: How different is the movie industry today from what it was in the 50's? Did anything change for the better?
LISA JANTI: Well, for one thing, it is so much more high tech. Some of it takes your breath away. Films such as Out of Africa and now AVATAR, are sheer enchantment. Also, the money being spent seems astronomical. But I guess you could say that for a lot of things these days. Really, there are good films and bad films. It was so in the 50s and it is so now.
ANNICK: Having been an international star (starlet) in Hollywood, do you regret leaving the movie business at the height of your career for a more spiritual life and obviously a less lucrative one? I had to be a tough decision to make, no?
LISA JANTI: I have to admit that at times I miss film-making. It’s a fascinating art form with endless possibilities. And for me, it was not only a very pleasurable life but also a much easier way of earning a living than what followed. But that’s not the only thing that’s important. So many things in life interest me and frankly, I wanted to “live” my life fully, in a variety of ways, not just acting out how other people lived theirs. It’s a different reality.
ANNICK: Moving can be an overwhelming experience but everyone should be traveling all over the world in order to understand that we are all the same regardless our differences. You moved from one country to another one but as a young adult, were you ever worried at all about moving to South America, in those days?
LISA JANTI: Oh no. I always loved to travel and live in different parts of the world. I was fascinated by all the different cultures and wanted to experience as many of them first hand as possible. That’s one reason I was initially drawn to acting, so I could experience being various characters and nationalities, living lives entirely different from my own. Peru was a truly marvelous and pivotal experience for me in many ways. I look forward to visiting it again someday.
ANNICK: Then your father passed away and your family moved to California. Were you looking forward to your return to the United States or not at all?
LISA JANTI: I think I was ready for the move back to the States. And, I had never been to California, so that seemed another adventure beckoning to me.
ANNICK: What if you had never been hired to perform a role in a movie, how do you think your life would have turned out different? Could you have perhaps become a school teacher, a painter, a musician since you love music so much?
LISA JANTI: I really have no idea. I might have gotten married and settled in Peru. But the arts would always have been an important part of my life. I’m sure I would have remained involved in a variety of ways, whether professionally or for personal satisfaction. I might have gone back to studying painting more seriously, or begun writing sooner, or returned to New York to pursue an acting career there. Who knows? A lot depends on whether I would have discovered the Baha’i Faith while still in Peru. That would always have been a powerful influence in the choices I made.
ANNICK: Lisa, how do you feel today when you watch the movies you were in, like “The Lone Ranger and The Lost City of Gold” and the Disney movie, “Nine Lives of Elfego Baca,” or the many T.V. shows you were in like “Sugarfoot,” “Cheyenne,” “Have Gun Will Travel,” and many more? I tried to count them all and came up with over fifty of them. You also performed with many well-known actors such as Dean Martin, Robert Ryan, Barbara Stanwyck, and Robert Loggia, among others. Is it strange for you to watch them, and do you remember acting in all of them?
LISA JANTI: Well, with interest in a lot of the shows I acted in surfacing again with the “Western Channel” resurrecting old films and T.V. shows, I started getting quite a lot of fan mail and invitations to various film festivals and requests for interviews, etc. It was strange at first because my work in films seemed like another life that I had long left behind and never really thought or talked much about. But as friends and family, and people in general, expressed interest in my film career and wanted to see my old photos (some of which I finally put on my personal website so people could see and access them), I began to enjoy remembering and revisiting those days, especially after moving back to Arizona, where I had filmed so many Westerns. I love the way both my daughter and granddaughter seem to get such a kick out of it.
ANNICK: As a young and beautiful actress, did you ever think that one day you would be a top star like Sophia Loren or Ava Gardner, for example? Where you hoping to hold top roles or not at all?
LISA JANTI: Well, I’m sure most people dream of being successful in what they do. And yes, I would very much have liked to perform in more serious roles in well produced and well directed major films, but that would probably have kept me in Hollywood much longer and resulted in an entirely different life. As it turned out, my life was much more difficult and challenging than the one I left in Hollywood, but a very interesting and fulfilling one that I am glad and grateful to have experienced.
ANNICK: After a ten year career in films, you made a clear decision to leave in order to better serve the Baha'i Faith. Were you attracted by religions and spirituality as a teenager?
LISA JANTI: I was always interested in spiritual things, though turned off by what I witnessed of traditional organized religion, and was actively seeking something I could really believe in; something meaningful and profound that made sense and stirred my soul.
ANNICK: Do you believe that we all have a special purpose in life, and must make our own choices in life, in other words -be ourselves- or should we just follow a society that dictates our lives leaving us with very little say in being who we want to be?
LISA JANTI: Oh, no question, I believe we each have a special purpose and destiny, and our main goal in life is to find that purpose and fulfill it, or our lives remain empty and futile; rather pointless and sad, regardless of what else we accomplish or how much we succeed materially.
ANNICK: Looking back, do you ever miss all being in the movies and having people admiring you on screen? Or, do you think that your life has changed for the better once you left the movies? Did you ever regret leaving and do you believe that you are much happier today without all the strange world that Hollywood had to offer?
LISA JANTI: Yes, I consider myself very happy and feel blessed in many ways, not the least of which are the two special lights of my life, my daughter Shireen and a granddaughter Tatiana. I have always enjoyed and valued what I did in my life, which I equate as true wealth, and am engaged now in the most interesting and challenging endeavor of all, that of being a writer.
ANNICK: Well, you have celebrated your 76th birthday in Arizona, recently. Will you ever consider retiring because you are still busy writing books and volunteering your time to others? What about taking easy, for a change?
LISA JANTI: I think it more appropriate to think in terms of taking on new interests and challenges rather than “retiring.” Life should be lived as fully as possible to the very last moment. It all has meaning and purpose, though the activity and expression of it may change. I can’t imagine not being involved in some productive activity or project regardless of age or circumstances. Of course serious illnesses can be quite debilitating and a severe test for us, but the usual aches and pains shouldn’t slow us down too much. There are so many natural and beneficial things we can do to stay more healthy and functional. Being engaged in activities that interest and motivate us is very important. I love writing and find the whole process fascinating and very stimulating. Right now I am getting ready to publish the second edition of my book “Baha’i: The New Vision” and record a CD based on it. Also, in the beginning stages, is a new book that will be written from a more personal perspective. So, no! No thoughts of retiring.
ANNICK: Thank you, Lisa for allowing me to meet with you. It was wonderful hearing you speak about your life as a former Hollywood actress. The entertainment world is unique on it's own.
LISA JANTI: My pleasure
End of Interview by Annick Elziere (March 2010)
2024 . 2025 . 2026 . 2027 . 2028
© 2021-2022 | Annick Elziere | All Rights Reserved