Birthday: March 3, 1922
Boyfriend: Broadway (ex) and Richard Hart
Died At Age: 56
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Felicia Cohn Montealegre
Born in: San José, Costa Rica
Famous as: Actress
Costa Rican Women
Spouse/Ex-: Leonard Bernstein
father: Roy Elwood Cohn
mother: Clemencia Montealegre Carazo
children: Alexander Bernstein, Nina Maria Felicia Bernstein
Died on: June 16, 1978
Who was Felicia Montealegre?
Felicia Cohn Montealegre was a Chilean stage and TV actor and the wife of world-renowned American composer, conductor, music lecturer, author, and pianist Leonard Bernstein. Felicia became skilled in playing the piano after taking lessons from noted Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau. She lent her voice to a couple of works conducted by Bernstein, including his own symphony, ‘Kaddish.’ She worked in some notable TV series, such as the American drama/anthology TV series ‘Kraft Television Theatre’ and ‘Studio One.’ She also performed in ‘Broadway’ plays such as ‘Poor Murderer’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ but did not appear in any feature films. She helped in establishing the anti-war organization ‘Another Mother for Peace.’ Although she loved her husband, Felicia did not have a happy married life as Bernstein was a homosexual. Felicia, however, acknowledged Bernstein’s homosexuality. This was revealed in a letter she wrote to him mentioning “I am willing to accept you as you are.” The couple had three children. Felicia succumbed to lung cancer at 56. She remained the main focus of the essay ‘Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny's’ by Tom Wolfe.
Childhood & Early Life
Felicia Cohn Montealegre was born on March 3, 1922, in San José, Costa Rica, into the family of Clemencia Montealegre Carazo and Roy Elwood Cohn. Felicia completed her education in Chile. She was raised as a Catholic. However, according to sources, her grandfather was a Jew.
Felicia settled in New York. She received her piano lessons from Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau, who is regarded as one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Felicia acted in different TV dramas. From 1949 to 1956, she featured in 11 episodes of the ‘NBC’ drama/anthology series ‘Kraft Television Theatre.’ The series that was broadcast live featured TV plays, with new stories and new characters every week, apart from adaptations of classics such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘A Christmas Carol.’
Over the years, Felicia appeared as different characters in different stories of ‘Kraft Television Theatre.’ She appeared as ‘Hygieia’ in ‘The Oath of Hippocrates,’ aired on May 11, 1949. A 1950 dramatization of Norwegian playwright, theater director, and poet Henrik Ibsen’s three-act play ‘A Doll's House’ was aired as part of the series on April 5 that year and featured her in the role of ‘Nora.’ Other characters played by her in different stories of the series included those of ‘Mary Cristof’ in ‘Delicate Story’ (1951) and ‘Emma Woodhouse’ in ‘Emma’ (1954).
From 1949 to 1956, she also essayed various roles in the ‘CBS’ TV anthology series ‘Studio One,’ which offered a varied range of dramas that included some notable and memorable teleplays. She portrayed ‘Bessie’ in ‘The Light That Failed’ (1949), ‘Mildred Rogers’ in ‘Of Human Bondage’ (1949), ‘Lorna’ in ‘Flowers from a Stranger’ (1949, 1950), ‘Kate Croy’ in ‘The Wings of the Dove’ (1952), ‘Sara’ in ‘Flower of Pride’ (1956), and ‘Helen’ in ‘This Will Do Nicely’ (1956).
Meanwhile, on October 31, 1949, she appeared as ‘Christine Vole’ in an episode of the American anthology series ‘The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre,’ titled ‘Witness for the Prosecution,’ which was aired on ‘NBC.’
She lent her voice to a few works conducted by her husband, Bernstein. These included a version of French composer Achille-Claude Debussy's ‘Le martyre de Saint Sébastien,’ a portion of which was performed in English, and Bernstein’s own symphony, ‘Kaddish.’
Apart from ruling the small-screen, Felicia also made her mark on stage, appearing in various ‘Broadway’ productions. She played ‘Jessica’ in ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ The play was staged at the ‘New York City Center’ from March 4, 1953, to March 15 that year. She was also featured in the play ‘The Little Foxes’ in 1967. She also appeared in the 1976 play ‘Poor Murderer.’ She never appeared in any feature film.
In 1967, she helped in forming the anti-war organization ‘Another Mother for Peace’ that aimed at educating women against the war in Vietnam. Later, in 1970, Felicia, along with her husband, became part of a controversy when they hosted an evening for the ‘Black Panther Party.’ Felicia remained the main focus of the essay ‘Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny's’ by Tom Wolfe that recounted events of that controversial night. She was arrested after a couple of years while participating in an anti-war protest in Washington DC. She also featured prominently in another essay of Wolfe, titled ‘Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.’
Family & Personal Life
She met composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein during a party thrown by Arrau in 1946. Eventually, she got engaged to Bernstein. However, the engagement was broken off after a few months. For years thereafter, Felicia remained romantically involved with ‘Broadway’ and Hollywood actor Richard Hart. Following Hart’s death in January 1951, she married Bernstein on September 10 the same year. Felicia converted to Judaism when she got married.
The homosexual inclinations of Bernstein remained prominent. His collaborators in ‘West Side Story’ also called him “a gay man.” This led to the idea that he had decided to marry partly to brush off rumors about his personal life and to obtain a major conducting appointment, after being advised to do so by his mentor Dimitri Mitropoulos, who made him aware of the conservative nature of orchestra boards.
Felicia and Bernstein had three children: Jamie Bernstein, born on September 8, 1952; Alexander Bernstein, born on July 7, 1955; and Nina Bernstein, born on February 28, 1962. While Jamie grew up to become a director, actor, and writer, Alexander became an actor and also worked as a sound mixer.
Felicia and Bernstein had a happy married life initially, and there was no suggestion indicating that they were not in love. However, according to reports, Bernstein had brief extramarital affairs with young men and such incidents were known to Felicia. Bernstein’s friend Shirley Rhoades Perle once mentioned that "he required men sexually and women emotionally.”
A letter written by Felicia, acknowledging Bernstein’s homosexuality, found place in the 2013 book ‘The Leonard Bernstein Letters.’ In the letter to her husband, Felicia acknowledged the fact that Bernstein was a homosexual man and possibly would never change. She also said that she was willing to accept him as he was and later wrote that their marriage was based on mutual respect and tenderness and not on passion.
By 1976, Felicia’s marriage was in trouble, as Bernstein had left her for musicologist Tom Cothran. This happened after he decided that it was no longer possible for him to hide his homosexuality. However, Bernstein returned to Felicia after she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1977. Bernstein took care of her till she succumbed to the disease on June 16, 1978, in East Hampton, New York.