Colonel Rosa Klebb
Rosa Klebb is arguably the most notorious female antagonist in the James Bond universe. Known for her ruthless cunning, unyielding loyalty to SPECTRE, and deadly tactics, Klebb has cemented her position as a legendary Bond villain.
A small but significant character, who struck fear in everyone she met and all the young people watching From Russia with Love back when. Not to mention how she almost kills James Bond (Sean Connery) with her infamous venom coated dagger-shoe.
In this blog post, we’ll explore her intriguing backstory, her role in the iconic film From Russia with Love, and the impact she’s had on the evolution of female villains in the Bond franchise.
Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love
Colonel Rosa Klebb, also known as Number 3, is a Soviet military operative and board member of the secretive criminal organization SPECTRE.
Portrayed by Austrian actress and singer Lotte Lenya, she’s one of the main villains in the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love. The character is based on the literary character from the 1957 Ian Fleming novel of the same name.
Born in Ukraine, Rosa Klebb became an active Communist during the Russian Revolution and spent most of her life in the Soviet Union. She rose to the position of head of operations for SMERSH, the Russian counter-intelligence agency.
However, around 1960, Klebb defected to SPECTRE, with only the highest Soviet officials aware of her betrayal. Ernst Stavro Blofeld refers to her as “No. 3,” indicating her high rank within the organization.
Klebb is involved in a scheme to obtain a Lektor decoding machine from the Soviets, using the unwitting assistance of Soviet cypher clerk Tatiana Romanova, and tells her she will be shot if she goes against her country.
She hand picks Robert ‘Red’ Grant as the henchman to kill Bond, believing that MI6 will send him on the mission she’s about to set up. In Istanbul, she meets Tatiana, and secretly monitors Bond and Tatiana, capturing footage of them in bed together.
Red Grant fails his mission to kill Bond, and Klebb and Kronsteen report to Blofeld, each blaming the other for the plan’s failure. Blofeld tells them both that SPECTRE doesn’t tolerate failure and calls in his agent, Morzeny.
Blofeld reminds Klebb of the penalty for failure. Morzeny flips a poison-tipped dagger out of his shoe, and Klebb braces for the blow, but at the last minute, Morenzy turns to Kronsteen and kills him with the dagger shoe.
Rosa Klebb shows visible relief after not being killed and is given one last chance to obtain the Lektor and kill Bond.
She then disguises herself as a chambermaid in Bond’s Venice hotel, and attempts to steal the Lektor but is foiled when Romanova recognizes her. In a final struggle, Klebb uses a poison-tipped dagger hidden in her shoe to attack Bond, but is shot by Tatiana and dies moments later.
How Rosa Klebb Differs in the novel
In the novel, Rosa Klebb’s character is described as a high-ranking SMERSH member, known for her brutal interrogations of enemy agents. She’s strongly implied to be a lesbian and is portrayed as unattractive, in her late 40s, and standing 5 ft 4 inches tall.
She’s ordered from SMERSH leader General Grubozaboyschikov to lead an operation seeking retribution against James Bond, who played a significant role in the deaths of three SMERSH agents: Le Chiffre, Mr. Big, and Hugo Drax.
After Bond foils Klebb’s plan, he confronts her in a Paris hotel, where she poisons him with a venom-laced blade but is ultimately captured. The novel ends with Bond collapsing with his fate uncertain.
Born in Vienna, Austria, as Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer, Lotte Lenya pursued her passion for the performing arts from a young age. At 17, she left home and moved to Switzerland, where she trained in classical dance, singing, and acting at a prominent Zurich drama school. Adopting the stage name Lotte Lenya, she soon made her way to Berlin in 1921.
In Berlin, Lenya auditioned for “Zaubernach,” the first production scored by celebrated composer Kurt Weill. Although she declined a role in the production, this encounter led to her meeting and eventually marrying Weill. By 1928, she appeared as Jenny in “The Threepenny Opera,” followed by a role in the Weill-scored play’s 1931 film adaptation. She also recorded several tracks composed by her husband during this period.
As war erupted in Germany, Lenya fled the Nazi regime and temporarily worked in France, where she starred in “The Seven Deadly Sins.” In the mid-1940s, she moved to New York and became involved in Broadway shows such as “Barefoot in Athens.” Lenya’s film career resumed in the early 1960s, with roles in “The Roman Spring of Mr. Stone” (1961) and as the iconic villain Rosa Klebb in the James Bond film “From Russia with Love” (1963).
Lenya established a foundation to manage the royalties from her late husband’s compositions and musicals. In 1966, she appeared in the Kander and Ebb musical “Cabaret,” a role that paid homage to Weill’s influence on the composers.
Throughout her life, Lenya married three more times: to editor George David, Russell Detwiler, and Richard Siemanowski. She passed away in 1981 in New York after a battle with cancer and was laid to rest alongside her first husband, Kurt Weill, in Haverstraw, New York.
Rosa Klebb -The Villainess of All Villainesses
The character of Rosa Klebb has left an enduring impact on the world of cinema and the James Bond franchise. Klebb’s ruthless demeanor and cunning tactics continue to serve as a benchmark for female villains.
Portrayed perfectly by Lotte Lenya, Colonel Rosa Klebb is still remembered fondly some 60 years since her starring role in the From Russia with Love cast. Standing only 5 ft 4 inches, her stone cold stare ensured she had an imposing presence on all in the story, and she’ll always be regarded as one of the best villains in the Bond franchise.