Friday, July 18, 2014

Pola Negri: The Most Famous Forgotten Hollywood Silent Film Star?

POLA NEGRI: THE MOST FAMOUS FORGOTTEN SILENT FILM STAR?  Once upon a time, in the long-lost Kingdom of Poland -- in Vistula Land to be precise -- a baby named Apolonia Chalupec was born in 1897 to a mother of impoverished Polish royalty and to a father who would later be exiled to the dreaded Russian Siberia for his revolutionary activities against the Czar.  But who knew that this infant would be destined for greatness in another faraway land -- one filled with glamour, bright lights, excitement and love trysts with some of Hollywood's greatest actors?  Such is the stuff that fairy tales are made of -- and this fairy tale of ours actually came true!  And who knew that Apolonia would become the femme fatale Pola Negri (named after the Italian novelist and poetess Alda Negri)-- and the first Continental European actress to be exported to Hollywood (ahead of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich) along with her director, the renowned Ernst Lubitsch??  Yes, kids, she was the first "exotic" star to come to the golden land of silent films -- and awaiting her was a new kind of stardom the likes the world had never known before.  Prior to this, Negri was already starring in hit Lubitsch films in Germany (the center of European film making) and from 1918 to 1922, she had appeared in 24 films of which six were with Lubitsch.  So powerful were these films that Hollywood actually felt threatened and sat up and took notice of this dynamic duo of actress and director -- and that was when contracts were signed to bring the both of them to California.  A staggering twenty-one films starring Negri where made at Paramount Studios from 1923 to 1928 (how many film stars today could match that record in just five short years, huh?). And it didn't take long for this alluring-looking lady to start making headlines and appearing in gossip columns -- among her lovers were Hollywood's top dog Charlie Chaplin and the leading lover of the day Rudolph Valentino (Negri is shown in the top photo above with another of her conquests Rod La Rocque!).  Did you know that Negri and Valentino were introduced by Marion Davies and her millionaire lover William Randolph Hearst at a costume party at the famed Hearst Castle -- and that she would remain Valentino's lover until his death in 1926?  Negri would say at the time -- and forever after -- that Valentino was the love of her life (he probably would be ours too!!).  Another bit of Hollywood trivia is that famed director Billy Wilder approached Negri in 1948 to play the part of Norma Desmond in the now-cult-classic film Hollywood Boulevard -- but she declined it for several reasons (for its undeveloped script and because the love interest -- originally Montgomery Clift -- wasn't her taste in lovers).  Her last role in 1964 was as Madame Habib in Walt Disney's The Moonspinners -- marking the official end of a career that began in poverty in a faraway Polish kingdom.  Though later overshadowed by Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich in the days when silent films turned into sound features, we at Studio of Style want to salute Pola Negri for leading the way for others to seek their artistic destinies and fortunes in the celluloid kingdom of Hollywood!
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