Today is the birthday of Pola Negri (Apolonia Chałupiec, 1897-1987). Polish born, she originally trained as a dancer until illness compelled her to focus instead on the dramatic arts. Success on the Polish stage and screen led to work in Berlin and collaborations with Max Reinhardt and Ernst Lubitsch, which inevitably led to Hollywood in 1922. (She was the first European star to be lured there, before even Nazimova). Considered one of the legendary beauties of the era, she was one of the top Hollywood stars of the 1920s, in films like The Cheat (1923), Forbidden Paradise (1924) and The Woman from Moscow (1928). For a time her name was linked romantically with Charlie Chaplin’s:
What’s the vaudeville connection? It comes a bit later, during vaudeville’s last days in 1932 when she toured to promote her musical film A Woman Commands, in which she popularized the song “Paradise”.
She spent most of the thirties making films in Europe until the Nazis drove her back to the U.S. She only made two films after her return, Hi Diddle Diddle (1943) and The Moon Spinners (1964).
Now here she is singing “Paradise”, which was the centerpiece of her vaudeville act:
To find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
For more on silent film don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc