Olympe Bradna: From the Circus to the Cinema

Olympe Bradna (Antionette Olympe Bradna, 1920-2012) was from a famous family of Bohemian circus equestrians. She was the niece of Fred and Ella Bradna, stars of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. Her parents Joseph and Jeanne Bradna were bareback riders in Europe, who later had a dog act; her mother was also trained in opera. Olympe joined her parents in the ring at age 18 months. By at the age of 8, she was a star in her own right and being booked as a single. Her specialty was acrobatic dance, which she performed in Paris (where she was born), at the Folies Bergère and in venues in other world capitals. She was only 13 when she was cast in her first French film Roger la Hone (1933), followed by Flofloche (1934). On the strength of these she was given a seven year contract at Paramount in 1936. After a three month period of English lessons she was cast as “Frenchy” in Three Cheers for Love (1936) with Robert Cummings. A helpful p.r. campaign instructed audiences to pronounce her name “O-Lamp”. There followed close to a dozen additional films: College Holiday (1936), The Last Train to Madrid (1937), Souls at Sea (1937), Stolen Heaven (1938), Say It In French (1938), The Night of Nights (1938), South of Pago Pago (1940), Knockout (1941), Highway West (1941), and International Squadron (1941). After this she married a Santa Barbara moneybags and retired from the biz, and probably without regret. She was from a family of serious performing artists and a skilled dance herself. Hollywood had scarcely tapped her potential with the routine programmers they stuck her in.

To learn more about the variety arts, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.