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Alla Nazimova Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (18) | Personal Quotes (3) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 22 May 1879Yalta, Taurida Governorate, Russian Empire [now Crimea, Ukraine]
Date of Death 13 July 1945Los Angeles, California, USA  (coronary thrombosis)
Birth NameMariam Leventon
Height 5' 3" (1.6 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The grand, highly flamboyant Russian star Alla Nazimova of Hollywood silent films lived an equally grand, flamboyant life off-camera, though her legendary status has not held up as firmly as that of a Rudolph Valentino today.

Born in Yalta, Crimea, in 1879, Mariam Edez Adelaida Leventon was the third child in an abusive, contentious household. Most of her sad childhood was spent in foster homes or in the care of other relatives and she showed a strong penchant for outrageous behavior to cope. Nazimova also showed a great aptitude for music at a young age and began violin lessons at age seven. She changed her name to Alla Nazimova when she began appearing on stage at the insistence of her father to protect the family name, as "performing" was not considered respectable at the time.

She began acting lessons at age 17 and joined Konstatin Stanislavsky's company of actors as a pupil of his "method style" at the Moscow Art Theatre. During that time she supported herself by being kept by rich, older men. A failed love affair led to her only marriage to an acting student named Sergei Golovin, but they separated quickly. She grew discontent with Stanislavsky and later performed in repertory. She met the legendary Pavel Orlenev, a close friend of Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky, and entered into both a personal and professional relationship with him. They toured internationally throughout Europe with great success and came to New York in 1905, where Nazimova was saluted on Broadway for her definitive interpretations of Henrik Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" and "A Doll's House." Orlenev returned to Russia but Nazimova stayed.

She made her screen debut with War Brides (1916), which was initially a 35-minute play. By 1918 she was a box-office Metro star and completed 11 films for the studio over a three-year period. A torrid, stylish and rather outré tragedienne who played exotic, liberal women confronted by great personal anguish, she earned personal successes as a reformed prostitute in Revelation (1918), a suicide in Toys of Fate (1918) and dual roles as half-sisters during the Boxer Rebellion in The Red Lantern (1919), not to mention the title role of Camille (1921) with Valentino. At the same time she maintained a strong Broadway theatrical career.

In accordance with her rise in the film industry, she began producing her own efforts which were bold and experimental--and monumental failures, although they are hailed as great artistic efforts today. Her Salome (1922) was quite scandalous and deemed a failure at the time. The monetary losses she suffered as producer were astronomical. The Hays Code, which led to severe censorship in pictures, also led to her downfall, as well as her outmoded acting style. She was forced to abandon films for the theater, scoring exceptionally well in Chekhov's "A Cherry Orchard." She did return briefly in the 1940s in a variety of supporting roles, but she made these films solely for the money.

Nazimova's private life has long been the subject of industry gossip. As a Hollywood cover to her well-known bisexual lifestyle, she coexisted in a "marriage" with gay actor Charles Bryant for well over a decade. Her "Garden of Allah" home was the centerpiece for many glamorous private parties. She died in 1945.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Sergei Golovin (1899 - ?) (divorced)

Trivia (18)

Known during her heyday simply as "Nazimova."
Interred at Forest Lawn (Glendale), Glendale, California, USA, in the Whispering Pines section.
Stage actress and screenwriter.
Born to a Jewish family in Yalta, Ukraine.
Breast-cancer survivor.
Considered the supreme interpreter of Henrik Ibsen of her day.
Lived on the corner of Sunset Blvd. and North Crescent Heights Blvd. in what is now West Hollywood.
(1912-1925) Partner was Charles Bryant.
With her film career flourishing, she bought an imposing California Spanish home at 8080 Sunset Blvd., building a pool and landscaping the property's 3-1/2 acres. Named The Garden of Allah, the place became a popular place for the Hollywood elite. Eventually she lost the property, and when it became a residential hotel she took a small room in the house that had once been her home.
She became an American citizen in 1927.
She was godmother to actress/First Lady Nancy Reagan and aunt to producer Val Lewton.
Nazimova was taught English in six months by actress Caroline Harris, mother of silent screen star Richard Barthelmass,.
First student of Stanislavsky to star on the American stage and screen.
Broaday's 39th Street Playhouse was originally known as The Nazimova Theater.
Liked to play dual-roles such as in "The Red Lantern.".
1919's "The Brat" was the first time Nazimova played an American character either on stage or screen.
She made $100,000 touring in "War Brides" and an additional $60,000 for the film version.
Studied dramatics at the Conservatory at Odessa in 1892.

Personal Quotes (3)

[Upon meeting the then unknown Valentino for the first time] How dare you bring that gigolo to my table? How dare you introduce that pimp to Nazimova?
[on motion pictures in a 1916 interview] The pioneer days are now past. Tis is proved, not in the great mass of moving pictures we see, but the flashes of genius which show what can be done when true artists devote themselves sincerely to creative work. On the speaking stage there have always been more bad plays than good ones, but no one ever argued from this that the drama was a failure. We must always judge an art by its best examples, not by its worst, not even its second best... At the present the proportion of fine motion pictures to the total number produced is smaller than the proportion of masterpieces in other art, but if we pause to consider the youth of this field of endeavor, we find our criticisms answered. We must be patient.
[In 1929] I wish I could burn every inch of my films. I'm ashamed of them.

Salary (2)

War Brides (1916) $60,000
Revelation (1918) $13,000 a week

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