Posts Tagged With: Pola Negri
According to Irwin Zeltner (1971), “Hollywood has had many famous feuds, but cannot compare with the feud between two 1920’s silent film stars Gloria Swanson and Pola Negri. At the time, both were two of the most exotic women this town had known and experienced. The battleground was Paramount Studio in which their movies were made. When I first met Gloria Swanson, I was a bit startled by her voice. It was anything but musical. She was charming, but I quickly noted she spoke with an unmistakable midwestern accent. My first impression of her was she appeared tiny. Reared in Chicago by her U.S. Army officer father, in her early teens she was employed as ribbon clerk in a store not far from the stockyards. Somehow, like so many other famous discoveries, she landed a job with Mack Sennett Studios. She was standing in the doorway of a shack on the Sennett lot one day, when the great star maker Cecil B. Demille chanced by. DeMille, as he told me later, did a double-take and his intuitive perception told him this young lady had personality, charm, and appearance wholly distinctive. In a short while Miss Swanson was before the DeMille camera clothed in costumes that then were a shock to Hollywood. Her hair was done up in bizarre styles, and in a few lessons, she was taught to gesture with an elongated cigarette holder. The soon-to become famous Miss Swanson was thus prepared for the roles she was assigned to, and these were mostly females of questionable morals. With everything against her, she somehow remembered her public-school motto “Perseverance Wins”. How well I remember how exciting my duties were in behalf of two of her productions “Feet of Clay” and “Madame Sans Gene” released a couple of years later. These activities brought me in close contact with Miss Swanson and during one of our frequent meetings I was astonished when she spoke out most critically of Pola Negri who had appeared on the Hollywood scene to challenge Gloria’s pre-eminence as “Queen of the Movies”. “Mr. Zeltner”, she said I am the topmost female star of our industry and I cannot seem to get our Paramount Studio to subdue that Pola Negri woman, that foreigner, that gypsy. I listened carefully, as Gloria after a moments rest continued her tirade. Her eyes glinted, and she was relentless and more sharply demanding than ever. It was not long in coming a showdown with Paramount Studio officials and Adolph Zukor a kingly little man who was President. In his effort to calm the tempestuous Miss Swanson, Zukor offered her a contract in which Paramount was to pay her upwards of one million dollars annually. But she would not give an inch. About this time, I had luncheon with Miss Swanson, and no sooner had sat down when I ventured to inquire about her latest Paramount offer. Her reply was quick “Mr. Zeltner I am forming my own production company. I am the reigning female star of the movie world and determined to remain as such”. I will make arrangements to release my pictures through an affiliation with United Artists. She would be joining Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplain, Harold Lloyd, Rudolph Valentino. It was not long, after Gloria now complete master of her fate, realized her star was glowing less brilliantly. Gloria carried her head high, persevered as was her wont and never for a moment allowed her battle with Pola Negri to lapse. Miss Negri kept up the challenge. However, it was now Hollywood History that Miss Swanson won that war, and for along time sustained her exalted position. It was producer Ernest Lubitsch, who brought the gifted Pola Negri to America and to the Paramount Studio. Here she immediately clashed with Gloria Swanson. I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Negri on the day of her arrival. This very exotic female was a genuine gypsy. Her father died in exile in Siberia after he had become involved in Poland’s fight for independence from Russia. Miss Negri in my opinion was a beautiful and talented woman. She achieved considerable success on the Warsaw stage. In Berlin, impresario Max Herinhardt directed her to state and screen stardom. Miss Negri was well-known on the European Continent as a dancer, having graduated from the Russian Imperial Ballet School. Her combined abilities were now being praised in movie and stage circles in America and juicy contracts were being offered to her. Somewhere in between Miss Negri married and then shelved a real count. The one thing, I keenly remember of Miss Negri on the day of her arrival was that she kept reminding all and sundry that she was a countess. It was only natural for Lubitsch, to star her in his epic “Gypsy Blood”. This of course, was produced by Paramount Studio. Her role was that of a sultry vamp, and the picture was a box-office success. Soon as the cameras started to grind on this picture, and all through production her famous clash with Gloria Swanson on the same lot flared and it forthwith, grew in intensity. The battle between them both was so bad Paramount officially shifted Gloria to the East Coast Studio. Later when they sent her to Paris, one of her first achievements was to acquire a titled husband a marquis. Now her fight with Miss Negri was really joined. While this was all going on, Miss Negri was succeeding in turning everyone in Hollywood against her. She held everyone and everything in contempt. She avoided all social contacts, remaining in solitude and her music and literature and an occasional visit from a European friend. Miss Negri found herself completely rejected and she took great comfort in the romance and love that quietly existed between her and Rudolph Valentino. Incidentally, I was one of only a few close friends of Rudy’s to know of this romance. When word came to Miss Negri in Hollywood the Latin Lover was on his deathbed, she made a transcontinental dash to be at his bedside. It is true among Valentino’s last words were “If she does not get here in time, tell her I love her”. This message which she received in Hollywood, gave her license to display great grief and some have said was laying it on too thick. About this time, her popularity started to rapidly decline, and Paramount Studios found it hard to sell her films. Heroic efforts were made to remold the temptress image, but everything fizzled. Abruptly she went back to Germany, where she was understood and admired. Again, she married to a fake Prince and I was not surprised by the news at all. I received a cable invitation to come to Germany. This and a later letter detailed her desire for American promotional campaigns for her pictures. She was frank enough to state our methods applied to her German Films would rebound in her favor in the U.S. and this she wanted more than anything else. Even though she was offering me an amount more than what I was currently earning I respectfully declined. My regard for Pola as an actress never wavered and nor my respect until one day, I received authentic information from a remarkably close friend in American news that Miss Negri was linked with Adolf Hitler. My friend queried her on this, and she never denied the association with the Fuhrer. Her only comment was that there had been many prominent men in her life, with Valentino heading the list”.
Zeltner, I. (1971). What the stars told me: Hollywood in its Heyday. Exposition Press.
Rudolph Valentino birthday was on Mother’s Day and a dinner at the home of Pola Negri celebrated his special day. On being questioned as to what birthday it would be Rudy safely remarked he would be just one year older than he was last year, and it was not a matter to be laughed about. Pola has not yet left for that love test separation, her last reason being that the rate of exchange abroad or her health, or the health of her mother had suddenly determined the silent film actress to cancel her sailing arrangements a week ago. Rudy meanwhile is staying up nights reading stories to find one for his next picture.
What if Rudy Valentino married Pola Negri, Winifred Hudnut hopes he will buy the bride pretty things. Lawyers’ bills prevented Winifred from having real jewels when she was Mrs. Rudy, she says, and he never mentioned his passion for a family. Pola loves Rudy, she has said at Los Angeles, but is waiting to see if her affections are the same when she returns from Europe four months hence.
France, Pola Negri became Princess Mdlvani this afternoon at 5 o’clock in the little city hall of this small french town when she was married to Prince Serge Mdivani, a brother-in-law of Mae Murray. Pola’s husband, she announced several days ago on arriving, is her ‘‘greatest love,” greater even than Rudolph Valentino. Charlie Chaplin or her first husband, who was a Count. Pola and Serge were childhood sweethearts, she said, and the Prince was urging his love upon the film beauty even before Valentino. We are sure that Rudy if he was still alive would wish her well.
Pola Negri was not a gourmet chef nor did she know her way around the kitchen like her mother. She was more interested in acting and her name in lights than a husband or family of her own.
In 1923, Pola Negri was her own best publicity and her own worst nightmare. There is no denying her talent and there is only so far she could go. The reality in the acting profession is one day your on top of the world and another time your not. Being dramatic should be on the screen and not in real life. The truth is she was never good with money. This would become her downfall.
No matter how talented a player is, it takes a little luck to bring big success to the door. Under favorable circumstances it is remarkable with what speed a hitherto obscure performer can be elevated to the top of the ladder. One of the amazing peculiarities of the flicker world is that it takes only one successful production to raise a camera actor or actress from the lowest rungs of the ladder to the brightest heights. And once on the top it takes a long series of poor vehicles to shake em’ off the perch. Look into the movie hall of records and what do we find? Valentino, best example of all, played in several pictures without getting a ripple of interest, then suddenly had the break of luck to get in “The Four Horsemen” and become a sensation overnight. Betty Compton, Pola Negri, Nita Naldi, May McAloy. Many of the players have never lived up to the promise they gave in the photoplay which put them over the top, but they continue to reap the benefit of their ten-strike, nevertheless, verify there are many players being buffeted about from studio to studio grasping eagerly at small parts, who have the potentialities of being as great favourites as those now at the top if they could only make the connection with that big part in the right production.
Russ Columbo was born Ruggiero Eugenio di Rodolfo Colombo on 14 Jan 1908, in Camden, N.J., the 12th and final child of Italian immigrants Nicola and Giulia Perseri Colombo. Rudolph Valentino was born Rodolfo Pietro Filiberto Raffaello Guglielmi on 06 May 1895 in Castellaneta, Italy, the middle child to Italian and French parents Giovanni and Marie Berthe Guglielmi. Their life’s journey took them to Los Angeles where both found their way into motion pictures and instant fame. Russ Columbo was “discovered” by Silent Film actress Pola Negri who was once romantically involved with Rudolph Valentino. Russ Columbo was grateful for the employment opportunity that Pola provided. He composed many love songs to her and sang them over the air-waves of the radio world yet romance was not on the cards for them.
In 1926, Marion Davies had a conversation with Pola about romance. Marion Davies told Pola “there is no point in living like a nun. Come to my costume party dressed to represent the character you have most enjoyed portraying on the screen”. Pola Negri attended dressed in a Czarina costume from her movie “Forbidden Paradise”. The costume fitted perfectly and was all white and gold she looked like a queen. Rudolph Valentino disappointed in love attended the same party dressed in a matador costume from his movie “Blood and Sand”. Marion Davies costume party was a major success filled with the most famous movies stars of the day. The hostess was talking with a group of guests near the entrance to her home when she introduced her friend Pola to Rudolph Valentino. Pola recalls that exact moment “he was holding my hand and was taller than I imagined he would be. I felt as if my eyes were a camera focused on his life, and I remembered sharply all the things I read about him. That he was just separated from his wife Natacha Rambova. There was disillusion written all over his face. As if I saw him in a film now, he was motionless-stopped before me as suddenly as a heartbeat. I saw the hint of a dimple in his chin, his full sensitive lips partly opened. But his eyes held me they were wide set and so dark I could not see his pupils. My eyes met his and I thought you can hold me forever if you try. We danced a tango together and I was in his arms. I closed my eyes and we fell into the mad contagious rhythm. As if we had danced together always. We never missed a beat. The other couples on the floor stopped and watched us. The night seemed magical and I felt as though I was falling in love with him. The music stopped and without looking up again, without speaking I turned on my heel, and walked out of the ballroom to my waiting car and left the party. While walking up to my front door suddenly out of the shadows a man appeared and said why run away from something you know we both have tried to find all our lives. Before I could answer, I was in his arms”. There were rumors of an engagement, but it’s believed that Rudolph was looking for companionship and Pola was looking for publicity. On 23 Aug 1926, Russ Columbo was on the same movie set as Pola Negri. He was playing Dvorak’s Humoresque as background music and overheard the sad news, Rudolph Valentino just died so he stopped playing. Pola noticed there was no music and Russ Colombo was wearing a sad expression on his face. She asked what was going on and why did you quit playing? He told her the news and she fainted. Russ Columbo was asked about whether she fainted for real or publicity. Columbo said it was not faked but she truly did appear traumatic and was inconsolable over her loss. Months after his death, it was reported Pola Negri chose a tiger eye ring from Rudolph Valentino’s personal effects. According to Internet sources, Pola became deathly sick and it was said the ring was cursed. Supposedly, she gave this ring to Russ Columbo saying, “from one Valentino to another Valentino”. It is said, that the ring caused the untimely death of Russ Columbo from an accidental shooting.
Pola Negri, film star and her husband pseudo Prince Serge M’divani celebrated Christmas with a Yule fire at the Crillon Hotel the fire being kindled with papers in the divorce case which they both agreed to drop a few days ago. “We intended to burn them ceremonially at our chateau said pseudo Prince. “But we couldn’t wait” So we burned them at the hotel. They were an eyesore to us, and we are so happy. M’divani and Miss Negri left later for the chateau to spend the holidays. They exchanged Christmas presents. The pseudo prince received two racehorses which are to form the nucleus of a racing stable and Miss Negri will she received a diamond and emerald necklace sources said was paid for by her money.
A cat may look at the Queen but a little chorus girl even though she may be one of Ziegfeld’s most glorified may not publicly make indiscreet remarks about a great movie star. This Marion Kay Benda, one of the follies beauties, discovered when, in an interview given immediately after the death of Rudolph Valentino she said “He was not engaged to marry Miss Negri, you’ll notice all the statements have come from her. He never denied any of them because he was too fine. He did think a great deal of her, but he had absolutely no intention of marrying her. I know. He often, in my presence, refused to speak to her on long distance telephone calls. “No one knew him as I did. He was the most wonderful person I have ever known. I can’t believe that he is dead. He was so fine, so wonderful, so sincere, and I know he liked me very much. He couldn’t stand “rounder’s” and his ideals were of the highest. In every sense of the word he was an artist.” A rumor was circulating at that time that Miss Benda and Valentino were secretly married a few weeks before, this the show girl denied. “Oh those things always are said” she complained. “People cannot understand being simply good friends. I’ve known Mr. Valentino for four weeks and I saw him a great deal. Often we hired a cab and drove through Central Park after the show and then there were early morning walks and talks.” It was in the company of Miss Benda that Valentino attended his last social evening. The two of them, accompanied by Buzz Warburton, jr. went to Texas Guinn’s Night Club on the evening preceding the star’s fatal operation. During Valentino’s illness there was a long procession of greater and lesser lights of the theatrical world calling at the hospital and leaving flowers, but all visitors were denied admittance to the sickroom. And it wasn’t of his companions in the night clubs and after-theater suppers that Rudolph spoke when he was strong enough to talk but of his friends in the movie world. Welcome enough, then, were the tempestuous Polish star’s long-distance telephone calls. The little chorus girl who believes that “no one knew him as I knew him” was evidently quite forgotten. Her change as a protégé of the famous sheik had been snatched from her, and the limelight of public interest shone on her only for a moment and then promptly turned in another direction. Stars in the movie world are the “clannish” on earth. They have their scraps and jealousies, rivalries and revenges in private life, just like other folks, but it is an unwritten law that those shall never be divulged for publication. One great consolation Miss Negri has, and that is that it was her image which floated across the mind of Valentino the last moment before he lost conscious contact with life. Dawn was just breaking in the sky when Dr. Meeker noticed that his patient was trying to say something. After a night of agony he was too weak to raise his voice above a whisper. The doctor placed his ear near the dying star’s lips and just managed to catch the words “Pola, Pola” if she does not come in time…tell her I think of her. Those were the last words Valentino uttered in English. From that time on, until he passed away at midday, delirium and coma alternated, and all the incoherent remarks which passed his lips were in the old mother tongue. This message was relayed by Dr. Meeker to Mary Pickford and from her to Norma Talmadge. The Polish actress received it in the Campbell undertaking rooms at the funeral of Valentino began. There was so much talk about whether Pola and Rudy were or were not engaged that finally the star herself denied it. “We were not formally betrothed,” she gave out the statement while enroute to Hollywood on the funeral train. “Rudy never believed in formal engagements neither do I”. “The reason the betrothal was never announced was that Rudy thought such an arrangement appeared too businesslike a proposition, and I agreed with him.” We frequently discussed our marriage plans for next April, and our closest friends knew of them. We thought our private lives belonged to us, and we did not want to make publicity of it. In a very clever composition contained in a book of poems in verse and prose which the late star published two years ago, he expressed a pessimistic viewpoint towards romance. Under the title “The Kaleidoscope of Love Synonyms and Antonyms,” he describes its birth, rise, fall, and disintegration. Is analysis runs as follows:
A-Adoration, Anticipation, Affinity, Arguments
B-Beauty, Bliss, Bitterness, Bondage
C-Caresses, Circumstances, Confidence, Charm
D-Desire, Delusion, Dreams, Divorce
E-Ecstasy, Engagement, Ego, End
F-Fascination, Forgetfulness, Flatter, Faith
G-Gossip, Gratitude, Gifts, Goodbye
H-Happiness, Honor, Heartache, Hell
I-Intuition, Irony, Idolatry, Integrity
J-Jealousy, Joy, Justice, June
K-Kisses, Keepsakes, Knowledge, Kismet
L-Lips, Loneliness, Logic, Longing
M-Marriage, Morality, Money, Man
N-No, Nearest, Novelty. Never
O-Opposition, Own, Offering, Opulence
P-Passion, Promise, Pride, Proposal
Q-Quality, Quest, Queries, Quarrels
R-Romance, Reveries, Realization, Remembrance
S-Sympathy, Sacrifice, Shame, Settlement
T-Thoughts, Truth, Temper, Tears
U-Unkindness, Understanding, Uncertainty, Unfaithfulness
V-Virtue, Vanity, Vows, Vengeance
W- Wisdom, Wishes, Wedlock, Woman
X-The unknown love
Y-Youth, Yearning, Yes, Yawn
Z=Zenith, Zest, Zeal, Zero
So he described in 26 versions the span between the alpha and the omega of the little game of love. In real life, Valentino was as much the great lover as he was on the screen, but he failed to domineer over the ladies he wooed and won without the air of the scenario writer to chasten their independence of spirit. Jean Acker, his first wife, went “on the road” in vaudeville very shortly after their marriage, and it was not until a few weeks before the star’s death that they were reconciled. Natacha Rambova, her successor, also insisted on putting her career first, and, in spite of many reported attempts to adjust matters, this marriage too went on the rocks. Had Valentino Married Pola, would their union have been any more permanent? At the time the exotic Natacha Rambova left her famous husband, ostensibly on a “vacation from matrimony” she was asked if a divorce were in the offering. “I don’t know,” she answered. “There will simply have to be some sort of adjustment. And frankly I haven’t the least idea how we can arrange matters so that we can live together without constant irritation cropping up. “My husband wants me to give up work and devote myself to the home. If I did that, what should I do with all my idle hours?” We have servants who are much more capable of running the house than I am. I have always worked all my life I have had the urge to create. I cannot give this up it is part of myself”. So Natacha Rambova sailed to Paris. At the finish of his picture Valentino came to New York. He as was his habit, refused to commit himself beyond giving more or less of a repetition of what his beautiful wife had said. He was seen a lot in the company of Mae Murray, who had just returned from Paris, where she had obtained a divorce from Bob Leonard, the Broadway matchmakers got busy, but both denied any romantic attachment. Miss Murray intimated that reconciliation with her former husband might be possible; Valentino was less frank, but those who looked wisely declared that the Valentino-Rambova frayed romance was on the verge of a renaissance. As things turned out, the little follies girl was quite correct in her statement that Rudy and Pola were not engaged. However, she spoke out of her turn and was set down.
Pola Negri’s story from rags-to-riches-to rags story reads like an E True Hollywood Story. Pola was a wealthy woman when she arrived in America in the early 1920’s. In 1927, she married a fake prince named M’Divani who stole all her money and ended up dead broke like her fellow silent actress Mae Murray. In the 1930’s -1940’s would see Pola touring Vaudeville circuits to earn money to pay for her medical bills. She would return to Germany and continue making motion pictures there. After WWII Pola came back to America and did whatever work she could to continue to survive. In 1950, she turned down Billy Wilder’s invitation to play Norma Desmond in the movie Sunset Boulevard. Pola’s saving grace was a wealthy Texan named Margaret West who was from a prominent family in San Antonio, Texas. Both Margaret and Pola became friends in the early 1930’s. Margaret who was not hurting for money did what she could for her friend while both were living in California.
In 1959, both mutually decided to travel to Margarets hometown of San Antonio Texas. Upon their arrival they lived at the Menger Hotel, San Antonio, Texas. The Menger Hotel, is one of the state’s oldest and best-known hotels, was opened by William Menger on Alamo Square in San Antonio on January 31, 1859. They stayed there for 2 years while Margaret’s home in Olmos Park was under construction. Pola fell in love with the city. Eventually both friends traveled between her Rafter S ranch in Zavala County and her San Antonio home until her death in 1963. Margaret West left her estate to Pola who lived in the city till her death in 1987.
Ralph Rogers, is a dark, florid man of 45 behind whose quiet, brown eyes are the memories of two decades ago when he led a more colorful life as body-guard, valet, chauffeur for the late Rudolph Valentino. He was the late film lover’s companion the night Valentino won 450,000 francs and broke the bank at Monte Carlo. He was with him in an automobile crash near Hollywood when those who rushed to the scene stole bits of the shattered Valentino car as souvenirs, forgetting the begrimed, bleeding victims of the crash. He was aboard ship with him when Benito Mussolini warned the late Rudy by wireless not to put foot on Italian soil with immediate induction in the army as an alternative. He spent three hectic years trying to save his boss from girls and women who besieged him for autographs, sometimes tearing at his clothes, even snipping hairs from his dog for mementos. One night while enroute from Europe to America aboard the Vaterland, later the Leviathan, women banged on the doors of once was the Kaisers Suite demanding the public appearance of Valentino who wanted only to be left alone to sleep. In some European Capitals the besieged Valentino had to employ the utmost diplomacy to shoo away an occasional princess, baroness, or countess. All this, and more besides are among the memories of Ralph Rogers, 110 Monmouth Street here when he is not engaged in the operation of his small Italian restaurant on Broad Street, Shrewsbury. His getting the job as Valentino’s man Friday was by accident. Rogers was employed in the main showrooms of the Isotta-Frachini Company, New York City. His boss was a chap named D’Annunzio son of the famous Italian poet and patriot. Valentino drove an Isotta and had dropped in wit the problem of getting a man to go to Europe with him to drive the car. D’Annunzio suggested Ralph Rogers. Rogers accepted but in the back of his mind he figured he might get the chance to visit his relatives in Sorento. “We toured Europe the days and nights were always exciting and interested. But Valentino was never interested too greatly in women perhaps they annoyed him too much. In Europe it was very bad the way they kept after him. During the years from 1923-1026 when I was with him, I know of only one woman Valentino seemed to care anything about and that was Pola Negri. In my humble opinion she was the only girl Valentino seemed to really care for. The night Valentino broke the bank at Monte Carlo I was beside him most of the evening. I say it was 450,000 francs he won it may have been 500,000 or 550.000. I can only remember that I had to carry the money out in a bag to the car and that the place closed down tight, turning all the guests away. It was very bad night for the old gambling house. Papers all over the world were full of the story the next day. “While we were in France, I mentioned to Valentino I had relatives in Sorrento. He told me to take his car and drive there and to spend as much time as I liked. He was a wonderfully democratic fellow, very generous and very understanding. He was what you might say a ‘swell guy’ all around”. When we arrived back in New York disembarking from the Vaterland Valentino told me he would like to keep me and asked would I be willing to be employed by him instead of going back to my old job. He said we got along so well he would not like to see me go. I decided I would remain with him. “Out around the Pacific coast when women couldn’t get close enough to Valentino in his car they would actually shinny up to the roof of the car and peer in at him. He had his troubles with the women. Ralph Rogers never saw Valentino when thougsands streamed into Campbell Funeral Parlor to view the late film idols body. “Just as in life” Rogers says, the crush of women was too great. I stood outside and looked. I saw those women lineup for blocks. I shook my head with the memory of a real fine fellow I would never see again. Up to a year ago, Ralph Rogers was still wearing pajamas Valentino had given him. He Loved fine pajamas said Ralph. He had them by the dozen and they were made of the finest materials, personally made for him to last a life time. They did for him, and lasted another 20 years for me. The last pair I abandoned just about a year ago.
Rudolph Valentino, Manuel Reachi and Pola Negri at a costume party.