actress, silent film star of the 1920s
June 04, 1879 - July 13, 1945
Alla Nazimova (born Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon) was a Russian-American silent film star of the 1920s and an accomplished theater actress, famous for her acting on the best stages of the Russian Empire, Europe and on Broadway.
Alla Nazimova – star of silent film and scandalous gossip columns
Future silent film star, named at birth Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon, grew up in the dysfunctional family of Russian Jews Yakov Leventon and Sonya Horowitz in Yalta, Crimea, then Russian empire. After her parents’ separation, the gifted girl (she was masterfully playing the violin by the age of seven) was shuffled among boarding schools and foster homes. In 1893 she moved to her mother in Odessa, where her acting career started: she was studying at the Russian Empire music society and at the same time playing at a local theater. Despite her brother’s protest (he was her official caretaker after their mother’s death), in 1898 the young girl moved to Moscow to take acting lessons from the famous Stanislavski .
Her personal life was something worthy of the classical scandal chronicles of the time. She first had a much talked-about affair with a Moscow millionaire, then split and married a young actor, then divorced and started an affair with Pavel Orlenev, the famous actor of that era and a personal friend of Chekhov and Gorky. ..
That last affair quickly grew into something much, much bigger: together with Orlenev, they toured Europe in 1904, making headlines and becoming some of the most beloved actors on the European scene, and later travelled to the US, where Alla chose to stay in New York, leaving her lover to go back to Russia.
She debuted on Broadway in 1906, achieving spectacular success, with universal love from theater-goers, critics and producers.
In 1916 she debuted in silent cinema, in the anti-war film War Brides, which – again – won her admiration of viewers and bankers alike and brought her the $13,000-per-week contract (about $283,000 in today’s money) with Metro Pictures, a precursor to MGM.
And again she became the prime target of tabloids of the time, mostly because of her alleged lesbian affairs with both of Rudolph Valentino's wives: Jean Acker and Natacha Rambova. In addition, she would appear on the screen invariably accompanied by the British-born actor Charles Bryant, who, according to rumors, was her lover from 1912 to 1925. The situation grew even more piquant when she bought a mansion on Sunset Boulevard, which became known as "The Garden of Alla" and where Alla was rumored to host parties of extreme debauchery!
Her success and financial gains allowed Nazimova to try and independently produce her own movies, in which she would be the producer, director and main lead. It quickly became apparent that her talents as an actress did not mean she possessed talents of a director and entrepreneur – the business went downhill and Alla was forced to give up the idea of her own studios…
Nazimova returned to Broadway, where she would perform during the 30s and the 40s. She accepted several roles in color-and-sound films, most notably Blood and Sand (1941), which preserved her image and voice after her death in 1945.
“Nazimova: A Biography” – Gavin Lambert (1997)
"Artists in Exile: How Refugees from Twentieth-Century War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts “ Joseph Horowitz, New York, Harper-Collins (2008)
“A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen“ Daniel Blum (1953)
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