Olga Baclanova – The Russian Tigress of Hollywood
Olga Baclanova was born in Moscow to the family of professional actors, which decided her career path: her mother eagerly encouraged the girl's interest in classic arts, including theater, and helped her enter the Moscow Arts Theater when Olga was only 16!
She debuted on the Moscow theater stage In 1917, and even the Russian Revolution and the ensuing Civil War did not make her stray from her chosen path: she continued acting, taking care to be as loyal to the new Bolshevik regime as her conscience allowed.
Once she agreed to play a role in the "Bread" agitprop movie to avoid unwanted attention from the komissars.
At the same time she tested her talent in the silent cinema, playing several leading roles in short horror films by Victor Turzhansky. This would prove immensely helpful, as in 1926 Olga, disillusioned by the Communist regime, chose not to return to Soviet Russia from Moscow Theater's tour in the United States, and pursued the career of a movie actress in Hollywood.
Quicky, the impressive and charismatic blonde conquered the hearts of movie-goers, playing lead roles in several popular silent movies, including such milestones as "The Docks of New York" and "The Man Who Laughs", and earning the nickname of the Russian tigress. She married twice in America, each time causing an uproar and a surge of interest from the general public and the press, and gave birth to two children.
The advent of talking films had proved to be a big problem for Olga: the American audience was reluctant to accept her heavy Russian accent, and so the actress lost several lucrative leading roles in a row, being relegated to support roles.
This, however, changed with the cult horror movie "Freaks" (1932) by Tod Browning - the story of a circus, filmed with real "freak show" performers and banned in several states for the somewhat disturbing visuals, too much for the prudish public morale of that time. Her role as Cleopatra, the cruel performer in the sideshow gig, breathed new life into her career, though not for very long...
Several decades later, with the wave of renewed interest of American audiences in "Freaks", she again came into the spotlight and gave interesting interviews on her work on the set.
In mid-30s she finally ended her cinema career and went back to theater, to Broadway, where she achieved spectacular success in 1940 with her portrayal of Darushka in Rose Franken's "Claudia".. Several years later, though, she retired and moved to Vevey, Switzerland, where she died peacefully in 1974.