Pola Negri


Actor
Pola Negri

About

Also Known As
Barbara Appolonia Chalupiec
Born
December 31, 1894
Died
August 01, 1987

Biography

After earning international acclaim in both Polish and German cinema, actress Pola Negri went to Hollywood where she became one of the most tempestuous, glamorous and bizarre stars of the silent era. Negri initially became famous in Europe, thanks in large part to her collaborations with noted German director Ernst Lubitsch on films like "Carmen/Gypsy Blood" (1918), "Madame DuBarry/Passi...

Family & Companions

Charlie Chaplin
Companion
Actor, director, comedian.
Rudolph Valentino
Companion
Actor. Engaged to be married when he died.
Serge Mdivani
Husband
Georgian prince. Divorced.

Bibliography

"Memoirs of a Star"
Pola Negri (1970)

Notes

Her stage name was derived from the diminutive of her middle name Appolonia (Pola) and her last was taken from Italian poet Ada Negri.

Some sources list 1899 as her birthyear.

Biography

After earning international acclaim in both Polish and German cinema, actress Pola Negri went to Hollywood where she became one of the most tempestuous, glamorous and bizarre stars of the silent era. Negri initially became famous in Europe, thanks in large part to her collaborations with noted German director Ernst Lubitsch on films like "Carmen/Gypsy Blood" (1918), "Madame DuBarry/Passion" (1919) and "Sumurun" (1920). She arrived in Hollywood in 1923 and made an immediate splash as the star of "Bella Donna" (1923), "The Spanish Dancer" (1923) and "Forbidden Paradise" (1924). Her extravagant lifestyle and elaborate fashion made her an instant hit, while her high-profile romance with Rudolph Valentino made her more famous than her movies did. Her fainting spell at his funeral in 1926 marked a souring of her image, since the press dubbed such antics as nothing more than a publicity stunt. Regardless, Negri continued to find success on the screen with "Hotel Imperial" (1927) and "Barbed Wire" (1927), but like most silent actors, was unable to gain a foothold in the sound era. She retreated to Europe in the 1930s, where she maintained a small degree of success, only to largely retire from filmmaking altogether. Negri made two more Hollywood movies - "Hey Diddle Diddle" (1943) and "The Moonspinners" (1964) - only to live out the rest of her days in Texas with oil heiress and alleged lesbian lover, Margaret West, leaving behind a legacy that inspired both fascination and confusion.

Born Barbara Appolonia Chalupiec in Janowa, Prussia, Negri was raised an only child by her father, Jerzy, an immigrant tinsmith, and her mother, Eleanora. As a child, her father was arrested for subversive political activities and sent to Siberia, forcing her mother to move to Warsaw, Poland where Negri grew up extremely poor. Luckily, she displayed dance talent and was accepted into the city's Imperial Ballet School where she studied dance. Negri made her debut in the chorus of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" and soon advanced to solo ballerina, before a bout with tuberculosis ended her dance career. Following her recovery at a sanatorium, Negri enrolled at the Imperial Academy of Dramatic Arts and made her stage debut in a Warsaw production of "Hannele" (1913). She also began making movies with "The Polish Dancer" (1914), "Wife" (1915), "The Yellow Pass" (1915), "Bad Girl" (1916), "Room #13" (1917) and "His Last Gesture" (1917). Around this time, she came to the attention of German director Max Reinhardt, who cast her in the stage production "Sumurun" (1916-17). Soon after, Negri moved to Berlin and began her film career in earnest.

Exotically pretty with pale skin and raven hair, Negri made about a dozen films in Berlin and quickly became an international star, thanks to successes like "Carmen/Gypsy Blood" (1918), "The Eyes of the Mummy Ma" (1918) and "Madame DuBarry/Passion" (1919), all of which were made by up-and-coming director Ernst Lubitsch. In fact, "Passion" was an extraordinary collaboration that helped open up German cinema to cities like Paris and New York, as well as made Negri an international star. She went on to make several more pictures, including Lubitsch's adaptation of Reinhardt's play, "Sumurun" (1920) and "The Mountain Cat" (1921), before Hollywood came calling in 1923. She signed a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures and threw herself enthusiastically into becoming a movie star, making her American debut with "Bella Donna" (1923) and following up with such sophisticated fare as "The Spanish Dancer" (1923), Lubitsch's "Forbidden Paradise" (1924), "Flower of Night" (1925) and one of her few comedies, the very funny "A Woman of the World" (1925). Most were largely forgotten with time, but her collaborations with European directors - namely Lubitsch on "Forbidden Paradise" - were typically better uses of her talents.

During her spare moments, Negri was an active part of early Hollywood's social scene, setting fashion standards and engaging in high-profile romances with Charlie Chaplin, Prince Serge Mdivani, whom she briefly married, and the Latin Lover himself, Rudolph Valentino. Indeed, her outlandish lifestyle and pretentious pronouncements often overshadowed the actress' very real talent, and led to longstanding rumors that her romances with men were cover for her more illicit affairs with women. But her brief romance with Valentino overshadowed all, as she became more famous for her relationship with him than for her own movies. When he died in 1926 of a perforated ulcer and blood poisoning, her histrionics - including fainting at the funeral and claiming they were engaged despite no proof existing - became the stuff of legend. Meanwhile, Negri had several late-silent era successes with Mauritz Stiller's "Hotel Imperial" (1927) and Rowland V. Lee's "Barbed Wire" (1927), but her charms had already begun to wear on the American public. Though she made several talkies like "A Woman Commands" (1932), "Mazurka" (1935) and the German-made "Madame Bovary" (1937), her career essentially ended during the advent of the sound era. She spent much of the 1930s in Europe making a handful of other movies before returning to the United States in 1943. Ensconced back in Hollywood, Negri made two more films, the absurdist comedy "Hi Diddle Diddle" (1943), in which she played an egotistical opera singer, and Disney's "The Moonspinners" (1964), where she was an eccentric millionaire opposite child star Hayley Mills. She retired to San Antonio, TX, where she lived with oil heiress Margaret West, with whom she was rumored to have been having a lesbian affair. Negri remained with West until the heiress' death in 1963, wrote her autobiography Memoirs of a Star (1970), haughtily refused interviews, and died on Aug. 1, 1987 from pneumonia at 90 years old.

By Shawn Dwyer

Life Events

1913

Made stage debut in "Hannele" in Warsaw

1914

Made film debut in "Niewolnica Zmyslow/Love and Passion"; also wrote

1916

Moved to Berlin to work with Max Reinhardt

1918

First international success, "Carmen/Gypsy Blood"

1923

Moved to US, made American film debut in "Bella Donna"

1923

Under contract to Paramount

1932

First talkie, "A Woman Commands"

1964

Made final film, "The Moonspinners"

Videos

Movie Clip

Wildcat, The (1921) - Not Far From Piffkaneiro Something like the fantastical opening imagined by Ernst Lubitsch (the original inter-titles are lost), with the fictional location and the immediate broad spoof of the popular matte-iris technique, Viktor Janson introduced as commander of a plenty-absurd looking fortress, from The Wildcat, or Die Bergkatze, 1921, starring Pola Negri.
Wildcat, The (1921) - I Did What I Could Introduction of the heartthrob officer Alexis (Paul Heidemann) being banished to a remote frontier outpost in Ernst Lubitsch’s fantasy winterland, loaded with more matte technique and design gags, still before the introduction of Pola Negri, the title character, in the outlandish German silent comedy The Wildcat, 1921.
Wildcat, The (1921) - She Beat Me! Just introduced as the leader of an outlaw band on some fictional Alpine frontier, Wilhelm Diegelmann is being set upon by his own charges so he summons his daughter Rischka (Pola Negri, the title character, her first scene) who cracks heads as needed then notices Paul Heidemann as Alexis, the just-transferred army Lothario, on the move, in Ernst Lubitsch’s The Wildcat, 1921.
Wildcat, The (1921) - You Would Have Split Them Thinking she’s made a killing by robbing a dandified military officer of his clothes, Rischka (Pola Negri), daughter of the Alpine bandit chieftan, is baffled by seeing her first photograph, then smitten, then berated by her dad (Wilhelm Diegelmann) for not taking his underwear as well, in Ernst Lubitsch’s absurd comedy The Wildcat, 1921.
Patsy, The (1928) - Lillian, Pola Having already failed as Mae Murray, Pat (Marion Davies) impersonates Lillian Gish then Pola Negri in her attempt to arouse the stupefied Billy (Lawrence Gray) in The Patsy, 1928.

Companions

Charlie Chaplin
Companion
Actor, director, comedian.
Rudolph Valentino
Companion
Actor. Engaged to be married when he died.
Serge Mdivani
Husband
Georgian prince. Divorced.

Bibliography

"Memoirs of a Star"
Pola Negri (1970)

Notes

Her stage name was derived from the diminutive of her middle name Appolonia (Pola) and her last was taken from Italian poet Ada Negri.

Some sources list 1899 as her birthyear.