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Straight From Europe: The Next Great Hollywood Beauty
Posted August 11, 2010 to photo album "Straight From Europe: The Next Great Hollywood Beauty"
Anton Corbijn’s The American will give Americans the chance to discover two European actress: Italy’s Violante Placido and Dutch actress Thekla Reuten. They are only the latest in string of European discoveries.
Slide 3: Alla Nazimova - The Passionate Russian
"If I have lived not beautifully, I must act beautifully," Alla Nazimova wrote in her diary as a young girl. Born in Crimea, Alla Nazimova became a Russian stage sensation in Moscow by the turn of the century, eventually touring Europe and coming to New York City where she made her Broadway debut in 1906. Soon she was bringing Ibsen and O’Neill to life for American audiences. A 1906 New York Times profile exclaimed that she “is so utterly foreign that her mere presence carries with it an atmosphere of the Crimea…She is dark, with such an intense passionate concentrated depth of coloring as is unknown to brunettes of the Western hemisphere.” In 1915, the play War Brides, in which she played the lead, was filmed, bringing the Russian beauty to the attention of film producer Lewis J. Selznick. As a screen beauty, she proved a commercial hit, eventually becoming one of the highest paid Hollywood starlets. But she wanted to make her own work, demonstrating the avant-garde acting traditions she’d grown up with. Using her own money she started producing a series of highbrow silent adaptations. Her version of Ibsen’s A Doll House fell flat, but her biggest flop came with her production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, a lush adaptation based on Aubrey Beardsley's 1894 illustrations. In the end, her film career never panned out, although she remained a Hollywood fixture for years. Famed B-movie producer Val Lewton was her nephew, and she was the godmother to Nancy Reagan. Her lush estate off Sunset Boulevard, The Garden of Alla, became the site of many a debauched Hollywood party before being turned into a complex of bungalows favored by New York writers camping out in Hollywood. Later the place was torn down and immortalized by Joni Mitchell in the song, “Big Yellow Taxi” with the lines: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”