Home / Performers / Alla Nazimova - 15 Photographers' Portraits_profdash (Stage, Screen) [15]

NAZIMOVA -15 Photographers' Portraits
by David for group historicalziegfeld Jan 30, 2011

Chameleonic, mercurial . . . her contemporaries wonder how anyone so personally elusive could express such passion. She was in certain respects the scariest woman on the stage in the early 20th century--an incarnation of the 'new woman' that combined an alien mixture of intellectuality and sensuality. Russian trained by Stanislavski--she was studied with the acutest attention by other actresses, particularly her ways of moving on stage. She excelled at Ibsen and Chekhov, but drew her largest audiences doing lurid melodramas. Though be no means a classical beauty, or a "girl" or a glamourine, she radiated a sexual charisma that many men found dangerous and many women celebrated, as they would that of Bette Davis decades later. It was a radiance that glowed on the screen as well as on the stage. Yet her movies were singularly odd--most lacking any strong male presence to serve as a counterweight to her fulminations (her beard of a husband, the ineffectual Charles Bryant often played the lead). Her demand for control of all dimensions of her productions eventually rankled at Metro when her early 1920s experiments (Salome particularly) failed to ignited the box office. She was forced back onto the stage, enjoying a second great period of performances in the 1930s. Every major photographer in New York attempted to capture her, with the best only glimpsing moods. Not until the dying president of Campbell Art Company Arthur Rice was secured to do the still work for her features at Metro during his attempted recuperation from lung cancer in southern California, did she find one who could match the range of her expressions. The White Studio photograph below is a production still for "War brides" Nazimova's controversial pacifist theater piece that won her the interest of motion picture producers. Nazimova took great images throughout her career, and certain Vandamm theatrical images of the 1930s vie with best of earlier decades. David S. Shields

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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    ohikkoshi wrote on Feb 1, '11
    Thanks, David!

    ziegfeldgrrl wrote on Feb 1, '11
    One of my daughter's favorites! I'll have to point her to this fabulous album. Thanks for the gorgeous images and the informative text.
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