THE POLISH Institute in Bratislava is wrapping up Pola Negri - Film Legend, a fascinating exhibition about the Polish-born actress famous for her vamp roles in silent films and early talkies.
Born in Lipno in 1897, allegedly to a Slovak father, Negri rose from very humble beginnings to become one of the first Europeans to achieve Hollywood stardom. She began with classical ballet in Warsaw, but health problems led her to the stage in 1912, at age 15.
That year, she discovered a talent for depicting emotion without the need for dialogue while performing the leading role in Sumurun, a pantomime play directed by Max Reinhardt.
Her film career began in Poland just two years later.
It was around that time that she adopted the stage name Pola Negri, a combination of her childhood nickname and the Italian poetess, Ada Negri.
Her breakthroughs were in Germany, where she made Carmen (also known as Gypsy Blood, 1918) and Madame Dubarry (or Passion, 1919), both directed by German filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch, who ultimately brought the famous "continental star" to the United States in 1923, aboard the White Star Line Majestic steamship.
For the next five years, Negri was under contract with Paramount studios, which displayed her name in the most prestigious spot in a film's credits - above the title. Her films from this time include Forbidden Paradise, which featured a young Clark Gable, and Hotel Imperial, directed by Mauritz Stiller.
Considered by many to be "the world's greatest passion actress", her films were often filled with topics of fascination in that period: mystery, intrigue, tango, and exotic places, such as the Orient, Russia, Paris, and Spain.
Negri planned to marry fellow film star Rudolph Valentino in 1926, but he died unexpectedly of systemic infection following surgery. She later married Georgian Prince Serge Mdivani, but always maintained that Valentino had been the love of her life.
In the early 1930s, Negri acted in talkies, but found her roles limited by the Hays Code, a set of guidelines issued by the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association, the precursor to the current Motion Picture Association of America.
Negri made only two films between 1940 and 1963. She lived out the rest of her life in San Antonio, Texas, where she passed away on August 1, 1987, at age 92.
Don't miss this exhibition.
What: Pola Negri - Film Legend
When: until April 30
Where: Polish Institute, Nám. SNP 27, Bratislava
For more information, visit www.polinst.sk or call 02/5443-2013.
28. Apr 2008 at 0:00 | By John S. Grioni