Pola Negri

Pola Negri
Pola Negri in front of the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, 1937.

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Pola Negri was already a star in Poland – the femme fatale of the screen – when she arrived in Berlin to be greeted by hordes of enthusiastic fans. After a series of brilliant theatre performances and fantastic film roles Pola Negri intended Berlin to become a very important stage in her brilliant career and a further step on the way to Hollywood.

Pola Negri finished her ballet school in Warsaw almost by accident, or as many people jokingly say with the help of God, because the lively girl felt very uncomfortable in her monastery school in Warsaw. She was not only a very talented but also a very industrious student. That said, her career as a ballet dancer came to an end as a result of an illness. But her ambition and her will to be an actress brought her back to the stage. She took acting lessons from the famous drama teacher, Honorata Leszczyńska, where she learnt a huge amount at a very quick rate. Hence she made her theatre debut on 1st September 1912 in the Warsaw theatre “Teatr Maly”, playing the role of Anielka Dobrojska in Aleksander Fredro’s play “Śluby panieńskie” (The Girls Oath) at the tender age of 15. The critics reacted to her with great enthusiasm and theatres fought to engage her. Finally Kazimierz Hulewicz discovered her for the screen. He wrote a film script especially for her entitled “Niewolnica zmysłów” (The Slave of Passion), directed by Jan Pawłowski with Pola Negri in the leading role, which had its premiere on 25th December 1914. Once more  Pola Negri’s performance was greeted with great enthusiasm. She appeared in eight further Polish films before continuing her career in Berlin. In 1917 the first German film featuring Pola Negri – “Happiness did not Fool me for Long“ by Kurt Matull – was shown in cinemas. Although she was unable to fulfil her potential to the full in her first German films she was nevertheless highly praised. It was only after she came into contact with the young and very talented director Ernst Lubitsch that she was able to take advantage of new opportunities to express herself artistically. Lubitsch’s major breakthrough came in 1918 with the premiere of his monumental film “The Eyes of Mummy Ma”. For Pola Negri this was the highest point in her career to date. Others were to follow. Thanks to Lubitsch and his films “Carmen” (1918), “Madame Dubarry” (1919) and “Sumurun” (1920) she began to get lucrative offers. Pola Negri’s performances also made her highly popular internationally.

During this time in Germany she was also called the “Duse of the Screen”, a reference to the famous theatre actress Eleonora Duse, and a clear sign of the general recognition of her talent and performances. She made over 20 films in Berlin until she received a lucrative contract from Paramount pictures in Hollywood. In 1922 – she was 25 at the time – Pola Negri flew to America where she was to become one of the very few superstars in the silent movie era. It was not until the end of the 1920s that her star began to decline and for this reason she decided to return to Germany. Germany in the 1930s had very little in common with what she knew from her first stay in Berlin. The Nazis were now in power and controlled every area of life including the cinema industry. At the mercy of Nazi propaganda she made only a very few films in Berlin, including pearls like “Mazurka” (1935), “Moscow - Shanghai” (1936) and “Tango Notturno” (1937). In 1938 she left Germany to return to America via France. But this time she was unable to repeat her previous successes. The silent movie era had come to an end and with it also its stars. Pola Negri remained in America until her death interspersed with only a few short visits to Germany. In 1964 the Berlin Film Festival showed a retrospective of her films. For the last time she showed herself on the red carpet, as captivating as ever – Pola Negri.

Biographical data

 

Pola Negri, real name Barbara Apolonia Chałupiec

1897    Born on 3rd January in Lipno (Poland)

1904    Moves to Warsaw

1912    Theatre debut in Warsaw (Teatr Maly / “Sluby panienskie”)

1914    Film debut in Warsaw (“Niewolnica zmyslow”. Director: Jan Pawlowski)

1917 - 1923    Film work in Berlin

1922    Moves to the USA

1923 - 1928    Film work in the USA

1934    Moves back to Berlin

1938    Leaves Germany for America via France

1964    Pola Negri’s final film “The Moon-Spinners”

On 1 August 1987 Pola Negri dies in San Antonio (USA)

 

Additional information:

 

Pola Negri interrupted her ballet education because of tuberculosis. She recovered in the spa town of Zakopane, where she not only sought the power to live but also artistic inspiration which she found in the poems of the Italian poet Ada Negri. Fascinated by her works Apolonia Chalupec adopted the pseudonym: Pola Negri.

She sought for happiness in love in vain. She was married twice, neither of them very happy: in 1919 to the Polish Count Eugeniusz Dambski, and in 1927 to the Georgian Prince (the title was not genuine) Sergius Midivani. Both marriages ended in divorce. In the meantime and also afterwards she was involved in many affairs. The most famous was with Charlie Chaplin and the subsequent war of the roses; the most tragic with Rudolfo Valentino who died after an operation, shortly before his alleged marriage to Pola Negri.

“Mazurka” with Pola Negri in the leading role was alleged to be one of Adolf Hitler’s favourite films. He is supposed to have idolised her even though Pola Negri (Apolonia Chalupec), was unable to provide the authorities with any proof that she was Aryan. No less than the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in person officially confirmed that she could not possibly be Jewish.

In 1972 in Berlin Chancellor Willy Brandt awarded her with the Gerhart Hauptmann Medal in Gold.

 

Notable quotation:

“In the cinema it’s just like in life, you have to get a good place!”

Filmography:

 

Poland

1914 Niewolnica zmysłów (The Slave of Passion)

1915 Żona (The Wife)

1915 Czarna książeczka (Black Book)

1916 Studenci (Student Love)

1917 Bestia (The Beast)

1917 Arabella

1917 Pokój nr 13 (Wabda Barska)

1917 Tajemnica Alei Ujazdowskich

1917 Jego ostatni czyn (His Final Deed)

 

Germany

1917 Stealing Kisses in the Dark (Za pocałunek-wieczystych nocy męki)

1917 Happiness did not Fool me for Long (Niedługo mnie szczęście łudziło)

1917 Dead Eyes (Martwe oczy)

1917 When the Heart burns with Hate (Gdy serce nienawiścią pała)

1917 Roses destroyed by the Storm

1917 Unfettered Blood (Rozpasana)

1918 The Eyes of Mummy Ma (Oczy mumii Ma)

1918 Carmen

1918 Mania - the Story of a Cigarette Worker (Mania)

1918 The Yellow Passport (Żółty paszport)

1919 Crucify Her! (Awanturnica)

1919 Vendetta (Vendeta - Zemsta krwi)

1919 The Carousel of Life (Dzieje mężatki)

1919 Countess Dolly (Hrabina Rondoli)

1919 Madame Dubarry

1920 The Marquise d'Armiani (Markiza d'Arminiani)

1920 Poor Violetta (Biedna Violetta)

1920 The Closed Chain

1920 Martyrdom

1920 Sumurun

1921 Sappho (Safona)

1921 The Mountain Cat (Dzika kotka)

1922 The Flame

 

USA

1923 Hollywood

1923 Bella Donna

1923 The Cheat

1923 The Spanish Dancer

1924 Men

1924 Lily of the Dust

1924 Shadows of Paris

1924 Forbidden Paradise

1925 A Woman of the World

1925 Flower of the Night

1925 East of Suez

1925 The Charmer

1926 The Crown of Lies

1926 Good and Naughty

1927 Barbed Wire

1927 The Woman on Trial

1927 Hotel Imperial

1928 The Secret Hour

1928 Three Sinners

1928 The Woman from Moscow

1928 Loves of an Actress

 

Europe

1929 The Way of Lost Souls/The Woman He Scorned

1932 A Woman Commands

1934 Fanatisme

1935 Mazurka

1936 Countess Volescu

1936 Moscow-Shanghai

1937 Madame Bovary

1937 Tango Notturno

1938 The Pious Lie (Pobożne kłamstwo)

1938 The Night of Decision

 

USA

1943 He Diddle Diddle

1964 The Moon-Spinners

 

Adam Gusowski

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Pola Negri, Polish theatre and movie actress, international silent movie star - Portrait ca. 1930.
Portrait ca. 1930
Pola Negri, Polish theatre and movie actress, international silent movie star - Portrait ca. 1930.
Pola Negri, Polish theatre and movie actress, international silent movie star - Portrait ca.1925.
Portrait ca.1925
Pola Negri, Polish theatre and movie actress, international silent movie star - Portrait ca.1925.
Pola Negri being greeted by the hotel staff in front of the Adlon Hotel in Berlin,. The photo was taken some time between 1930 and 1936.
Hotel Adlon
Pola Negri being greeted by the hotel staff in front of the Adlon Hotel in Berlin,. The photo was taken some time between 1930 and 1936.
Pola Negri, 1926
Pola Negri, 1926
Pola Negri, 1926
Pola Negri, 1931
Pola Negri, 1931
Pola Negri, 1931
Pola Negri - Hörspiel von Polski Magazyn Radiowy des Funkhauses Europa
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Radio play by Cosmo Radio po polsku
Radio play by Cosmo Radio po polsku