Pola Negri

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Danny

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Pola Negri

PostWed Feb 15, 2017 9:21 am

Did anyone mention this recent book: Pola Negri Temptress of Silent Hollywood by Sergio Delgado?

It is a thin volume of biography and publicity reporting, with a detailed analysis of her American silent films. Much of it had to be pulled from press reports of the time, since the majority of these Paramount features have been lost. (But I found that information to be the most helpful)

Negri was never in my personal pantheon. I always thought she was scary. But her impact in film history cannot be denied. She was the proverbial force to be reckoned with. However, I came away with the impression that so much of her life story was publicity blurb, we can never know much about this shooting star. But unlike some of her contemporaries, she did not disappear, but rather made a number of talkies in Europe, and came back to the U.S. with a delightfully comic turn in United Artist's Hi Diddle Diddle (1943). By then, she wasn't so scary.

Any Pola Negri fans want to endorse or comment on this book?

Danny
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Jim Roots

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Re: Pola Negri

PostFri Feb 17, 2017 5:31 pm

I'm a big Negri Fan. Where is this book? Is there an amazon page?

You should read her autobiography, the humbly titled Memoirs of a Star. Allowing for some authorial licence, you will learn a lot about her early life in particular, and it's an interesting read overall. One of my favourite movie star autobiographies.

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Re: Pola Negri

PostSat Feb 18, 2017 9:28 am

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mwalls

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Re: Pola Negri

PostSat Feb 18, 2017 9:51 am

You can also get it on Kindle for $9.99.

And I second the recommendation for Pola's autobiography. Yes, she takes some poetic license with some of the history, but it is a very well written book that gives you a glimpse into her personality. As one who does not read very much anymore, I found it an easy read.

Matthew
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NotSoSilent

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Re: Pola Negri

PostSat Mar 11, 2017 8:11 am

All I really knew about Negri was her connection to Valentino. I bought Barbed Wire on DVD and really enjoyed the film, so decided to buy this book. It's a light and easy read, but informative. It's obvious the author is a fan of Negri, although he tries to remain objective in his appraisal. I'm almost done reading it and glad I made the purchase.
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Re: Pola Negri

PostSat Mar 11, 2017 9:36 am

I have a copy of Pola Negri: Hollywood's First Femme Fatale by Mariusz Kotowski, published a couple of years ago, but haven't read it yet. Is anyone familiar with this book?
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Jim Roots

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Re: Pola Negri

PostSat Mar 11, 2017 1:07 pm

I'm currently reading the Delgado book and it is very good (huge sigh of relief). He debunks all the myths with evidence and rational analysis. And as he points out, we will never know the truth about things like Pola's father's ethnic background because there just no longer exists any possibility of proving one way or the other.

Many of the things he says are the same things I say in my pages about Negri in my forthcoming book, so it is quite interesting to me that we noticed the same things, such as the difficulty of getting a firm grasp on what she even looks like (you need a Joan Rivers/Kenny Rodgers level of ongoing plastic surgery to compete with the way Negri's face changes even from shot to shot within a movie, and Negri never had surgery).

I also very much enjoy Delgado's brand of wit. He writes well, even with (GASP!) proper grammar and correct punctuation.

Jim
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Re: Pola Negri

PostSat Mar 11, 2017 8:25 pm

What I would love is finally a very good, logical explanation, regarding her decline in her Hollywood career. I have heard three different theories, but they don't seem to quite make sense.

1. The Rudolph Valentino theatrics destroyed her career -- It would appear she had success following this episode so I don't quite buy into this explanation.
2. The loss of interest of the public in Vamps -- Granted, she played this role for many of her films, but she transitioned into sympathetic roles such as Barbed Wire, A Woman Commands, and The Woman He Scorned (England), etc., that does not quite allow me to buy completely into this one as well.
3. That her accent did not work in talkies -- Yes, she had a thick accent. But so did Garbo and Dietrich. The accent did not hurt their careers. Again, this is a maybe, but not one that I can fully buy into.

She had a fall from grace. Was it any of the above? Was it all of the above? Or was it something else entirely. There is enough being written about her that I hope someone comes up with a good explanation.

Matthew
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Re: Pola Negri

PostSun Mar 12, 2017 2:57 pm

Maybe it's just me but has anyone else noticed the resemblance between Pola and Essie Davis in her role as Phryne Fisher in "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries"?

Phryne:
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Pola:
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Re: Pola Negri

PostSun Mar 12, 2017 4:13 pm

mwalls wrote:What I would love is finally a very good, logical explanation, regarding her decline in her Hollywood career. I have heard three different theories, but they don't seem to quite make sense.

1. The Rudolph Valentino theatrics destroyed her career -- It would appear she had success following this episode so I don't quite buy into this explanation.
2. The loss of interest of the public in Vamps -- Granted, she played this role for many of her films, but she transitioned into sympathetic roles such as Barbed Wire, A Woman Commands, and The Woman He Scorned (England), etc., that does not quite allow me to buy completely into this one as well.
3. That her accent did not work in talkies -- Yes, she had a thick accent. But so did Garbo and Dietrich. The accent did not hurt their careers. Again, this is a maybe, but not one that I can fully buy into.

She had a fall from grace. Was it any of the above? Was it all of the above? Or was it something else entirely. There is enough being written about her that I hope someone comes up with a good explanation.

Matthew


Perhaps she just got sick of making pictures and enjoyed her life away from the screen? Apparently she had to be really lured back to Hollywood to make "The Moonspinners" for Disney.
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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Mar 13, 2017 6:20 am

mwalls wrote:What I would love is finally a very good, logical explanation, regarding her decline in her Hollywood career. I have heard three different theories, but they don't seem to quite make sense.

1. The Rudolph Valentino theatrics destroyed her career -- It would appear she had success following this episode so I don't quite buy into this explanation.
2. The loss of interest of the public in Vamps -- Granted, she played this role for many of her films, but she transitioned into sympathetic roles such as Barbed Wire, A Woman Commands, and The Woman He Scorned (England), etc., that does not quite allow me to buy completely into this one as well.
3. That her accent did not work in talkies -- Yes, she had a thick accent. But so did Garbo and Dietrich. The accent did not hurt their careers. Again, this is a maybe, but not one that I can fully buy into.

She had a fall from grace. Was it any of the above? Was it all of the above? Or was it something else entirely. There is enough being written about her that I hope someone comes up with a good explanation.

Matthew


According to Delgado, the Valentino funeral PR itself didn't hurt her career. What hurt was that nine months later she got married. So much for Rudy being "the love of her life". Fans felt betrayed and rejected her with vehemence.

The biggest reason for her decline, however, was Paramount's refusal or inability to put her into good films that gave her the opportunity to show what she could do. The studio totally mishandled her. She arguably made only two good films in America -- Hotel Imperial and Barbed Wire -- and all her other American films tanked at the box office. (They made money overseas, however.) Delgado argues that the studio brought her over here trumpeting about her Continental emotionalism and allure, then immediately tried to turn her into a sweet Mary Pickford, docile, saintly, all-American type "girl". Not only did they contradict their own publicity, they ignored the fact that Negri just could not twist herself into that Pickford type on-screen.

Her accent didn't cause her downfall, nor did her voice. Apparently the accent was "thick" but not incomprehensible, and had its own charm.

Jim
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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Mar 13, 2017 9:03 am

Perhaps she just got sick of making pictures and enjoyed her life away from the screen? Apparently she had to be really lured back to Hollywood to make "The Moonspinners" for Disney.

Oh. "The Moonspinners" is a real hoot. Negri's one scene comes at the end. She looks fabulous, spoofing her image, with a live ocelot (?) and camping up her scenes with humor. She looked like she was having a lot of fun with it.

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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Mar 13, 2017 10:45 am

Danny wrote:Perhaps she just got sick of making pictures and enjoyed her life away from the screen? Apparently she had to be really lured back to Hollywood to make "The Moonspinners" for Disney.

Oh. "The Moonspinners" is a real hoot. Negri's one scene comes at the end. She looks fabulous, spoofing her image, with a live ocelot (?) and camping up her scenes with humor. She looked like she was having a lot of fun with it.

Danny


Even more fun than you suspected, because that was a leopard, and its inclusion was a joke about one old publicity hoax that she walked down a Hollywood street with a leopard on a lease.

Jim
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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Mar 13, 2017 11:29 am

But I thought that even the great film Barbed Wire tanked at the box office. Of course this could have been due to the film's message of reconciliation with the German people.
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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Mar 13, 2017 1:09 pm

silentfilm wrote:But I thought that even the great film Barbed Wire tanked at the box office. Of course this could have been due to the film's message of reconciliation with the German people.


Yes, almost all of her American films bombed in the American box office. Delgado's (and my) suggestion was that only Barbed Wire and Hotel Imperial were artistic and critical successes. The rest of her films bombed in all three respects: artistic, critical, and boffo.

She was especially poison box office outside the big cities. Delgado records some hick exhibitors almost begging Paramount not to send them any more of her films because their houses were empty for all of her stuff.

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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 12:50 am

Jim Roots wrote:
silentfilm wrote:But I thought that even the great film Barbed Wire tanked at the box office. Of course this could have been due to the film's message of reconciliation with the German people.


Yes, almost all of her American films bombed in the American box office. Delgado's (and my) suggestion was that only Barbed Wire and Hotel Imperial were artistic and critical successes. The rest of her films bombed in all three respects: artistic, critical, and boffo.

She was especially poison box office outside the big cities. Delgado records some hick exhibitors almost begging Paramount not to send them any more of her films because their houses were empty for all of her stuff.

Jim


A WOMAN OF THE WORLD survived as a Kodascope--did flops get released in that home-screening format?
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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 1:45 pm

I've read Kotowski's book and enjoyed it. A couple of years ago I caught a 35mm print of "Forbidden Paradise" the eighth and last film she made with Lubitsch. The print was from La Cinematheque francaise with Czech intertitles and simultaneous translation. Although the print was fragmentary her performance really stood out. She really showed star quality.
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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 3:00 pm

dr.giraud wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:
silentfilm wrote:But I thought that even the great film Barbed Wire tanked at the box office. Of course this could have been due to the film's message of reconciliation with the German people.


Yes, almost all of her American films bombed in the American box office. Delgado's (and my) suggestion was that only Barbed Wire and Hotel Imperial were artistic and critical successes. The rest of her films bombed in all three respects: artistic, critical, and boffo.

She was especially poison box office outside the big cities. Delgado records some hick exhibitors almost begging Paramount not to send them any more of her films because their houses were empty for all of her stuff.

Jim


A WOMAN OF THE WORLD survived as a Kodascope--did flops get released in that home-screening format?


Is this a rhetorical question? If it's not, and if you really want to know the answer, I'm afraid someone else will have to step up to the plate, because I know nothing about Kodascope's catalogue. Sorry.

Jim
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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 5:45 pm

dr.giraud wrote:A WOMAN OF THE WORLD survived as a Kodascope--did flops get released in that home-screening format?


The version of WOMAN that circulates is complete, reduced from 35mm. I've never heard of it being released as a Kodascope version, all of which were edited to 5 reels, although I don't have a list of Kodascope releases at hand.

There are a number of Paramount (and other) features that exist only in Kodascope versions, including PONY EXPRESS.
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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 6:28 pm

I watched "Barbed Wire" in the 1990'a on AMC. The film and Negri's performance just didn't do anything for me. I did tape it and my VCR is still set up and I still have the tape. I'll have to watch it again to see what I think.
Randy
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Now if only the 1927 "The Woman on Trial" will turn up. I hear the soundtrack survives.
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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 7:49 pm

Oh, give it another shot. I love Barbed Wire, she's terrific and I'd rank it pretty highly, as in top 50 anyway, among American silents.
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Re: Pola Negri

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 8:11 pm

That's mighty high praise. I'll give it another shot.
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Re: Pola Negri

PostTue Apr 04, 2017 6:51 am

Her accent didn't cause her downfall, nor did her voice. Apparently the accent was "thick" but not incomprehensible, and had its own charm.

An interesting observation, since it's my understanding that Billy Wilder (who should know from accents) apparently thought her accent too thick to play Norma Desmond.
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Re: Pola Negri

PostTue Apr 04, 2017 9:52 am

She was very good in the 1932 A Woman Commands with Basil Rathbone. Her accent was not an issue in that film.

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Re: Pola Negri

PostWed Apr 05, 2017 11:38 am

Mike Gebert wrote:Oh, give it another shot. I love Barbed Wire, she's terrific and I'd rank it pretty highly, as in top 50 anyway, among American silents.


Image

I finally saw Barbed Wire at the Kansas Silent Film Festival a month ago, and Pola is terrific in it. So many later silents are escapist fare, but this one actually tackles real issues.

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