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Pola Negri (1894-1987)

  1. Rudolph Valentino, The Spanish Dancer, 1923.    A Valentino vehicle was  swiftly rewritten to be the third US film for Hollywood's first Euro signing -  dubbed The Madonna of the Silent Screen by Lotte Eisner, of the French Cinémathèque.  Negri's usual German director, Ernst Lubitsch,  also new in Film City, made his version of the same play at the same  time  -  "the worst picture, bar none, that I ever made,"  declared his  Rosita star, Mary Pickford.
  2. Claudette Colbert, The Sign of the Cross, 1932.   The mighty director Cecil B DeMille's first choice for Poppaea, wife of Charles Laughton's Nero. Next came Elissa Landi, Norma Talmadge -  until CB spotted Claudette and made an offer no actress could refuse.  "How would you like to play the wickedest woman in the world?"
  3. Luise Rainer, The Good Earth, 1937.    When MGM changed casting, Pola split to UFA. Adolf Hitler liked her and even established Aryan origins for her (although  Goebbels  called her "the  Polish Jewess") and was responsible for her second German career. "Why not?"  she said. "There have been many important men in my life - Valentino,  for example."  When WWII  began, she joined  the Red Cross  and  returned to Hollywood in 1943.
  4. ]Katina Paxinou, For Whom The Bell Tolls, 1943.     The ex-vamp had only recently returned to Hollywood after being banned from German films by Goebbels for being considered part-Jewish.
  5. Florence Bates,  The Mask of Dimitrios, 1943.  La Negri was somewhat miffed by director Jean Negulesco’s offer to play Madame Elise Chavez, a US society hostess in Istanbul.  But, but, but it’s just one scene!  Well, Bates made a decent meal out of it.
  6. Agnes Moorehead, The Seventh Cross, 1943.      Gentleman director Fred Zinnemann had his pick of ladies for his first major feature: Signe Hasso and in their screen debuts, Katherine Locke and Jessica Tandy. But hew failed to land Negri for Mme Marelli. Still, once you have Spencer Tracy as your star, you can’t have everything…
  7. Hillary Brooke, Ministry of Fear, 1943.   Negri was director Fritz Lang’s first choice for the fortune-teller.  Next,  Rita Johnson, who fell ill, and was substituted by the platinum blonde Brooke.  Graham Greene said his novel became a bad film and Lang later apologised to him  for making it.
  8. Alla Nazimova, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, 1943.     Ex-Chicago tycoon Benedict Bogeaus switched to producing movies by spending $50,000 for Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in Peru, 1774. (His next 27 films until 1961 were not so grandiose). He wanted Fritz Lang or Rouben Mamoulian to direct Pola Negri and Margo opposite Kent Smith as the twins, Manuelo and Esteban… and settled for Rowland V Lee helming  Nazimova, Lynn Bari and Francis Lederer. All the real money had gone on the book.  
  9. Vivien Leigh, Caesar and Cleopatra, 1945.    From the 20s onward, La Negri kept trying to buy the rights but found George Bernard Shaw more difficult to seduce than her Hollywood lovers, Chaplin and Valentino
  10. GloriaSwanson, Sunset Blvd, 1949.   Same "insulted!" response as from first and third choices (Mae West, Mary Pickford).“A has-been - moi?” Said still in her awful accent that killed her career in the talkies.On George Cukor's say-so,Gloria flew in to meet Billy Wilder.Ready for her close-up.

 





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