Pola Negri

Active - 1916 - 1964  |   Born - Jan 3, 1897   |   Died - Aug 1, 1987   |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Rovi

Born Appolonia Chalupek, she was brought up by a single mother in a Warsaw slum. As a teenager, she trained at the Imperial Ballet School, debuted with the Imperial Ballet as a cygnet in Swan Lake, and danced in lead roles. She quit dancing after a bout with tuberculosis, then took up acting, which she studied at the Imperial Academy of Dramatic Arts in Warsaw. In 1913 she made her stage debut as an actress, and within a year she appeared in her first film. Soon she was a top screen star in Poland, prompting director Max Reinhardt to invite her to appear in his stage play Sumurun in Berlin; she remained there for five years, becoming internationally famous as the star of a number of major German films. Flooded with contract offers from Hollywood, she moved to America in 1923 and signed with Paramount for $3000 a week; she thus became Hollywood's first imported star. Her exotic, mysterious, passionate qualities caught on with American audiences, and she made numerous popular films; eventually her salary went up to $10,000 a week. She attracted a great deal of publicity for her offscreen romances and her long-term feud with rival Gloria Swanson. She divorced her husband, a Polish count, and made headlines with an engagement to Charlie Chaplin; she broke with Chaplin and took up with Rudolph Valentino, enhancing her sex-siren image. Valentino's death in 1926 marked the beginning of her slip in popularity with the American public, which grew bored with her flamboyant exploits. With the advent of the sound era, she returned to Europe. From 1927-31 she was married to a Russian prince; she divorced him because he mismanaged her investments during the stock market crash. She became popular again in Germany after starring in several films there; she was ordered barred from films because she was thought to be part Jewish, but Adolf Hitler personally overruled this decision due to his fondness for the mother-love film Mazurka (1935), which he reportedly watched once a week for its tearjerking effects on him. It was rumored that she and Hitler were romantically linked, but she successfully sued the French magazine that began the rumor. She settled on the French Riviera, then returned to the U.S. in 1941 after the Germans invaded France. In 1951 she became a U.S. citizen. After 1941 she appeared in only two additional films. She lived out the rest of her long life in well-off seclusion. She authored an autobiography, Pola Negri: Memoirs of a Star.

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