Hollywood Remains to Be Seen

Pola Negri
1899 - 1987

Calvary Cemetery

With her large gray eyes and thick black hair, Pola Negri was the quintessential vamp of the silent screen.

Negri was born in Poland, and studied acting at the Warsaw Imperial Academy of Dramatic Arts. While still a teenager, Negri was a success on stage in Warsaw, and went to Berlin to work with German director Ernst Lubitsch, who featured her as a lusty, earthy, exotic woman. One of their films, "Madame Du Barry" (1919), was retitled "Passion" and released in the United States with great success, and both Negri and Lubitsch signed contracts and came to work in Hollywood.

Negri went to work for Paramount Pictures and among her most popular films were "Vendetta" (1921) with Emil Jannings, "Forbidden Paradise" (1924) with Adolph Menjou, "Barbed Wire" (1927) with Clive Brook, and "Three Sinners" (1928) with Warner Baxter.

Negri was romantically linked with Rudolph Valentino, Howard Hughes and Charlie Chaplin, among many others. When Valentino died in 1926, Negri said she and the screen shiek had been engaged to be married. During his funeral services, she flung herself on his coffin and swooned -- though most witnesses said she did it as a stunt for the press. In fact, she did it several times, they said, whenever a camera was pointed at her.

Two main factors helped bring an end to Negri's screen career. One was the Hays Office Production Code, which was instituted in 1934 to restrict the amount of sex, violence and immorality being shown in films. The Hays Code severely limited the studios' need for a sulty sex siren like Negri, especially considering her very public off-screen reputation. But perhaps the main reason for Negri's decline and early retirement was the growing popularity of sound pictures in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Negri's thick European accent made her difficult for audiences to understand her.

Negri went back to Europe, but returned to the United States when Adolph Hitler began to gain power in Germany, even though Hitler was one of Negri's biggest fans. Negri became a U.S. citizen in 1951, but she rarely worked in films after her return. Her last film was a small part in "The Moon-Spinners" (1964), a Disney film starring Hayley Mills. Negri retired to her home in Texas, where she died.

Negri was born Apolonia Chalupec on Dec. 31, 1899 (though some sources say 1894), in Janowa, Poland. She died on Aug. 1, 1987, in San Antonio, TX.

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