Thursday, 17 March 2011

Vera Kholodnaya, the Queen of Russian Silent Screen

She was the first and the brightest, and remains the only true star of the Russian silent cinema. Though Vera Kholodnaya was into filming for only three years, it was enough for her to become the Queen of Screen, as she was titled. Unluckily, only five films starring her are extant nowadays out of the fifty to eighty films she played in.
Vera Levchenko was born on August 5, 1893 into a respectable well-to-do family in Poltava. From early childhood the girl enjoyed participating in family theatricals. At the age of ten Vera was sent to the famous Perepelkina’s grammar school. At the graduation prom she met Vladimir Kholodny, then a student and a race-driver. With the mutual disapproval of both the families they soon got married.
In 1915 Yevgeni Bauer was going to direct the film Pesn torzhestvuyushchey lyubvi (Song of Triumphant Love), a mystical love drama after Turgenev’s story and was looking for a woman of outstanding beauty. When Vera Kholodnaya was introduced to the director, he was spellbound and at once approved her for the role.
Song of Triumphant Love was a resounding success. Right after finishing the first film, impatient to wait till it was released, Yevgeni Bauer started making another movie starring Vera. That was a typical saloon melodrama under the title Plamya Neba (Flame of the Sky) about guilty love of a young woman married off to an old widower, and his son. In the end the lovers perish of a thunderbolt.
Flame of the Sky, though shot after Song of Triumphant Love was the first to go on screen and bring fame to Vera Kholodnaya. The next picture was Deti veka (The Children of the Age), a drama with pretensions to revealing social problems. This film is the earliest of the five extant works with the actress.
Tremendous success was Pyotr Chardynin’s tragic melodrama Mirazhi (The Mirages) (1916) (the film has come down to us), followed by the ‘fancy drama’ Krasota dolzhna tsarit v mire (Beauty Must Reign in the World) by Bauer, melodrama Ognenny Dyavol (Fiery Devil), and another melodrama Zhizn za zhizn (A Life for a Life).
It was after this film, one of the most popular and successful in Vera Kholodnaya’s career she was titled ‘the Queen of Screen’. The author of this title was the great singer Alexander Vertinsky. He first appeared at the Kholodnys’ in autumn of 1915, bringing a letter from Vera’s husband and then visited her every day: he would simply come, sit down on a chair and look at her for hours… In 1916 Khanzhonkov’s company started making the film Pierrot with Vertinsky and Kholodnaya playing the leads. Unfortunately, for some reasons the film was not completed. ...

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