Alla Nazimova

QUESTION:  During the silent film era, Alla Nazimova helped establish the careers of Jean Acker and Natacha Rambova.  Both women were married (at separate times) to what famous actor?
A)  Charles Boyer
B)  Rudolph Valentino
C)  Douglass Fairbanks
D)  Orson Welles

The American Treasure Tour has more stories throughout its amazing collection than can possibly be told in one blog.  But we try.  Today, we would like to discuss a woman who was at one time enormously popular on the stage and in theater, but who is all but forgotten today. Born Adelaida Yakovlevna Leventon in Yalta, part of the Russian Empire (prior to becoming a part of the Soviet Union) in 1879, she abbreviated her first name to Alla, and took on as her last name that of a fictional character from a Russian novel. Nazimova emigrated to the United States when she was 26, having become a famous actor across much of Europe by 1905.  She continued her success on Broadway for many years, then made her film debut in 1916.  This led to bigger and better things until the bigger and better became smaller and not quite so good. By 1925 her film career was over, aside from a few cameo appearances in films of the 1940's.

What makes Nazimova fascinating to students of Hollywood today is actually her private life. She was a married woman when she left Russia. And she was still married when she became involved in what is called a "lavender marriage," which is to say one or both participants are homosexual and hiding that from public scrutiny. Nazimova was outed, which caused a scandal and played a large part in her retirement from film in 1925. She is also accredited with coining the phrase "sewing circle" to discreetly describe lesbian or bisexual actresses. Her reputation for hosting wild parties at her Sunset Boulevard home was quite possibly accurate, and she was definitely entrenched in Hollywood culture. One of her friends, Edith Luckett, asked her to be godmother to her daughter.  Her name was Nancy Davis, who would marry Ronald Reagan and become First Lady of the United States.

ANSWER:  B)  Rudolph Valentino