July 11, 2013

Camille 'a la' Nazimova

In 1921, actress Alla Nazimova teamed with designer Natacha Rambova to  film a modern dress version of  'La Dame aux camelias' by Alexandre Dumas fils. Nazimova had been a smash hit on Broadway, starring in Ibsen's A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler--even having a theatre named after her.


Alla had met Rambova when Natacha took her sketches to the Metro Studio for the planned film, Aphrodite.  When Aphrodite was shelved due to censorship fears, Alla Nazimova needed a hit movie--badly. 

The two talented women went to work on a new project: a modern dress version of "La Dame aux camelias". Natacha would be responsible for the sets and costumes. Nazimova would play Marguerite and a handsome young actor named Rudolph Valentino would play the key role of Armand Duval.

The Film:
Chapter One: The Opera and Marguerite's Party

Marguerite Gautier is a Parisian courtesan whose life of parties, nightlife and suitors is often interrupted by bouts of consumption (tuberculosis) from which she is suffering.

Alla Nazimova as Marguerite Gautier

Sincere young Law student Armand Duval (Rudolph Valentino), first sets eyes on Marguerite at the Opera, with his best friend, the sophisticated Gaston Rieux (Rex Cherryman).

"...across a crowded room"-Rudolph Valentino spies Nazimova

Gautier is surrounded by an entourage, including the wealthy Count de Varville (Arthur Hoyt). Nevertheless, Armand is immediately attracted to the flashy party girl. 

Valentino, Rex Cherryman, Nazimova and Arthur Hoyt

Camellia covered wrap by Natacha Rambova

Marguerite whispers into the ears of de Varville  when she notices Armand looking over at her.

The entourage returns to Marguerite's apartment for a post-Opera party.  The Deco-inspired design of these two rooms is considered a cinematic coup, even today. 
Marguerite's apartment: all Art Deco curves and Camellias

Feeling ill, Marguerite retires to her bedroom until the cough subsides. Note the camellias on the bed, vanity and even on the wall.  Rambova used them everywhere.
Marguerite recovers from a coughing spasm in her bedroom
Time to return to the guests (note the round bed!)

Prudence brings Gaston and Armand to the party
Marguerite hams it up while de Varville and Armand look on
Marguerite asks de Varville and his hangers-on to leave
Detail of the above...
Once they are alone, Marguerite and Armand...


 To be continued...


  1. Beautiful, Inge! Great photos and wonderful captions and writing. I can see you are really passionate about this one!

    1. Thank you so much esteemed Chick of the Flicks. You seem to be the only person who read it, but, what can you do? Thanks again!