1940: Alla Nazimova and writer Arch Oboler conferring on the radio script for “This Lonely Heart” at the Garden of Allah Hotel
West Hollywood, Calif. (March 10, 2015) A lost trove of early 20th century costumes and fashionable street wear from the estate of Broadway and silent-film star Alla Nazimova (“Nah-ZIM-oh-vah”) was discovered last fall in an unlikely place: a storage building behind a home in Columbus, Ga.
College student Jack Raines found the garments fastidiously packed in a steamer trunk stored on the grounds of his grandmother’s house. Four other trunks also once belonging to Nazimova were empty.
Among the items Raines found was a costume headpiece festooned with pearl-like beads. A note packed with it read, “Salome Wig.” It was immediately recognizable as the wig Nazimova wore in “Salome,” an independent film that she starred in, wrote, directed in 1923. The film’s sets and costumes, including the wig, were designed by Natacha Rambova, who was married to film star Rudolph Valentino. Nazimova based her script upon Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play, “Salome,” and Rambova’s costumes and sets were inspired by Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for an 1894 published version of Wilde’s play.
“The Salome wig is an invaluable artifact from the silent film era,” said Martin Turnbull, co-founder of the Alla Nazimova Society, and author of the Garden of Allah Novels. “Its discovery 90 years after the film’s release is a significant find for film historians and fans of Hollywood’s golden era worldwide.”
I embarrassed myself several times (in a good way) as I openly wept in public during several scenes in the book. I found them sensitively written and quite affecting. … I’m actually pretty blown away how much this series has swept me away and held my interest — there have been other series I’ve read that started off well and then lost my interest the further I got into it. Turnbull’s characters continue to grow and become richer as they mature and become (presumably) wiser. I recommend this book every bit as highly as the first three.
From the publisher’s description:
At the dawn of 1942, the dark days of Pearl Harbor still loom over Los Angeles. America is now at war, and posters warn home-front Hollywoodites that loose lips sink ships.
Wartime propaganda is the name of the game, and the studios are expected to conjure stories that galvanize the public for the war effort. Marcus Adler is an MGM screenwriter whose latest movie was stolen out from under his whiskey glass, and he’s determined it won’t happen again. He comes up with a sure-fire hit, but his chance to triumph is threatened by a vicious rumor: “Marcus Adler is a goddamned Commie.”
Gwendolyn Brick is the handiest gal with a needle this side of Edith Head. After losing her job at the Cocoanut Grove, she dreams of opening her own dress store. But banks don’t make loans to single girls. However, wartime in L.A. opens the door to an opportunity that will rake in the bucks. But will it be worth the trouble if it drags her back into the orbit of Bugsy Siegel?
At the outbreak of war, the Hollywood Reporter’s circulation starts to shrink like a food rations coupon book. Its lead columnist, Kathryn Massey, realizes she can no longer ignore the obvious: her boss, Billy Wilkerson, is gambling away his fortune—and her future. Could their very survival depend on a place nobody’s heard of called Las Vegas?
In the city of searchlights, suspicions can lurk behind every shadow.
Searchlights and Shadows is the fourth in Martin Turnbull’s series of historical novels set during Hollywood’s golden age.
Martin Turnbull is a co-founder of the Alla Nazimova Society.
Originally broadcast in September 1998, with commentary by the late Gavin Lambert, author of the definitive biography, “Nazimova: A Biography.”
June 4 is Alla Nazimova’s birthday. She would be 135 years old today, but we suspect she’d only admit to 110. Here’s an astrological chart that someone prepared on her behalf. Some of the information is inaccurate — she never actually studied with Stanislavsky and she did eventually divorce her first husband, but close enough.
I literally just finished Citizen Hollywood, the third in Martin Turnbull’s “The Garden of Allah” novels. Once again he has delivered. Gwendolyn, Katherine and Marcus are so well developed that you feel like they are old friends. The way Martin brings old Hollywood to life is a joy and I find myself wishing I had been a part of it. Since reading the trilogy, I can’t watch an old movie with Orson Wells, Tallulah Bankhead, Errol Flynn, Humprey Bogart, et al, without thinking about the residents of The Garden and wondering how Gwendolyn, Katherine and Marcus would feel about how their movies have stood the test of time and what Hollywood has become over the years… Please tell me there is a fourth book on the way.