We recently heard from Mari Lyn Henry, founder of the Society for the Preservation of Theatrical History which stemmed out of her many years of research and advocacy on behalf of forgotten artists who had a major impact on the development of theatre, especially in New York. It brings together historical scholarship on the people, circumstances and societal forces that shaped the modern era and allows these innovative and important voices to be heard again by today’s audiences.
She wanted to share with us a couple of mementos that she acquired through researching the life and career of Alla Nazimova. This photo and letter come from Harry Ellerbe who co-starred on Broadway with Nazimova in a 1936 production of Ibsen’s Ghosts.
This is a rare first-hand account of what it was like to work with Nazimova. She really does sound extraordinary…not that we expected anything less.
Harry Ellerbe’s listed on the Broadway Internet Database.
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.”
Nazimova was a member of the original cast of Eugene O’Neill’s play Mourning Becomes Electra when it opened on Broadway in October 1931. She played Christine Mannon to Lee Baker’s Brig.-Gen. Mannon during the Broadway run, and was photographed at the Vandamm Studios.