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.”
Inge Gregusch, editor of Creme de la Creme: film, fashion & frivolity, has published a wonderful essay with photos on Alla Nazimova’s “Camille,” one of the last movies Nazimova made for Metro Pictures, and the first and only film she made with Rudolph Valentino.
Gregusch also published a biographical sketch of Natacha Rambova, the scene and costume designer Nazimova discovered, whose imprint on “Camille,” “Salome” and other productions is indelible. Rambova was to become Valentino’s second wife, after Jean Acker, who was also a protegee of Nazimova, and whom he married in 1919.
You’ll also find stills from “Camille” here on the Society’s site.