A Life in the Gossip Columns

The silent movie actress Pola Negri was one of Hollywood's first imports, after she achieved stardom in German films. But German imports were risky in the aftermath of World War I, so the Famous Players-Lasky studio was very careful to craft her public persona in terms Americans would go for. The Polish girl was supposedly the daughter of an aristocratic mother and a gypsy father who endured persecution from partisan armed forces before funding success in Germany. There was also her seduction of a Count which left her with a handy title after the brief marriage. Negri embraced the Hollywood publicity machine and used it throughout her career. It began with the "fish out of water" stories of her arrival at the American studio, which pitted Negri against megastars Mary Pickford and Gloria Swanson.

And then there was the business of the cats. When Negri arrived on the Famous Players-Lasky lot, it was swarming with cats. According to the gossip columns, Negri was superstitious, and thought cats—and especially a roaming pack of cats—were bad luck. (I feel you, girl. I feel you.) So she did what any top star would do: she demanded they be taken away. LITTLE DID SHE KNOW: those cats were Gloria’s cats. Gloria’s cats! I mean, she didn’t own them, per se, but they were “her wards”—she took on a cluster of them early on, and then they just kept multiplying. Did it spark an actual fight? Probably not. But the fan mags loved it: “When Miss Swanson heard of the request of Miss Negri, there were some sizzling things said—some crisp messages exchanged in words that crackled. The cats are still there.”

The gossip columns and fan magazines followed Negri's romances diligently, particularly her "engagements" to Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino, as well as romances with various co-stars. Most of the stories were manufactured, if not by the studios, them by Negri herself. The climax of her tabloid notoriety was the death of Valentino, the "love of her life," in 1926 -which was contradicted by her marriage to a prince a few months later. Read the entire fascinating account at The Hairpin. -via Metafilter


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