Monday, August 8, 2016
I made this video tribute to film star Pola Negri (1897-1987) several years ago. It is accompanied by her singing the Tango Notturno from the 1937 German film of the same title. (full-screen viewing is best)
Polish-born Negri exemplifies the sultry, exotic, mysticism of the silent film era. She was not only a Hollywood film star, but also made motion pictures in Poland, Germany, and England. Although the height of her popularity was during the silent era, she made numerous successful European talkies. Negri's career fizzled by the late 1930's but she emerged from obscurity in 1964 to appear in one final film, The Moon-Spinners (with Hayley Mills).
When I lived in California and wrote articles for movie magazines, I admittedly knew very little about Pola Negri except for the old rumors that had persisted through the years. She was supposedly nothing more than a vapid vamp, whose greatest talent was that of generating publicity.
When Rudolph Valentino died in 1926, Negri threw a well-publicized hysterical fit at his funeral. Her enthusiastic display of tears and swooning seemed to be the highlight of her acting career. Pola claimed that she and Valentino had been secretly engaged shortly before his death. Much later, In her declining years, she admitted that the "engagement" had been a publicity stunt and she was never in love with him.
It wasn't until I finally saw some of Pola Negri's films that my negative opinion of her completely changed. She was an impressive actress, with an alluring persona and obvious intelligence. I never knew that she could sing until I saw her in Mazurka (1935) and her vocal skills surprised me.
Negri's expressive, sultry singing style is the epitome of the Berlin cabaret era and reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich. Ironically, Dietrich was supposed to star in the film Tango Notturno but was replaced by Pola Negri.
Marlene Dietrich was a superb cabaret performer - - much more potent on stage than she was in films. Although it's difficult to compare the two, I feel that Pola Negri was the better singer - - more polished and vocally sophisticated. Her performance of Tango Notturno is intoxicating.
Incidentally, Tango Notturno was written by the German film composer Hans-Otto Borgmann.
When I just tried the video it wouldn't play for some reason. If it doesn't work you can find it on my YouTube channel, which is JayveeSonata.