July 01, 2003

Vera Kholodnaya

Vera Kholodnaya, a legend of Russian silent film, made her debut on the silver screen in 1915, when she was 22. She died just three years later, in February, 1919. Despite her tragically short career, she acted in more than 50 films (only five have survived to our day), and nonetheless became a world-famous movie star.

Kholodnaya was admired in all circles of society and was called “The Queen of the Screen.” But her success cannot be explained by her beauty alone; there were many more beautiful actresses at the time. The films she starred in were mostly banal melodramas where a suffering and soulful heroine succumbed to passions that led to her ruin. And yet, the moment this small, intense woman with tragic grey eyes and a mop of black hair appeared on the screen, she commanded attention. Her contemporaries saw her as the symbol of their era: she dictated fashions; Alexander Vertinsky dedicated his romances to her; her very name epitomized fame, beauty and talent.

Kholodnaya was born 110 years ago, on August 9, 1893, in Poltava. Her father, Vasily Levchenko, was a school teacher. Her mother nicknamed her “Poltava Dumpling,” because of her hearty appetite. She was a talented child and for some time attended classes at the Bolshoi Ballet School. At 17, she married Vladimir Kholodny, a young lawyer who had an unusual passion: he loved to compete in auto races (even Vera became interested in them). She gave up racing in 1912, when their daughter Zhenya was born. The doctors forbade Kholodnaya from having more children and a year later the Kholodnys adopted another girl, named Nonna.

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