look-alike makeups: Alla Nazimova

Alla Nazimova (1879–1945)

Alla Nazimova (1879–1945) was an American theatre and film actress, scriptwriter, and producer: she made her Broadway debut in 1906 and left the movie business in the mid-1920s.

Born in Yalta, Mariam Edez Adelaida Leventon was the third child in an abusive, contentious household. Most of her sad childhood was spent in foster homes or in the care of other relatives and she showed a strong penchant for outrageous behavior to cope.

She began acting lessons at age seveteen and joined Konstatin Stanislavsky’s company of actors as a pupil of his ‘method style’ at the Moscow Art Theatre. During that time she supported herself by being kept by rich, older men. She changed her name to Alla Nazimova when she began appearing on stage at the insistence of her father to protect the family name, as ‘performing’ was not considered respectable at the time.

After touring Europe She moved to New York in 1905 and built a successful career on Broadway. She made her screen debut with War Brides in 1916, while maintaining a strong theatrical career.

With her rise in the film industry, she began producing her own efforts which were bold and experimental – and monumental failures at the time. The Hays Code along with her outmoded acting style forced her to abandon films for the theatre. She returned to the cinema briefly in the 1940s in a variety of supporting roles.

She lived an equally grand, flamboyant life off-camera and her private life was the subject of much industry gossip.

The portrayals

Return to Babylon (2012): Coming soon …

Face Forward (2000): Here she was portrayed by Isabella Rossellini in a photoshoot – with a lot of help from the late Kevyn Aucoin.

Valentino (1977): Featuring Leslie Caron. Coming soon …