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Jewelry, née Knipper. A niece of Knipper-Chekhova

Last Updated 2012-05-14 - 09:26:03 (CET)
Opposite : Olga Chekhova as a femme fatale, Berlin, 1928.The influence of Russian actors on German cinematography was profound. An interest in exotic Slavic beauty and the secrets of the Russian soul, warmed by the Berlin euphoria for everything unusual, brought a bevy of Russian beauties to German silent films. The most vivid and extended career belongs to Olga Konstantinovna Chekhova, née Knipper. A niece of Knipper-Chekhova, the talented Olga visited the Moscow Art Theater's First Studio, where she met and married the outstanding actor Mikhail Chekhov. In 1921 she divorced her husband and moved to Germany, where she lived the rest of her life. She began her career in German film in 1922. She made silent films, gradually transforming herself from a modest Russian maiden to a femme fatale sex symbol of a turbulent era. Her photogenic quality was appreciated--thousands of photos of Olga Chekhova were printed by the Berlin publishing house Ross in those years.Chekhova's fame crossed borders: in the late 1920s the Ara fashion house in Paris, founded by Armenian émigrés, began dressing her, attracted by her fame. She mastered German fully and continued making films and acting on stage even during the Hitler era, when most Russian émigrés had left Berlin. In the war years her closeness to Hitler, Goebbels, and particularly Ribbentrop was exploited by the Kremlin, as seen in numerous documents. A "Top Secret" report from Berlin in 1945 praising herOpposite : Advertisements in the magazine Zhar-ptitsa for Berlin jewelry stores opened by Russian émigrés, 1922.to KGB chief Lavrenti Beria read: "For many years she played a dangerous game without being unmasked by the vigilant Gestapo. Only in the very last days, when the Red Army was fighting within the limits of Berlin, was her chauffeur arrested, and she managed to escape from the Gestapo at the last moment." 10In the late 1930s the far-sighted Chekhova began a new career, moving into the world of beauty and cosmetics. In 1937 she received a certificate in cosmetology in Paris and then founded a cosmetics firm under her name, manufacturing face creams and the perfumes "Chapitre," "Deuxieme Chapitre," "Dushenka," and "Theorema."In the late 1920s there were not many Russian actresses in silent films in Germany who could, like Chekhova, continue their careers in sound films. But the popularity of Russians in Berlin film was so high that the Viking Film Studio brought to Germany films from Ermolayev's Albatross Studio in Montreuil, outside Paris. This unique, purely Russian studio was known for its high quality, thanks to the sparkle of its stars and the lushness of its productions. Berliners loved Turjansky 1922 film, Thousand and One Nights, with cos-tumes and sets in the Diaghilev style. The stars of this bright, entertaining film were the charming Natalya Kowanko as Princess Fulkhanar and the handsome Nikolai Rimsky as Prince Soliman.Also quite popular in Berlin was a film made in Russia, Yakov Protazanov's Father Sergius, starring Ivan Mosjoukine, Nathalie Lissenko, and Vladimir Gaidarov. Russian themes were of great interest to decadent Berlin, whose studios hired an entire group of pretty and shapely Russian film actresses, including Olga Belaieff, Elisabeth Pinajeff, Lida Salmonowa, Vera Voronina, Xenia Desni, Lya Mara, and Nina Vanna. The most famous in Germany was Xenia Desni (Xenia Alexandrovna Desnitskaya),Bedding, who was selected beauty queen of the Russian colony in Berlin in 1926 and 1927. The beautiful Nina Vanna (Nina Yevgenyevna Yazykova) worked in 1926 at the German Ufa studio and then continued her career in England, where she became more famous.An invaluable witness of the "Russification" of Berlin, the dancer and choreographer Nikolai Beriozoff, who died inBelow : Natalya Kowanko in a fur coat with fur trim in a publicity film still from the Albatross Studios, Paris, 1924.Right : Olga Belaieff in a satin coat trimmed with monkey fur, Berlin, 1925. The interest in African-American jazz prompted designers to use exotic African furs--leopard, zebra, and monkey--as well as the traditional Russian and European ones.Opposite left : Varvara Annenkova, a Russian dramatic actress, Berlin 1923. Photo by A. Binder.Opposite, below left: An advertisement in the magazine Zhar-ptitsa for the Aronov and Kizarno fur shop in Berlin, 1922.Opposite, below right: Pola Negri (Barbara Chalupets), a silent-film star, in a "Russian" fur coat, hat, and white "Cossack" boots. Berlin, 1923. This à la boyar style was particularly popular in the winter seasons of 1922-24.'dressed à la Russe or à la Cossack. But that was not to last for long: a man with a fanatic's grimace was already on the rise to power--Adolf Hitler." 11It is impossible to list every Russian restaurant in Berlin in those days. In Wilmersdorf the Caucasian Alaverdy Restaurant opened with the enchanting Ionesco choir, and the Bear restaurant offered Berliners "borsch with buckwheat kasha at any time of day,Tablet PC/MID," hot pirozhki, and meat, cabbage, and fish pies. Dinner at the Bear was accompanied by the gypsy songs of K. L. Istomina. The chorus of I. F. Gill, formerly a soloist of the court orchestra, performed at the RussianGerman Restaurant every evening.
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