Alt Film Guide
Classic movies. Gay movies. International cinema. Socially conscious & political cinema.
Home Classic MoviesSilent Movies Vera Kholodnaya: ‘Queen of Russian Cinema’ Returns

Vera Kholodnaya: ‘Queen of Russian Cinema’ Returns

4 minutes read

Silent movie Star Vera Kholodnaya
Vera Kholodnaya.

Russian silent movie star remembered: Vera Kholodnaya

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

Vera Kholodnaya, Russia’s top female movie star of the 1910s, will be brought back to the fore thanks to a Moscow theater’s silent film series, reports the Moscow Times. Beginning on November 23, 2005, four of Kholodnaya’s five extant films – including three made prior to the Russian Revolution – will be screened at the Illyuzion Theater: Yevgeni Bauer’s Children of the Century (1915) and A Life for a Life a.k.a. Her Sister’s Rival (1916), Pyotr Chardynin’s Mirages (1916), and Chardynin and Cheslav Sabinsky’s Be Silent, Sorrow, Be Silent (1918). The only missing title will be Sabinsky’s A Corpse Living (1918), based on Tolstoy’s The Living Corpse. (Image: Vera Kholodnaya ca. 1917.)

In Children of the Century / Deti veka, Vera Kholodnaya (born on August 5, 1893, in Poltava, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire) plays a clerk’s wife who is pursued by a wealthy suitor. Mirages / Mirazhi, which will be presented with a new score by the St. Petersburg electronic duo Yolochniye Igrushki, stars Kholodnaya as a young woman seduced (and later disillusioned) by the callow son of her wealthy patron. In A Life for a Life / Her Sister’s Rival / Zhizn za zhizn, she is one of two sisters in love with the same heavily indebted prince. And Be Silent, Sorrow, Be Silent / Molchi, grust… molchi has the actress as a circus artist married to an alcoholic acrobat while wooed by a wealthy admirer.

Carmen Video, which is sponsoring the Vera Kholodnaya film series, is releasing the four titles on DVD for the first time. According to a spokesperson for the company, the films haven’t been “fully restored” because of cost issues.

Death at the peak of fame

A victim of the Spanish flu pandemic, Vera Kholodnaya died at the age of 26 – at the peak of her fame – on Feb. 17, 1919, in Odessa. Various rumors had it that Kholodnaya was killed by the Bolsheviks or by a lover who believed her to be a Bolshevik spy. According to online sources, her husband, car racer and sports news editor Vladimir Kholodny, died two months after her.

Now, Vera Kholodnaya hasn’t quite achieved the same legendary or semi-legendary status as other movie stars who met with an early death, e.g., Rudolph Valentino, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Gérard Philipe, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood. And that’s probably because the overwhelming majority of her films is now lost. (The IMDb lists only about a dozen Vera Kholodnaya movies, though other sources state that her list of credits range between 50 and 100 titles.)

Yet, Kholodnaya’s life served as the inspiration for Nikita Mikhalkov’s 1975 drama A Slave to Love / Raba lyubvi, starring Elena Solovey as silent movie superstar Olga Nikolayevna Voznesenskaya, and she was the subject of Oleg Kovalov’s 1992 documentary Island of the Dead / Ostrov myortvykh. Additionally, Vera Kholodnaya had her image issued on a postage stamp in the early ’90s, while a life-size bronze statue in her honor was unveiled in Odessa in 2003.

Mohamed Malas’ Passion Controversy

The Morocco Times has reported Syrian director Mohammed Malas’ complaints that filmmaking in Syria “is a sector which is still governed by the State. This means that we produce no more than two films a year. The private sector doesn’t invest in the Cinema, which leads many directors, including me, to seek foreign production and assistance.” At the Marrakech International Film Festival, where Malas’ Bab El Makam / Passion tied with Jean-Marc Vallée’s Canadian dramedy C.R.A.Z.Y. for the second jury prize, the director also told reporters that government authorities have prevented his film from reaching Syrian screens, though the Syrian Cinema General Establishment has denied the accusation.

Bab El Makam offers a highly critical view of a rabidly patriarchal society. In the film, Amine (Salwa Jamil) is a Syrian woman whose passion for music becomes her fall. In traditional Islamic society, a respectable woman equals a silent woman – but Amine refuses to abide by such rules. Rather than live in dishonor, her own family decides to do away with her.

Pamela Duncan dies

In other news: Pamela Duncan, 73, died at the Lillian Booth Actors’ Home in Englewood, New Jersey, on Nov. 11.

Duncan, who had minor roles in about a dozen films in the 1950s, reached the apex of her film career in two 1957 Roger Corman flicks: the science-fiction cult classic Attack of the Crab Monsters and the now mostly forgotten The Undead, both co-starring Richard Garland.

Duncan was also featured in Chuck Braverman and Steve Kalafer’s short documentary Curtain Call (2000), about performers living at the Lillian Booth Actors’ Home, which was nominated for an Academy Award.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, she also appeared in numerous television shows, including Maverick and Perry Mason.

Recommended for You

Leave a Comment

*IMPORTANT*: By using this form you agree with Alt Film Guide's storage and handling of your data (e.g., your IP address). Make sure your comment adds something relevant to the discussion: Feel free to disagree with us and write your own movie commentaries, but *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative. Abusive, inflammatory, spammy/self-promotional, baseless (spreading mis- or disinformation), and just plain deranged comments will be zapped. Lastly, links found in submitted comments will generally be deleted.

1 comment

Manuel -

I have seen two of Vera’s film in New York’s Museum Of Modern Art and have “A life for a Life” on video. I truly enjoyed her films. Question: How Can we get these videos here in New York? And sure hope that her autobiography video will be release here as well with English subtitles. Thank you and kind regards.


This website uses cookies to improve your experience. If you continue browsing, that means you've accepted our Terms of Use/use of cookies. You may also click on the Accept button on the right to make this notice disappear. Accept Privacy Policy