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CHALUPEC, BARBARA APOLLONIA

CHALUPEC, BARBARA APOLLONIA (1894?–1987). Barbara Apollonia Chalipec [pseud. Pola Negri], screen actress, was born in Janowo, Poland, the daughter of a Hungarian tinsmith and his wife. She was evidently born on December 31, 1894, though she occasionally gave her birth year as 1897 or 1899. Pola was her childhood nickname, shortened from Apollonia; Negri she later took as her stage name after Italian poetess Adah Negri, her girlhood idol. As a youth she attended the boarding school of Countess Platen in Warsaw and studied at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg before entering the Philharmonia Drama School in Warsaw.

Negri made her stage debut in 1913 in Gerhardt Hauptmann's Hannele in Warsaw and appeared the following year in her first film, Niewolnica Zmyslow. Her stage work attracted the attention of Alexandr Hertz, a pioneer Polish film producer, who made several of her earliest films. She also starred in Max Reinhardt's pantomime play Sumurun in Warsaw, and in 1917, at Reinhardt's urging, she continued the role in Berlin. After World War I she appeared in a series of German films, including Carmen and Madame DuBarry (Passion) both directed by Ernst Lubitsch. The two films subsequently became major hits in the United States. Offers began to pour in from Hollywood, and in 1922 Negri signed a contract with Famous Players-Lasky (later Paramount). Her arrival in New York was greated with great fanfare, and she quickly rose to stardom in such films as Forbidden Paradise (1924) and Hotel Imperial (1927). Known for her fiery temperament and her exotic looks, she became the prototypical "vamp" of 1920s Hollywood. She was romantically linked with Charlie Chaplin, and carried on a well-publicized affair with Rudolph Valentino, which lasted until his death in 1926.

With the advent of talkies in the late 1920s Negri's Hollywood career faltered, and in the early 1930s she returned to Europe. She made one film in France, Fanatisme (1934), before signing a contract with German film studio UFA in 1935. She made several well-regarded films in those years, including Mazurka (1935), Moskou-Shanghai (1937), and Madame Bovary (1937). She fled Germany after the outbreak of World War II, settled briefly in France, then sailed for the United States in 1940. Her arrival in New York was clouded by unfounded charges that she had had an affair with Hitler. She eventually cleared her name and attempted to make a comeback in Hollywood, but made only two films thereafter, Hi Diddle Diddle (1943) and The Moonspinners (1964).

In 1957 Negri moved to San Antonio with her longtime friend, Margaret West, who was from a prominent family of the city. They lived for a time in a suite in the Menger Hotel and later in a large home in Olmos Park. In her later years Negri lived in semiseclusion. She served on the board of directors for the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra and the San Antonio Little Theater. She was married twice, first to Polish count Eugene Domski in the late 1910s and in 1927 to Prince Serge Mdivani; both marriages ended in divorce. Pola Negri died of a brain tumor in San Antonio on August 2, 1987, and was buried in Los Angeles. She donated her personal library to Trinity University in San Antonio and gave a large collection of memorabilia, including several rare prints of her early films, to St. Mary's University there. She also left a large portion of her estate to St. Mary's, which established a scholarship in her name.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Vol. 3. Pola Negri, Memoirs of a Star (New York: Doubleday, 1970). Texas Parade, October 1973.

Christopher Long

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Christopher Long, "CHALUPEC, BARBARA APOLLONIA," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fchtm), accessed April 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.