Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Olga Baclanova - The Russian Tigress

Born Olga Vladimirovna Baclanova,later billed as the Russian Tigress in her early talking films, was born August 19, 1896. She graduated from the Cherniavsky Institute in Moscow prior to her selection in 1912 at age 16 to apprentice at the Moscow Art Theatre. During her early years at M.A.T. (1914-1918) she appeared in perhaps 18 films bringing her into contact with Tourjansky, Boleslawski and M. Chekov among others. Her last Russian film, Bread (1918) was the first communist agitprop vehicle. From 1917 she appeared in the "classics" on the parent stage and at the M.A.T. First Studio. Her mentor, Nemirovich-Danchenko, showcased her in avant-garde productions of the newly created M.A.T. Musical Studio from 1920-1925. She was honored with the Worthy Artist Of The Republic by the Soviet regime.

Eight months after her M.A.T. New York debut in December 1925, she declined to return with the M.A.T. company to Russia and subsequently defected. She was noticed by the Hollywood studios while performing on stage in Los Angeles in The Miracle in the role of the nun. Her film debut was a bit in The Dove (1927). Her dramatic Portrayals in The Man Who Laughs (1928), Street of Sin (1928), The Docks of New York (1928) and Forgotten Faces (1928) brought her critical acclaim in 1928. Her subsequent vamp/tramp roles in early Paramount and Fox talking films nearly destroyed her promising start. Stagey mannerisms and a heavy accent relegated her to supporting roles. She appeared to advantage in three films at MGM including the infamous Freaks (1932) with an unrestrained and legendary performance. ..more

Olga Baclanova in a scene from Tod Browning's
1932 cult classic

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