Natacha Rambova

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Natacha Rambova : biography

January 19, 1897 – June 5, 1966

Rambova took on teaching design and selling some of her jewelry. She wound up earning more than Valentino, who had notoriously bad contract deals.Leider, Emily. "Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino" page 140 She next designed for a film Nazimova wrote titled, A Doll’s House. By 1922 Rambova had left Metro to join Nazimova on her artistic productions.Leider, Emily. "Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino" page 199 Valentino negotiated a slightly better contract and was now earning more than Rambova. Rambova’s designs for Salome were based on drawings by Aubrey Beardsley for Oscar Wilde’s version. In addition to costume design, Rambova contributed to the film’s scenario under the alias "Peter M. Winters". The film cost $350,000 to make and flopped at the box office. It was one of Nazimova’s last releases. It was also the last film Nazimova and Rambova would work on together.

Early years

Rambova was born Winifred Shaughnessy in Salt Lake City. Her father, Michael Shaughnessy, was an Irish Catholic who fought for the Union during the American Civil War. Her mother, Winifred Kimball, was nicknamed "Muzzie" and was a granddaughter of Mormon leader Heber C. Kimball.Leider, Emily. "Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino" page 128 Her father was a businessman who partook in mining interests, but eventually his alcohol and gambling problems became too much for her mother. Her mother became an interior designer and moved to San Francisco. She was married four times (Michael was her second husband), eventually settling on millionaire perfume mogul Richard Hudnut. Rambova was adopted by her stepfather, making her legal name Winifred Hudnut. Before her marriage to Hudnut, Rambova’s mother married Edgar De Wolfe, brother of Elsie De Wolfe, a prominent interior decorator. With this marriage her mother became socially successful and wealthy. Rambova was rebellious, and mocked her stepfather for being passive. She was sent home from a boarding school for "conduct unbecoming of a lady". She was sent to a strict British boarding school, where she learned ballet, French, drawing, and studied mythology.Leider, Emily. Dark Lover, ibid., p. 130

Acting career

As a peace offering, Ullman offered Rambova $30,000 to create a film of her own choosing. Rambova began work on What Price Beauty? which she wrote, produced, and appeared in. Nita Naldi starred, and a small part was given to future film star Myrna Loy in her first screen appearance.Leider, Emily. "Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino" page 330-331 The film ran over budget, costing $100,000 and received limited and delayed release. It is now lost.

After her divorce from Valentino began, Rambova produced and starred in another picture, Do Clothes Make the Woman?. She had brought forty trunks back from Europe for the picture and would act opposite Clive Brook. Eventually it was retitled to When Love Grows Cold much to Rambova’s horror. Rambova was reportedly so upset that the distributor promoted the film with her name as "Mrs. Valentino" that she never acted in film again.Leider, Emily. "Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino" page 351 Most of the film is lost except small fragments from a promotional trailer. After Valentino’s death, Rambova appeared on stage via vaudeville and Broadway. She wrote an unproduced play, All that Glitters, supposedly detailing her life with Valentino, although by the end of the play there is a happy ending and the couple reconcile.Leider, Emily. "Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino" page 410

Later career

Rambova opened an elite couture shop on Fifth Avenue in 1927. She urged women to express themselves through fashion. She would later close the shop after meeting her second husband in 1934.Leider, Emily. "Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino" page 411 With her husband in Mallorca, Rambova began a business of buying up old villas and modernizing them for tourists; a venture she financed with her inheritance from her stepfather who had died in 1928.