Author Topic: A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?  (Read 24331 times)

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Offline Parpar

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A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?
« on: August 22, 2013, 06:38:59 PM »
In 1924, New York artist Albert Victor Ballin (1861-1932) moved to Los Angeles. He had written several screenplays, none of which were produced. Undeterred, he hoped to find good work as an actor. About the only work he could find was as an extra, and he contributed several amusing reports to the Silent Worker, a popular Deaf-community newsletter/magazine published at New Jersey School for the Deaf, about his adventures. A witty, erudite, and outspoken writer, Ballin published a semi-autobiographical book, The Deaf-Mute Howls, in 1930; it was pretty much ignored, but has taken on the status of a classic. Gallaudet University issued a reprint in 1998. His writings provide an insightful glimpse of Hollywood just before and after it was indelibly changed by the "talkies."

In his account, "The Life of a Lousy Extra" in the June 1928 issue of the Silent Worker, he mentions meeting interesting folks from all walks of life. A quotation:

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Among the extra I daily meet mot wonderful people from all stations and social ranks; authors, artists, ex-bankers who went afoul of luck. One I met is a true-to-goodness princess of the late Czar’s household. She disguised herself as a wretched peasant and escaped to America after her whole family was massacred. With calm philosophy she accepts the inevitable whirligig of the wheel of fortune; goes through her stunts as an extra calmly and waits patiently for the turn of the wheel.

***
Naturally, I was curious to know just who this princess might be . . . one of the Yussopovs? Or a genuine Romanov? I am familiar with the Anna Anderson story, but she never claimed to have found work as a Hollywood extra at an average of $5 a day . . . leastways, I don't think so!

Can any6one identify her for me?

Offline Svetabel

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Re: A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2013, 01:45:10 AM »
Of the late Tzar's household? So that could be not exactly a Romanov but ANY noble woman from any Noble family from Russia.
 

Offline amelia

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Re: A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2013, 07:22:28 AM »
Could it be Natalia Paley? Eva

Offline Forum Admin

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Re: A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2013, 09:22:10 AM »
I grew up in Los Angeles, among many people in the Motion Picture business.  Harold Lloyd and Mary Pickford, Chaplin and Groucho Marx will all alive.  I met Pickford and Groucho myself as a kid.  I have never ever heard mention of any Imperial Princess being an extra in the early days.  What I have learned, however, through our websites and this Forum, is that a great many Russian emigres became "self granted nobility in exile".  I strongly suspect one of the extras "said" she was a Princess, while it was mostly likely not the case in fact.

Offline Parpar

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Re: A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2013, 10:39:40 AM »
Thanks for your responses. Amelia, I checked the Wikipedia entry on Natalie Paley. The problem with that identification is that she started her U.S. film career around 1933, having left France. By that time, Albert Ballin was dead. When he wrote his accounts about being a "lousy extra," Princess Paley was still in France, romancing, modeling. designing.

Still . . . an interesting character, non? I agree that some Russian émigrés may have granted themselves nobility . . . that's certainly a possibility!

Offline Ajimmo

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Re: A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2013, 07:25:01 AM »
All:  You couldn't be more a princess than Nathalia Paley, albeit morganatic.  Surely everyone here knows her history from GD Paul through her poet brother's death to her escape with her mother and sister to Paris through her marriage to Lucien Lelong, couturier. It has been said that she had a brief film career -- perhaps as an extra.  Tragic lives -- all lost for the Revolution which imploded after badly damaging the cultural history of Russia, only exchanging one power for another with a nice cawl of greed and self-interest, unbound from righteous behavior. 

Offline Rodney_G.

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Re: A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2013, 01:44:32 PM »
The quote from Ballin's story, " she disguised herself as a Russian peasant and escaped to America after her whole family was massacred" certainly suggests the  Anastasia(Anna Anderson) scenario. Certainly  it was all bogus, but it  did play well,  and may have been readily received , especially in that land of fantasy, Hollywood. I don't doubt that similar asserted identities opened many a door to opportunities of some kind or other.
Rodney G.

Offline Parpar

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Re: A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2017, 02:57:39 PM »
Just wanted to thank you all for your responses.

According to Robert K. Massie's The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, 17 other Romanovs were murdered, in addition to the Tzar, Tzaritsa, and their children (with a few faithful servants). The killings took place at different times, in different locations, from early 1918 to early 1919. (See beginning of Chapter 19, pp. 255-27.) A good number of Romanovs did manage to escape.

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2017, 05:39:36 AM »
As to self-granted nobility, George Orwell recounts in Down and Out in Paris in London that during his time in the kitchens of Paris hotels he worked with various White Russians, and there was a running joke which went as follows:

'See that dishwasher over there? Well, in Russia he was a Count. See that waiter over there? Well, in Russia he was a Prince. and see that little dog over there? In Russia he was a Great Dane.'

Ann

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: A Romanov duchess in Hollywood?
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2018, 07:38:46 PM »
In 1920s and 1930s Paris many of the taxi drivers were Russian. One wag said one of the qualifications to be a Taxi driver in Paris at this time was to a be a former general in the Russian Army!