FINA International Conference: Pola Negri and the Vicissitudes of Stardom

2017 was without doubt the year of Pola Negri, as we simultaneously celebrated the 120th anniversary of her birth, the 30th anniversary of her death, and the 100th anniversary of the premiere of ,,Bestia’’, the only surviving film from the early Polish stage of Negri’s career.

On this occasion, and in pursuit of its mission to preserve national cultural heritage, the National Film Archive-Audiovisual Institute undertook a restoration project of Bestia. The Polish re-premiere of the film will take place in April 2018 at the annual Silent Movie Festival (Święto Niemego Kina).

Pola Negri will be the main theme, the festival and an International Conference, which is being organized by FINA, with support of the film scholars from leading Polish universities, as well as in collaboration with the Giornate del Cinema Muto and the EYE Filmmuseum.  The conference will serve as a platform to exchange information on the latest research findings and to discuss and explore various aspects of Pola Negri’s career, including reflections on her legacy, as well as the people of her epoch who shaped her artistic education, and those who she have in turn influenced.

The announcement of the conference met with great interest. Academics from all over the world responded positively to our call for entries. In total thirty-four abstracts were received from which the Scientific Committee selected sixteen papers that bring on many new threads to the research into Pola Negri’s career and make a valuable contribution to the fields of film, theater, and dance studies in general.

The conference will begin with a lecture by Jay Weissberg, Artistic Director of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. On the second day of the conference the participants will have the opportunity to listen to keynote lectures by Elif Rogen, Curator at the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, and Malgorzata Radkiewicz, Professor at the Institute of Media and Audio Visual Arts at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow.

Participation in the Conference is free of charge.



9:00–10:00 registration

10:00–10:10 welcome

10:10–11:20 panel 1 | A star is born

  1. Opening Keynote: Jay Weissberg, Pola Negri and the Vicissitudes of Stardom (30 min)
  2. Łukasz Biskupski, Strategies of Affiliation. The Early Business Strategies of the Sfinks Movie Studio (20 min)
  3. Clea Wanner, The Russian Asta Nielsen. Pola Negri in the mirror of Russian cinema culture during the First World War (20 min)

11:20 –11:40  summary, Q&A

11:40 –12:10  coffee break

12:10 –13:10  panel 2 | Citizen Negri 

  1. Katarzyna Bogucka, The image of Pola Negri in the Polish Industry Press in the Interwar period (20 min)
  2. Agnieszka Cieślak, Pola Negri`s Image in the American Press Between 1920 and 1922 (20 min)
  3. Bernadette Hamilton-Brady, Crafting Pola Negri's Portraiture from her Twilight Years (1957-1987) (20 min)

13:10–13:30 summary, Q&A

13:30–14:30 lunch


14:30–15:30  panel 3 | Dangerous Liaisons 

  1. David Melville Wingrove, Dancing the Mazurka - Stardom and Subversion in Third Reich Cinema (20 min)
  2. Kris Van Heuckelom, From “Mania” (1918) to “Mazurka “(1935): Pola Negri's Polishness through a German Lens (20 min)
  3. Matt Rosen, In league with the devil himself: Pola Negri, stardom and Lubitsch kabbalah (20 min)

15:30–15:50 summary, Q&A

10:00–11:20  panel 1 | A Woman of the World

  1. KEY SPEAKER Elif Rongen, The Rediscovery of a Film that Was Never Lost: ”The Spanish Dancer” (30 min)
  2. KEY SPEAKER Małgorzata Radkiewicz, Pola Negri – The  "New Woman" with a Tattoo (30 min)
  3. Monika Weychert, A Romani playing a Gypsy  (20 min)


11:20–11:40 summary, Q&A


11:40–12:10  coffee break


12:10–13:10 panel 2 | Pola, the Polish Dancer 

  1. Marta Seredyńska, “Swan Lake”; “ Coppelia”; “ Maidens’ Vows” – Ballet and Theater Beginnings of Pola Negri ‘s career in Warsaw (20 min)
  2. Małgorzata Leyko, All loved her. Pola Negri  in Max Reinhardt and “Sumurun. One Arabian Night” Ernst Lubitsch  (20 min)
  3. Michał Pieńkowski, Pola Negri as a singer (20 min)


13:10 – 13:30 summary, Q&A

13:30 – 14:30 lunch

14:30 – 15:30 panel 3 | Looking for Pola Negri

  1. Grzegorz Rogowski, Towards Modernity—Reconstructing Life in Turn of the Century Warsaw, as Seen Through the Eyes of Pola Negri in “The Polish Dancer” (20 min)
  2. Magdalena Boczkowska, Pola Negri’s Sosnowiec  Episode- Between Facts and Self-Aggrandizement  (20 min)
  3. Mariusz Guzek, Pola Negri The Rowdy Comedienne.The Bydgoszcz Legend of Pola Negri (20 min)


15:30 – 15:50 summary, Q&A

15:50 – 16:00 closing the conference


The conference Scientific Committee

Karolina Brzozowska (FINA)
Barbara Giza, Prof. (SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities/FINA)
Paulina Haratyk (FINA)
Michał Oleszczyk, Ph.D. (Warsaw University)
Małgorzata Radkiewicz, Prof. (Jagiellonian University)
Grzegorz Rogowski (FINA)
Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi (EYE Filmmuseum)
Monika Talarczyk-Gubała, Prof. (Lodz Film School)
Katarzyna Wajda (FINA)
Jay Weissberg (Pordenone Silent Film Festival)
Elżbieta Wysocka, Ph.D. (FINA) 

Organizing Commitee (FINA)

Karolina Brzozowska
Paulina Haratyk
Katarzyna Mikstal 
Michał Pieńkowski 
Grzegorz Rogowski
Katarzyna Wajda
Elżbieta Wysocka


Culture and film scholar. Associate Professor at the Department of Film Studies and Audiovisual Culture at the University of Gdańsk, attached to the department via the Fuga program of the National Science Center. Graduate of the film studies program at the University of Łódź, holds a doctoral degree in cultural studies from the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw. His work focuses on the transformations of visual culture as well as the history of cinema and popular culture. Author of multiple books, including the 2017 volumes “Straight from the Streets. Visual and Street Art in Times of Social Media and Participatory Culture” and “Involved Cinephilia. The ‘Start’ Art Film Enthusiast Society and the Spread of Film Culture in the 1930s,” as well as “Show City. The Birth of Mass Culture at the Turn of the 20th Century. The Place of Cinema Within the Entertainment Networks of Łódź,” published in 2013.


Strategies of Affiliation. The Early Business Strategies of the Sfinks Movie Studio

The presentation offers a transnational analysis of business strategies of Warsaw-based Sfinks company in its formative years. As such, it shows how small market players operated in Central and Eastern European film industries. Sfinks was arguably the most sustainable and successful film studio of the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939). The company itself (established in 1909) has already played an important role in the development of the nascent film industry in the region well before World War I. What strategies did Sfinks employ in its formative years in order to overcome its inferior position in domestic and international “entertainment networks,” and gain a competitive edge in a highly unfavorable environment? A detailed analysis shows that the most important modes of operation for such companies included horizontal and vertical affiliation.

Is the Curator of Silent film at EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. Since 1999, she has worked on the discovery, restoration and presentation of many presumed lost films. These include Beyond the Rocks (starring Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino, 1922), The Floor Below (starring Mabel Normand, 1918), Az utolsó hajnal (Michale Curtiz, 1917), various Rosa Porten films, and many more. Her curatorial work often concentrates around the overlooked contribution of women to the silent cinema. She is directly involved with the archival festivals Il Cinema Ritrovato, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto and Istanbul Silent Cinema Days, where she curated a special 'early dance films' compilation for the last edition.

The Rediscovery of a film that was never lost: THE SPANISH DANCER

The general impression about The Spanish Dancer today is that it is a mediocre Hollywood production. However the film was made with a big budget and with a wonderful cast and crew. At the time of first release in 1923 the reviews in the press, both in the US and abroad, were very positive. How come then the film received a bad reputation over the past decades?

As our research and restoration process demonstrates, this is because the film was abridged and re-released on 16mm Kodascope prints for home screenings. This 1930s version with added music had completely mutilated the otherwise very complex and enjoyable film. Although containing only about 60% of the original scenes, this version got screened for decades posing as The Spanish Dancer. In reality, it was so heavily shortened that the motivation of the characters was hard to understand and it was unclear if the film was meant to be a serious reconstruction of historical events at the Spanish Court, or the story of a gypsy dancer (as the title suggested), who seemed to be given curiously little screen time. The film was thus not even showing enough scenes of its star Pola Negri. Thus although the film was thought to be available all the time, the version that was screened did not do any justice to anyone involved with the production, including the top-billed stars.

Our reconstruction based mainly on two nitrate prints from the 1920s and the original continuity script from the studio archives reveals the film in the version it was first conceived of; a romantic comedy revolving around a complex palace intrigue. It also enables each and every actor to display their abilities, allowing them enough screen time and dialogues to fully develop their characters.

Graduate of the University of Wrocław’s Department of Journalism and Social Communication. A fellow at the Emigration Museum in Gdynia, Polish History Museum, and the Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek. Author of numerous history-themed articles and essays published in magazines and periodicals including “Ale Historia,” “Uważam Rze Historia,” and Rzeczpospolita. Currently works as a film scholar at the National Film Archive.

In his work, he’s focused on a variety of aspects of the Second Polish Republic. His book “Across the Atlantic Under a Polish Ensign” was nominated for the Oskar Halecki Prize in the Best Book on 20th Century Polish History category at the 2016 History Book of the Year contest, while his other volume, “Condemned to Obscurity. Polish Film Actresses Abroad,” was named Book of the Month in the April 2017 edition of the Magazyn Literacki “Książki”.  


Towards Modernity—Reconstructing Life in Turn of the Century Warsaw, as Seen Through the Eyes of Pola Negri in “The Polish Dancer”


Aleksander Hertz, the owner of the “Sfinks” movie studio, can easily be called the godfather of the Polish film industry. As he lay its foundations in early 20th century, he based his efforts primarily around copying the ideas of his Western counterparts but adapted to fit local realities. After all, the movies were supposed to be enjoyed chiefly by Polish audiences. But what were the needs of early 20th century Poles sitting in dim auditoria?

The psychoanalytic model of the cinema audience has been analyzed in-depth in the 1990s by Wiesław Godzic. In his book “Film and Psychoanalysis: the Problem of the Viewer” is an attempt to systematize the influence and impact a film has on the audience. Although there was no way Aleksander Hertz could be aware of that model as he helmed to the production of “The Polish Dancer,” he knew one thing well: the film will make profits only when it will manage to satisfy the viewers’ hidden desires.

To make sure that the 1917 title “The Polish Dancer” did just that, he used the eyes of Pola Negri, Poland’s biggest movie star, to portray a Warsaw that would entice the audience with its beauty, smug unavailability, and even a measure of immorality.

In-depth analysis of “The Polish Dancer” will allow us to isolate the needs and desires of early 20th century audiences and interpret the means employed by this particular movie to satisfy them. Beginning with the locations, intended to create the image of a beautiful, modern, and clean city, a reference to the rampant industrialization sweeping the continent at the turn of the century, we will eventually move to examine the societal change taking root in the capital, its many manifestations including an ever more explicit depictions of erotic content.

Was appointed director of the Giornate del Cinema Muto/Pordenone Silent Film Festival in 2015, having already curated programs at both Pordenone and Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna since 2009. In his first year as director, he organized a major retrospective of Polish silent cinema, introducing a larger scholarly audience to a number of previously undervalued works which have since been screened at a number of cinematheques and silent film showcases. More recently, he organized the small Pola Negri tribute at the 2018 Giornate, and has written widely on aspects of silent film. Since 2003 he has been a film critic for Variety, with a focus on festival premieres in Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.


Pola Negri and the Vicissitudes of Stardom

Put simply, Negri is a minefield. First, there’s the problem of her multi-national career, which no scholar has satisfactorily negotiated due to the need for familiarity with Polish, German, and English primary sources. Complicating matters, the destruction of Polish records during World War II means little documentation from this period remains. Added to this, Negri’s penchant for self-publicity fed the voracious Hollywood press machine but distorted the truth and far too often eclipsed her considerable talent. Her movies with Lubitsch are largely well-known and justly celebrated, yet the majority of films she made in the U.S. after emigrating in 1922 are understudied or lost. Diane Negra, in her 2001 essay on Negri, talks of the “failure of Negri’s American career,” an assessment that’s become received wisdom: film star Pola overshadowed film actress Pola, who became buried under an avalanche of continental exoticism and celebrity lovers. One need only glance at the titles of the two most recent biographies: Kotowski’s „Pola Negri: Hollywood’s First Femme Fatale” (English edition 2014) and Sergio Delgado’s „Pola Negri: Temptress of Silent Hollywood” (2016).  As Theodore Dreiser wrote, “Pola Negri is an outstanding example of the sacrifice of a star to commercialism.”

It’s long past time to reassess Negri’s talent, much as studies of the Italian divas, or Asta Nielsen, have claimed for those women authorial stature. Crucial to an understanding of Negri onscreen is to remember that she trained as a dancer.

Literary critic and cultural manager. Currently, the curator of the Zagłębiana section at Mediateka Zagłębiowska. Graduated from the University of Silesia in Katowice and the Warsaw School of Economics. Author of three academic monographs and over one hundred articles. Recipient of a scholarship from the Marshal of the Silesin Voivodship. Frequent contributor to “Twórczość,” Poland’s oldest literary magazine. Her recent work is focused on silent film and the cinema of the interwar period. Delivered multiple lectures at cultural institutions, libraries, and senior citizen universities on a number of stars, including Pola Negri, Bella Darvi, Eugeniusz Bodo, Aleksander Żabczyński, Franciszek Brodniewicz, Helena Grossówna.


Pola Negri’s Sosnowiec Episode—Between Facts and Self-Aggrandizement

W 2019 roku minie setna rocznica pierwszego ślubu Poli Negri, zawartego w Sosnowcu 5 listopada 1919 roku z hrabią Eugeniuszem Dąmbskim, szefem carskiej policji. W archiwum sosnowieckiej Bazyliki katedralnej zachował się zresztą akt ślubu z wymownym podpisem – Apolonia hrabina Dąmbska Chałupiec. O burzliwych początkach tego związku powstała nawet piosenka napisana przez Jacka Cygana, a śpiewana przez Beatę Rybotycką i Jacka Wójcickiego.

W swojej autobiografii Pamiętnik gwiazdy Negri dość szczegółowo opisuje pierwszego męża i czas spędzony w Sosnowcu. Co jednak ciekawe, zarówno z jej wspomnień, jak i z utrwalonych w powszechnej świadomości informacji ( w musicalu Polita) wyłania się zupełnie fałszywy obraz hrabiego i miasta. We wspomnieniach aktorka jest wielką kreatorką rzeczywistości, milczy o pewnych powszechnie znanych faktach, przeinacza, zmienia daty i miejsca wydarzeń, przedstawia wszystko tak, aby wypaść jak najlepiej – dlatego Polę można nazwać jedną z pierwszych celebrytek w historii, która  znakomicie potrafiła kreować własny wizerunek w oczach widzów.

Wystąpienie będzie poświęcone problemowi przekłamań w autobiografii Negri, a zwłaszcza postaci hrabiego Dąmbskiego, który dziś  jest właściwie zupełnie zapomniany, mimo że – paradoksalnie – miał spory wpływ na późniejszą karierę aktorki.

Next year, 2019, will mark the centenary of Pola Negri’s first wedding. On November 5, 1919, in St. Mary's Assumption Church in Sosnowiec, Negri married Count Eugeniusz Dąmbski. The original marriage certificate, still in church records, carries the the actress’ signature: Apolonia Countess Dąmbska Chałupiec. The relationship was explored by Jacek Cygan in a song he wrote for Beata Rybotycka and Jacek Wójcicki. In the book “The Memoirs of a Star,” Negri describes her first husband and the time she spent in Sosnowiec. Curiously, however, her memoirs and those details of her life that took root in the public consciousness (including those presented by the musical “Polita,” seem to completely misrepresent both the Count and the city. In the memoirs, the actress invents reality out of whole cloth, downplays well-known facts, misrepresents and changes the dates and locations of events, and portrays everything in order to paint herself in the best possible light—the skill with which she crafted her public image suggests that Negri could be seen as one of the first modern celebrities.       

The talk will focus on the misrepresentations and falsehoods in Negri’s biography, particularly those pertaining to the figure of Count Dąmbski who, despite the considerable influence he had on the actress’ career, is today consigned to near oblivion.

Graduate student at the Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź. Graduate of the Jan Długosz Academy of Artistic Education in Częstochowa, the Fashion Design Department at the Academy of Art in Łódź, and a postgraduate course in computer graphic design at the Higher School of Applied Computer Science and Management at the Polish Academy of Science in Warsaw. Also graduated from the Higher School of Linguistics in Warsaw. Involved with pedagogic efforts and graphic design, she also teaches English. Interested in painting and graphic design. In her free time, she likes to hike and visit historical monuments.

The Image of Pola Negri in the Polish Film Industry Press in the Interwar period 

The primary goal of this article is to present the image of Pola Negri in the Polish film industry press in the interwar period. It is also an attempt to interrogate the phenomenon of Pola Negri, born Apolonia Chałupiec, a child of Warsaw’s Powiśle district who grew up to become a bonafide a Hollywood star, and examine her contemporary perception. Polish film periodicals of the interwar period provided a broad range of details on the Polish-born silent movie star. Negri’s image was expertly crafted by artistic periodicals, fashion magazines, and promotional publications. The first mentions of Negri appeared in “Ekran” (1919), “Film Polski” (1923), and “Film” (1924). She later became a semi-permanent fixture in trade publications, such as “Ekran i Scena” (1923-1932) and “Kino dla Wszystkich” (1928-1934). The most details about her life could be gleaned from “Kino” (1930-1939), a popular magazine published in the 1930s, that is in the twilight years of the silent movie era and Pola Negri’s stardom. Interviews, film reviews, and features on the actress were written by high-caliber film journalists such as Leon Brun, and by writers hailing from film and cinema milieus, such as Paweł Hertz and Mieczysław Kwiatecki. The features covered not only Negri’s professional efforts (her acting craft and character creation), but also her private life, focusing on intimate details and potential marriage plans. Journalists also pondered the root causes of the popularity of the “exotic” star. Every role in Negri’s career evoked either admiration of withering criticism, which later often led to long discussions between film critics in the press. Reports from Hollywood, accounts of luxurious parties organized by film moguls that Negri took part in, and leaked details on the state of her finances aroused both jealousy and admiration in readers, but on the other hand stoked interest in her person, thus further driving her popularity.

Graduate student at the Institute of Musicology at the University of Warsaw. Focused on film scoring, especially on the role music played in the silent film era. During her 2016-2017 Fulbright scholar, she studied at the University of Pittsburgh.


Pola Negri’s Image in the American Press Between 1919 and 1922

Before Pola Negri came to Hollywood, American audiences had already acknowledged her acting talent. From Passion (Madame DuBarry)—the first German film to be screened in the US after World War I, through Gypsy Blood (Carmen), up to One Arabian Night (Sumurun)—titles directed by Fritz Lang won the hearts of viewers throughout the country and went straight to the top of the American box office.

Who exactly was Pola Negri, or Apolonia Chalupiec, in the eyes of the Americans? In my talk, I will focus on the image of the European silent movie star created by the American press of 1919-1922. I will investigate the distortions concerning her origins and European career, illustrate marketing strategies for movies she starred in, and examine their reception based on critics' reviews.

The presentation is rooted in a plethora of press sources, including the most important American film magazines and newspapers from the era, including “Motion Picture News,” “Moving Picture World,” “Motion Picture Magazine,” “Photoplay,” “Variety,” “Film Daily,” “New York Tribune,” “New York Herald,” and “Washington Herald.”


Assistant professor at the Institute of Political Science at Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz. Focused on regionalism (particularly the film culture of Bydgoszcz), the history of Polish cinema during the Great War and in the first five years after regaining independence; also interested in the film industries of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. Author of the books “Cinematic Bydgoszcz 1896-1939” (2004), and “What Do War and Cinematography Have in Common? Film Culture on Polish Territories 1914-1918” (2014), he also co-authored the monograph “War and the Military in the Work and Adaptations of Bolesław Prus” (2016). Co-editor of the volume “Polish Cinema During World War II” (2011). Wrote for “Przegląd Historyczny,” “Historyka,” “Czas Kultury,” “Przegląd Zachodniopomorski,” “Studia Językoznawcze,” “Kwartalnik Filmowy,” and “Przegląd Humanistyczny.”

Poli Negri The Rowdy Comedienne. The Bydgoszcz Legend of Pola Negri

The so-called Bydgoszcz episode in Pola Negri’s career took place between 1920 and 1922 when the city on the Brda served her as a way station between Warsaw and Berlin.

The movie star, however, weaved herself into the local color, so much so that she not only left behind a treasure trove of trivia and traces of her existence, she consistently emphasized her “affiliation” with Bydgoszcz in the press “bios” crafted and published for publicity’s sake as well as in the more critically-inclined biographies, such as the fairly unknown Douglas P. Howard and Hans Lefèbre volume “Pola Negri: From Bromberg to Hollywood” (Berlin-Vienna, 1928). Pola Negri also featured in many an urban legend and semi-official account; eventually, she became a person of interest for the local political police, whose officers were convinced that she was working for the Germans. At the villa purchased by Negri on Zamoyski Street, her mother, Eleonora née Kiełczewska, hosted a salon that became the premier spot for local socialites.

The talk will focus on the mythmaking efforts undertaken by Pola Negri and her milieu (Lech Orwicz-Brodziński, Eleonora Chałupcowa), as well the place that her has consistently occupied since the interwar period until now.


Assoc. Prof. Bernadette Hamilton-Brady is currently the Chair of the Drama Department at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas where she has been teaching for 30 years. She earned her M.F.A. in Acting from Virginia Commonwealth University.  Her expertise encompasses pedagogical applications at her campus, study-abroad in London, and production work in creativity, theatre, musical theatre and dance. Such work included her one-woman show on Pola Negri entitled His Polita in 2003. She has held professional memberships in Association for Theatre in Higher Education, United States Institute for Theatre Technology, and the American Association of University Professors.


Crafting Pola Negri’s Portraiture from Her Twilight Years (1957-1987)

Dialogue on Pola Negri’s legacy has been astute and copious in characterizing who she was. Numerous parties and publications have claimed to capture her intent, her influence, and her choices in life. What better sources to understand her than what she deliberately left behind in the Pola Negri Collection at St. Mary’s University and other San Antonio sources in her twilight years. Insights can be gained into her person based upon her own realistic retrospective of her life. The Collection contains materials from the years she lived in San Antonio, Texas (1957-1987) with some keepsake items dating from her life before then. The following original 16mm film reels in her personal possession were: Stagecoach , Carmen (also known as Gypsy Blood), Sumurum, Hotel Imperial, Mazurka, and Passion.  Her other possessions included works of art, the portrait of herself by Tade Styka, “Portrait of a Lady” by Sir Peter Lily, and “Roman Ruins” by Paninni’, all of which were donated to the San Antonio Museum Association as well as a bronze bust of herself by Jose Maria Sert to Trinity University. There are personal correspondence, news clippings and promotions, film career momentos, religious devotional materials, photographs, and personal effects. What is remarkable is that this Collection inspired this actress to research, write and perform a one-woman show on her entitled His Polita in October of 2003. That process, which included interviews with Fr. Louis Reile,S.M. of St. Mary’s University, provided an unique perspective in determining a deeper portraiture of Miss Negri, one that can contrast with the one created by the so-called ‘Hollywood publicity machine’.

PhD, professor at the Department of Theater and Drama at the University of Łódź. Her work is focused on German theater from the 19th and 20th century, Jewish theater in Poland, Polish-German theatrical relations, and early 19th century theories of theater. Published a number of monographs on the subject, including “Director of Mass Imagination. Max Reinhardt and His Theater For 5,000 People” (Łódź, 2002) and “Theater in the Land of Utopia” (2012), as well as a number of essays and treatises. Editor of collected volumes “The Jewish Stages of Łódź” (2000) and “Mass Theater—Theater for the Masses” (2011), and co-editor of a dozen books published in Poland and Germany. Translations from German comprise a considerable portion of her academic and scholarly output, including the translation of the Christopher Balme textbook “Introduction to Theater Science” (with W. Dudzik, 2003, 2nd edition 2005) and subsequent volumes published in the “Theatroteka” series: G. Fuchs’ “On the Stage of the Future” (2005), M. Reinhardt’s “On the Theater and the Actor” (2006), L. Tieck’s “On Wonder in Shakespeare” (2006), “Expressionism in German Theater” (with W. Dudzik, 2009), and O. Schlemmer’s “Experimental Bauhaus Stage” (2010).


All Loved Her.

Pola Negri in Max Reinhardt’s “Sumurun” and Ernst Lubitch’s “Sumurun. One Arabian Night”

“Sumurun”—a pantomime written by Friedrich Freksa was one of Max Reinhardt’s most recognizable works. After its premiere in 1910, the play grew so popular that it was repeatedly revived and later taken on tour across Europe and the United States. In the last revival under Reinhardt’s direction (1918), the lead role of the dancer was played by Pola Negri. That booking was undoubtedly secured by Ryszard Ordyński, Reinhardt’s assistant responsible for the revivals of “Sumurun” and taking the play on the road. When Ernst Lubitsch decided to shoot a film adaptation of the pantomime, later called “Sumurun. One Arabian Night” (1920), he gave the role of the dancer to Pola Negri, a frequent collaborator of his, choosing her from a group of actresses who have at one time of another played the part, a group that included renowned performer Leopoldine Konstantin.

In my talk, I’ll be discussing the seminal nature of Reinhardt’s “Sumurun” against the backdrop of his theatrical output, and the role played by Negri in both Reinhardt’s play and Lubitsch’s film which were major stepping stones to international movie stardom for the actress.


Graduate of a Polish philology program at the University of Warsaw, currently senior specialist for pre-war film collections at the National Film Archive—Audiovisual Institute. In his research efforts, he’s chiefly focused on the history of phonography. Regular contributor at radio and TV stations and a consultant, he authored multiple afterword sections for books dealing with culture and art, particularly of the interwar years (he’s written such chapters for Anna Mieszkowska, Krzysztof Karpiński, Tomasz Mościcki, Tomasz Lerski, Grzegorz Rogowski, Grzegorz and Monika Wasowski, Ryszard Wolański, etc.), as well as a number of films and reportages on the subject.


Pola Negri as a singer

Pola Negri is known primarily for her roles in silent films and, to a lesser degree, for her dancing. Very few people, however, realize that she was also quite the accomplished singer who sang professionally before ever appearing in a sound film. She was invited to recording sessions by the biggest labels in the world, recorded songs in London, Paris, Berlin, and sang in four languages. Her records were released in a number of countries, including Poland.

In my talk, I’d like to take a closer look at Pola Negri’s singing career, her discography, and the influence that her songs had on Polish show business of the 1930s.


She is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Audiovisual Arts at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. Her work deals with issues of contemporary cinema, gender, and female expression in film, photography, and the arts. In her research and publications she focuses on the representation of gender and queerness in film, media, and the  arts as well as on a much broader category of cultural identity. She published a book about women filmmakers, and another one on Polish cinema in the 1990s. In “Female Gaze: Film Theory and Practice of Women Directors and Artists,” published in 2010, she addresses the issue of women’s cinema and arts in terms of feminist theory, while her 2014 title,“Faces of Queer Cinema,” examines a handful of titles dealing with queerness, sexuality, and gender. In her most recent book, the 2016 “Modern Women on Cinema,” she takes a closer look at Polish female film critics from the 1920s and 1930s, making broad use of original print articles and archival materials.


Pola Negri—The “New Woman” with a Tattoo

In the 1925 film “A Woman of the World,” Pola Negri, the picture’s lead star, plays an extravagant European countess with a tattoo on her arm. A spirited actress with a strong personality, Negri crafted a character of an independent woman skilled at taking advantage of her social position. Although the film’s plot is fairly formulaic and includes the majority of melodramatic tropes, Negri nevertheless managed to create a character befitting the age of emancipated “new women,” eager to participate in public life and ready to manifest her emotions and experiences in the form of an explicit tattoo. 

“A Woman of the World” can be also seen as an exploration of the complex relationship between the cultural pattern of the “new woman” and the movie star system of the era with its attendant models of femininity. Both the private and professional biographies of Pola Negri reflect the prevailing atmosphere and tendencies of the era, and offer insight into the condition and evolution of cinema and popular culture. Thus, a simultaneous comprehensive analysis of Negri’s films and press pieces dedicated to the actress would allow us to recreate her portrait as a movie star and an icon, particularly in the eyes of her admiring female fans who drew inspiration from Negri, both in terms of looks and lifestyle choices.


Works as a filmmaker, researcher and translator. His most recent project, ‘’Wywiad’’ (2018), is a feature-length documentary, reinterpreting the natural and constructed landscapes of western Europe as allegories of personal, familial and national mythologies. Previous research projects have focused on such diverse figures as William Blake, Robert Delaunay and Humphrey Jennings, with the interplay between rationality and esotericism at the core of much of his work.


In league with the devil himself: Pola Negri, stardom and Lubitsch kabbalah

Lotte Eisner described the cinema of Ernst Lubitsch as ‘without a taste for the mysterious’; the only magic usually associated with his films is the legendary and ambiguous ‘touch’ for which he is most famous. This paper, however, will consider another kind of Lubitschian alchemy: the way in which his films explore the arcane, mythological and practical applications of the magical arts. Firstly, this paper will briefly survey this phenomena: the stage apprenticeship with Max Reinhardt; his youthful appearance as Satan in ‘’Doktor Satansohn’’ (1916, dir. Edmund Edel); the more canonical exoticism of ‘’Sumurun (1920) and “Das Weib des Pharao” (1922), as well as its later Hollywood reemergence under the banner of superstition. Particular focus will then be paid to the first two serious films directed by Lubitsch, in which he twice cast Pola Negri in the lead, and twice in roles where her character assumed an almost vampiric power over men around her: ‘’The Eyes of Mummie Ma andCarmen” (both 1918). Where the symbolism of “Mummie” Ma represents an undiluted flight of fancy, ‘’Carmen” is rich in precise esoteric allusions: the Shlissel Challah key-file that Carmen hides in her imprisoned paramour’s bread; her familiarity with Alcalá, a town linked to mysticism and targeted by the Spanish Inquisition; and the image of the glistening skull produced by her molybdomancy. Lubitsch’s choice and foregrounding of certain moments of white and dark magic lends his film to fruitful comparisons with Merimée’s source text, as well as three subsequent filmed adaptations: Sternberg’s baroque version in 1935, featuring Marlene Dietrich, Duvivier’s Brigitte Bardot vehicle of 1959 and Buñuel’s dark 1977 reimagining, with its doubled-up casting. Together, Lubitsch and Negri both contributed to, mocked and were eventually swept away by the oncoming tide of Hollywood paganism. Finally, then, this paper will read Negri as an appropriate vehicle for these symbols compared with these four other actresses; whilst later roles in both Germany and Hollywood would push her towards more historico-domestic roles, these two early performances show Negri’s atypical vamp as one that was truly vampiric, in all sense of the word.

Graduate of Theater Studies and the Interactive Media and Performance program at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Also studied social policy at the University of Warsaw. Currently enrolled in a doctoral program at the Faculty of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Warsaw. Collaborated with the Malta Festival in Poznań, the Polish Theater in Poznań, the Contemporary Stage Foundation in Warsaw, the Warsaw Bauhaus Foundation. Has been writing about dance and theater in 2012. Wrote for “Didaskalia,” the portal, the online “Teatralia” magazine. Frequent contributor to the TANIEC quarterly. Between 2012 and 2013, she participated in the Mobile Dance Criticism Academy project and served as a reviewer at a number of festivals, including the Kroki International Festival of Contemporary Dance, the Maat Festival, L1danceFest, and the Theater Confrontations festival.


“Swan Lake,” “Coppélia,” “Maidens’ Vows”—Ballet and Theater Beginnings of Pola Negri’s Career in Warsaw

In my talk, I’d like to focus on analyzing the earliest stage in Pola Negri’s career, primarily the period when she studied at a Warsaw ballet school and had her stage debut in “Swan Lake.” I will examine not only on the details of the actress’ life, but also the historical and social context of her professional efforts. In order to examine Negri, we first need to explore the day-to-day functioning of the ballet school at the Government Theaters of Warsaw, the Government Theaters, and the Small Theater, their efforts in early 20th century, and their repertoires. As she readied for her debut, the actress needed to find herself in the reality of Warsaw’s creative and artistic circles—that’s when Apolonia Chałupiec became Pola Negri, future movie star. I’d like to take a closer look at the transformation and what Negri had the opportunity to learn before she stood in front of the camera lens for the first time, how she presented herself on the ballet and theater stages, and how she utilized the skills acquired in the aforementioned institutions in later stages of her career.

A research assistant and lecturer at the Institute for Slavic Studies at the University of Basel, Switzerland. She is writing her PhD on “Ecstatic bodies in early Russian cinema”.

From January to August 2018 Clea Wanner is a visiting scholar at the Department of Domestic Film History at the Scientific Research Institute for Cinema (NIIK) at the Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow.


The Russian Asta Nielsen

Pola Negri in the mirror of Polish and Russian cinema culture during the First World War

Beginning her screen career with NIEWOLNICA ZMYSLOW Pola Negri fascinated the Russian cinema scene. Right away they film critics adopted her as the new “Russian Asta Nielsen”. However, this label is not solely an odd or trite marketing strategy of the Russian production and distribution company Kreo, it rather appears to be an integral part of the formation of the actress’ image. By reflecting upon Pola Negri’s early career in the mirror of the Russian cinema culture I would like to broaden up the creation context of Pola Negri’s stardom and to account for a heterogeneous and critical-historical framework for thinking about early (Eastern) European cinema. Firstly I would like to complicate the (production) history of the first movies starring Pola Negri, a history that – as I will argue – took place also beyond the borders of Polish and German cinema. Key figure of this alternative history is Michail Bystrickij (Михаил Быстрицкий), owner of the Russian production company Kreo and known for his many coproduction projects and strong ties to the Polish diaspora in Russia after the outbreak of the First World War. Among them were the actor Wladyslaw Szczewinski and the cinema operator Jan Skarbek-Malczewski, who were both part of NIEWOLNICA ZMYSLOW and built their careers in Russia 1914-1918.


Secondly by taking into account different sources like advertisement material, still images, synopsis and film critics I will outline the mind as well as visual set in which the cinema actress Pola Negri was born into. Although one attributed to Pola Negri quite early a distinguished and expressive signature, her appearance was from the very beginning coined by iconic figures of European and Russian dance and cinema culture (from Asta Nielsen’s mimic, to Maud Allan’s Performance of Salome, to Vera Kholodnaya’s gesture). A close reading of Pola Negri’s representation and perception in Russia demonstrates that there was a wide array of aspects that formed and accelerated her international star image.

Graduate of the Polish philology program at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, she also studied cultural management and cultural studies at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and completed a postgraduate curatorship course at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Currently, she’s enrolled in an interdisciplinary doctoral program at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities. In 2014, she began work on her dissertation, “The Invisible Holocaust. Romani Art as ‘Rebellion of Subjugated Others,’” under the supervision of Professor Anna Zeidler-Janiszewska. Currently, the thesis is supervised by Mateusz Salwa, PhD.

Member of the Institute of Research on Public Space (a joint institution of the University of Warsaw, the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw).

Headed the independent galeria dla… (2000-2008) in Toruń and was involved with Warsaw’s Foksal Gallery and the Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture in the Królikarnia—a division of the National Museum in Warsaw. A curator of a couple of dozen of exhibitions, including “The Patriotism of Tomorrow,” Instytut Sztuki Wyspa, Gdańsk, 2006; “Lucim Lives!” CSW Znaki Czasu, Toruń, 2009; “Homes Silver Like Tents,” Zachęta—National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, 2013 / Wrocław Contemporary Museum, 2014.


A Romani Playing a Gypsy

Pola Negri played in German-made movies until 1938. Some claim she was Adolf Hitler’s favorite actress, but she was still under threat of being deported to a labor camp due to her status as ZM (Zigeunermischling—mixed-blood Gypsy). Her movie star status did not necessarily translate into protection from state-sanctioned violence. To quote camp survivor Albert Wolf: “My sister was a ballet dancer. Her name’s up here on the wall. Wolf, Aloisie, 1930-01-03, prisoner number: Z-10628. My sister. She was so beautiful. An actress and ballet dancer. The Germans pulled her off the train as she was traveling with her theater troupe. After they checked her papers and saw that she was a Sinti, they immediately shipped her to Auschwitz.” In her role as Carmen in one of Ernst Lubitsch’s best movie, Negri not only reinforced the stereotype of the beautiful, exotic Gypsy seductress, but basically created the popular culture template for that character: she popularized going barefoot, sandals, and painted toenails. She also played a Gypsy fortuneteller in “The Spanish Dancer,” a US silent film released in 1923. Thus, Pola Negri is the perfect example of true identity concealed by an outward-facing mask. Her public image, crafted by image specialists, does not tell us who Negri was, but rather who she had to be in order to survive: a Romani by birth, a Gypsy by trade.

A tutor in Film Studies and Literature at the University of Edinburgh Centre for Open Learning, David Melville Wingrove is a specialist in melodrama and Gothic fantasy. A contributor to ‘’Senses of Cinema’’, ‘’Sight & Sound’’, ‘’The Guardian and Shadowplay’’, he recently authored a chapter on fantasy and female psychosis for the Wiley-Blackwell anthology ‘’A Companion to Robert Altman’’. A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Wales, he is a former actor, journalist and EFL teacher. He is currently writing a book of his own on cinema and queer spectatorship.


Dancing the ‘’Mazurka’’ – Stardom and Subversion in Third Reich Cinema

A classic melodrama directed by Willi Forst, ‘’Mazurka’’ (1935) marked Pola Negri’s return to German cinema after more than a decade abroad. The film was a box-office smash despite – or perhaps because of – the fact that Negri was an unlikely star for the Third Reich. A Polish actress of largely Jewish origin, she was a naturalised US citizen. Moreover, her screen persona was diametrically opposed to the ‘’Küche, Kinder und Kirche’’ ideals of the Nazi state. Her character in ‘’Mazurka’’ is an ‘exotic’ of dubious origins, a chanteuse and semi-prostitute given to drink and promiscuous sex.

By embodying qualities officially forbidden to women in the Third Reich, Pola Negri stood as a powerful and potentially subversive ‘oppositional’ force. If other actresses (Paula Wessely, Kristina Söderbaum, Marika Rökk) seemed to embody Nazi and Aryan ideals, Negri was a symbol of everything the regime sought to exclude and prohibit. This was partly due to her iconic presence as a star of Weimar cinema. Yet it also suggests a conscious manipulation of her image by Forst, a director whose anti-Nazi sympathies precluded his making propaganda films for Hitler’s war effort.

Of course, it is debatable to what extent Negri was an authentically subversive force. Was her acceptance by the Third Reich a cynical ploy, aimed at creating the illusion of freedoms that did not exist? My paper would aim to consider the following points:

  • To what extent does Negri’s character in ‘’Mazurka’’ embody issues that were ‘taboo’ in Third Reich cinema?
  • To what extent did her off-screen persona (as a star of the ‘decadent’ Weimar period) contribute to this sense of taboo?
  • To what degree does ‘’Mazurka’’ ‘co-opt’ and exploit her subversive image to fit the prevailing ideologies of the Third Reich?
  • In what ways does Negri foreshadow the popularity of other stars (notably Zarah Leander) whose image ran contrary to official Nazi ideology?
  • ‘’Mazurka’’ and its making are rich in ambiguities of this sort. In some ways, this late phase in Pola Negri’s career is the richest and most complex of all.

‘’Mazurka’’ and its making are rich in ambiguities of this sort. In some ways, this late phase in Pola Negri’s career is the richest and most complex of all.


holds a PhD in Slavic and Eastern European Studies and works as an associate professor of Cultural Studies and Polish Studies at KU Leuven (Belgium). His research interests include modern Polish literature, translation studies, migration studies, memory studies, visual culture and film. He is the co-editor (together with Leen Engelen) of European Cinema after the Wall: Screening East-West Mobility (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014) and is finishing a monograph on the representation of Polish migrants in European feature film (1918-2017).


From ‘’Mania’’ (1918) to ‘’Mazurka’’ (1935): Pola Negri’s Polishness through a German Lens

This proposal looks into the issue of ethnic identification and national belonging in Pola Negri’s international acting career, with a particular focus on her “Polish” roles. Significantly, while the absence of spoken dialogues in the silent era made it easy for her to transcend the boundaries of ethnic casting and allowed her to play a variety of nationalities in a culturally and geographically diverse range of settings (French, German, Jewish, Gypsy, Russian, Serbian, Italian, Arabic, …), rarely if ever was she cast to play the role of a distinctly Polish character. Two notable exceptions – both realized in Germany – are the 1918 silent film ‘’Mania. Ein dramatisch Filmpoem (Mania. A Dramatic Film Poem)’’ and the sound-era production ‘’Mazurka’’ (1935). As I will seek to show in my contribution – which will combine film textual and contextual analysis – these two Negri productions represent two opposite poles within a representational paradigm that seems to oscillate between extremely unmarked and decontextualized performances of (expatriate) Polishness, on the one hand, and extremely marked ones (grounded in macro-ethnic stereotyping), on the other.



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