Gypsy Blood

Pola Negri was one of the first to bring the siren Carmen to the screen

At the height of her fame, Pola Negri rode around Hollywood in a blinding-white Rolls-Royce with dashboard and door handles made of ivory. There was a chauffeur in matching all-white livery if the weather was nice, in black if it was raining. Beside her sat two white Russian wolfhounds — that is, when they weren’t replaced by the leashed tiger she would walk in Beverly Hills. She draped herself in furs and painted her toenails red (apparently, the first to do so). Her lovers included Charlie Chaplin (briefly) and Valentino. She was dark, dangerous, overtly sexy and European. Oh, and she acted occasionally. When she teamed with Ernst Lubitsch at Germany’s UFA Studios for three features at the end of WWI, their combo was hot enough to draw the attention of Hollywood moguls. The 1918 silent Gypsy Blood, screened today with live piano accompaniment by Loreta Kovacic, showcases Negri at her smoldering best as the hot-blooded temptress Carmen, who is as earthy a lady of Spain as there ever was. 7 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $6 to $7.
Sun., April 19, 2009

 
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