You may not have heard of Vera Kholodnaya, but she was Russia’s first major silent movie star. The majority of her movies were destroyed by the Soviet regime and she died under suspicious circumstances aged just 25 but she managed to in a lot of living in her short life!
Born in 1893 in Poltava, which is now part of Ukraine, Vera moved with her grandmother to Moscow as a child.
Before discovering the world of acting, she dreamed of being a ballerina and trained at the Bolshoi Ballet. Aged 15 she approached a movie director and was cast as her first role in a minor part in Anna Karenina.
She changed her name from Levchenko to Kholodnaya after marrying car racer Vladimir Kholodny. She would accompany on many of his dare-devil races and together they survived many car crashes.
The part which made her a star was The Song of the Triumphant Love which catapulted her to major stardom while her husband was off fighting during the First World War.
She became a prolific actress and is thought to have made up to a hundred movies during her short career. By the time the Russian Revolution started in 1917 a new Kholodnaya movie was being released every three weeks.
She died aged just 25 in 1918 leaving behind a six-year-old daughter. It was claimed that she died from the Spanish Flu Pandemic*, although a rumour persists that she was poisoned by her French Ambassador lover because he believed she was a Bolshevik spy.
*The Flu Pandemic of 1918-1920 killed a staggering 50-100 million people worldwide, approximately 3-5% of the entire world population and remains one of the worst natural disasters in human history.
Only a handful of Kholodnaya’s movies still exist today and ironically one of the most well known appearance of her on film is her funeral which was filmed by one of her movie director friends.
Her remaining movies are: Children of the Age (1915), The Mirages (1915), A Life for a Life (1916), A Corpse Living (1918), and Molchi, grust… molchi (1918) which you can see a clip of below:
Above: Kholodnaya photographed shortly before her death in 1918.