Nita Naldi was a vamp alongside Theda Bara and Valeska Suratt. And just like these other ladies, Nita was not as exotic or vamp-ish as she may have seemed on screen. In fact, all three ladies were born in the U.S. and not under the shadow of The Sphinx (as it was said Theda Bara was born).
Patrick Dooley abandoned his family in 1910, and sadly her mother died six years later leaving Nita with her brother Frank and a sister (who's name I don't know). In order to support her and her siblings, Nita began modeling and doing other odd jobs.
A few years later she began appearing on the vaudeville stage with her brother Frank. In 1918, she debuted on Broadway in a show called "The Passing Show of 1918." A year later, she joined the Ziegfeld Follies. It was while working for the Follies that she took the stage name of Nita Naldi.
Her next role was opposite another great leading man of the day, Rudolph Valentino, in the film Blood and Sand. Nita and Valentino appeared in another film together called Cobra in 1925. After these films, she was seen as a vamp actress.
Nita appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's second directorial picture, The Mountain Eagle, in 1926. After this, she went to Europe and appeared in a few more pictures before retiring from the screen. Even though her voice was deemed usable and acceptable for talking pictures, she never made one.
In 1952, she had a better time on stage when she starred with Uta Hagen in the play In Any Language. A few years later, she helped coach Carol Channing for a role in which she had to play the role of a vamp. She helped Channing win an award for the role!
She was buried with her mother at Calvary Cemetery in New York. There are also three other people buried in the plot named Daniel Francis, and Bridget and Mary Dunphy. I looked on Findagrave.com to see if I could get any information on them, but there is nothing. I am not sure if they are distant relatives, or who exactly they were.
She was supposed to have been engaged to another millionaire named Larry Hall in the 1950s, but nothing ever came of it.
Even with all the rumors of the day, Nita swore that she never had a romantic relationship with either Valentino or Barrymore. She was good friends with both though, and was actually one of Valentino's only friends who actually got along with his second wife, Natacha Rambova.