So, the time has come where I had to make a list of who I have covered here in my blog because I keep thinking I have talked about some great people and I really haven't. My mind = completely fogged at times.
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).
Nita Naldi was born Anita Donna Dooley on November 13, 1894 in New York City, New York. I have also heard that she was born Mary or Donna Dooley. I have tried to look under the Census records that I have at hand, but I am unable to find anything under either of those names. Even while looking under her father, Patrick or her mother, Julia...nothing. She was supposedly named after a great aunt named Mary Nonna, but that doesn't help our case in either way.
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.
She continued to appear on stage and in a few short films into 1920 when she was given a role opposite John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
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 1932, she had to file for bankruptcy and chose instead of film, to appear in a few stage shows. Critics were cruel, poking fun at her weight gain. She sued one of the newspapers, but the suit was dismissed.
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!
Nita Naldi passed away on February 17, 1961 of a heart attack in her apartment. She was almost up to her 66th birthday.
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.
Nita was only married once, to millionaire J. Searle Barclay. They had met in 1919 while she was still performing on the stage, and he was still married. They even lived together for a short time with Nita's sister. In 1923, Nita was named as a party in Barclay's divorce from his wife. They married in 1927 while in Europe, but a few years later, she returned to the U.S. without him. It seemed that he lost most if not all of his money in his divorce. They remained married until his death in 1945, but she never spoke of him until after he died.
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.
"We were all blind as rats. Theda Bara couldn't see a foot in front of her and poor Rudy groped his way through many a love scene and I mean really groped. They all used big reflectors to get extra light from the sun - that is how we acquired that interesting Oriental look. We didn't have any censors in those days, but we did have our own bosoms and our own eyelashes. And we never took ourselves seriously." ~ Nita Naldi (How can you not love this?!)