One of my lovely readers, Suilyaniz, posted a picture of this actress on the Facebook group, "The Silent Film Lounge." The only things I knew about Vera was that she was Russian, and that she died young. But then it was mentioned that her body was stolen from her grave, and with a "WTF?" I was captivated even more. I am a total death hag, so I gotta look more into this.
Please join me.
Vera Kholodnaya was born Vera Vasilyevna Levchenko on August 5, 1893 in Poltava, Ukraine. Her mother's name was Yekaterina and the whole family enjoyed acting in plays. When she was around 10 years old, she was sent to live with her grandmother in Moscow so that she could attend the elite Perepelkina Grammar school.
From a young age, Vera always dreamed about being a ballerina. This wasn't just a little girl's fantasy, it is all she wanted to do. She enrolled at the Bolshoi Theatre ballet school and got the ball rolling.
After watching an admired fellow ballerina in a film role, it got Vera into thinking about the new medium. She approached an well known director, Vladimir Gardin, all on her own, a secured a small role in his production of Anna Karenina.
With the beginnings of World War I, she decided to switch studios. Her films were pretty big hits. At first she tried to copy the styles of other movie vamps, but she eventually found her own niche.
By the start of the 1920s, there was a Vera film in the theatres once a month. That is, until 1924, when the Soviets decided to destroy most of her films. It was the end of box office streak.
Before she had a chance to make a screen comeback, she became a victim of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, which claimed around 50 to 100 million people.
Vera Kholodnaya died on February 17, 1919 in Odessa, Ukraine. She was just 25 years old. She had just performed a concert wearing very revealing costumes in a rather cold climate days before her death.
Although her death certificate states the Spanish flu as the cause of death, there is still some speculation about what really happened to her. Some claim she was poisoned by a French diplomat that she was having an affair with. Others claim she was killed because she was allegedly working as a Russian spy.
Her funeral was a jam packed spectacle. And it was actually recorded! Apparently it was screened with the past few years, how cool/interesting would that be to see?
Okay, here is the deal with her grave and what happened to her body after she was buried. The cemetery she was buried in was turned into a park in 1931. Her family begged the government to let them move her body to a different cemetery, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Her burial vault was destroyed, and her body just...vanished. Not sure if it was destroyed or if someone took it. Not sure what the hell you would do with a skeleton, but people are weird, so who knows.
Although Vera did live a short life, she packed a lot of life into her small amount of years. She was married once, to Vladimir Kholodny in 1910. He was a race car driver and the editor of a daily sport newspaper that she had met at a graduation dance. Both families disapproved of the match, but the couple didn't care. She took his last name as her screen name. They had one daughter in 1912 named Evgeniya and also adopted another daughter, Nonna, a year later. They remained married until her death.
Vladimir Kholodny died two months after Vera. Their deaths were soon followed by Vera's mother, Yekaterina.
Vera's most famous film was Be Silent, My Sorrow, Be Silent in 1918. While the film was popular, it was also highly criticized. But hey, that gets people interested!
Her home country of Ukraine put her image on a postage stamp in 1993 and even erected a statue to her in 2003.
No one knows exactly how many films she made all together. It could be 50, or it could be over 100. Only five of them still survive.
While her husband was off fighting in WWI, she befriended a writer who nicknamed her "Queen of Screen." His name was Alexander Vertinsky, and apparently he had quite the crush on her. He would come to her house and literally just sit and a chair and stare at her.........for hours......Not sure what her feelings toward him were, but.....yeah....kinda creepy.
Here is part one of her film, Be Silent, My Sorrow, Be Silent. You can tell by this little bit that she was a pretty good actress. She had the looks of a vamp, but she also managed to maintain the innocent quality in her eyes. Oh, and it's in Russian so...yeah, just watch.