Sunday, December 11, 2011

Miss Nita Naldi

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 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?!)


  1. That is a great quote! It sure applies very much to today. That one profile picture of Nita is stunning..I love all the pics you find to place on your blog. now that book with Florence labadie is called "Stardust and Shadows-Canadians in Early Hollywood" by Charles Foster. Dundern Press Toronto. Oxford 2000. "..when Florence La Badie died mysteriously at the age of 24, 6 mths after a car accident from which everyone thought she had recovered, the movie industry closed ranks and had few, if any, comments to make about the incident. Newspapers-despite being provided with information that her death was worthy of invesitiagtion-never printed a word to dispute the official report that said her fatal car accident was just that, an accident." There was a story in the Boston Globe in 1927 that questioned the accurance of the police report.-the car she was in vanishedonly days after the accident. The actress Valentine Grant, wife of director Sidney Olcott, a close friend of Florence spoke publicly that it was no accident. Then Governor Wilson would visit La Badie constantly on the set-daily. He knew her through her father. Wilson often gave the film studio to film at government buildings. She was pressured by the studio to continue seeing Mr. Wilson as it was good for the studio. When the studio refused vistors to be on set they could no longer use government buildings to film. In Christmas 1914 she and her mom were invited to the White House and she was told by the studio not to turn it down so she went. When she came back in Jan, she was a changed person who often cried and would not talk about her visit at the White House.When the accident happened it was in the "NewYork World". The Brakes failed, she was thrown from the car and witnesses claimed a man jumped from the car and ran away.he was not located. She went to nearby Ossining Hospital but was not considered in serious condition.Her friends(mentioned above)tried to see her and were wondering why her mother didn't contact them. They dropped by her home and it looked unoccupied. They saw later in the month, her obit. Her mother was not at the funeral either and no friends were at the funeral. Apparantly the author had spoken to mary Pickford and she didn't want to discuss the matter and didn;t want to talk at all about pres. Wilson.James Baird was a reporter and still alive in 1993 and said he looked at the car and saw the brak lines were cut. The mechanic who confirmed the lines were cut disappeared as well and the car was gone.This reporter was blackballed and could not find work except in a small town and even then was threatened not to look any further into la Badie's death.Apparantly he ran into the maid who work in the la Badie home who stated La Badie had a child in 1915. the baby was born in Washington and listed as george Smith(same name listed as the man who bought la badie's home). This reporter tried to find out more information but could not find anything more. No one knows what happened to Florence's mother. Thenunanswered question? She was well enough to be discharged from Ossining Hospital before end of April but died in oct from the after effects of the accident. Why did she not contact any of her friends? Why was it listedon her death certificate that she died of natural causes at the age of 24?. I found this book at Chapters but we have a good book store in Toronto called the Hollywood canteen. I would bet they would have this book if you can't find it in the U.S which i highly doubt:) Hope this helps

  2. Thank you Birgit! I love the pics of all the stars, they are beautiful. I have been trying to get a hold of that book!! It apparently has great info in it.

    And after reading that snippet you just put...I am blown away. That was so much information, just wow! I mean it seems Florence was/is forgotten now but her death was such a big deal back then. And how crazy that her close friends and own family were kept out of the loop. It makes me want to look back at some of the local newspapers around here...Monroe, Detroit, Ann Arbor and see if there was anything written about her at that time.

    Great find Birgit! I am indebted to you for that :)

  3. The answers to your Nita questions can be answered at Nita Naldi, Silent Vamp,

    Censuses and other vital record information are on the references tab,