Friday, December 1, 2023

Queer silent star Alla Nazimova gets film retrospective

Relive the brilliance of queer siren Alla Nazimova with two screenings.

Theatre West will screen two classic Alla Nazimova films in conjunction with performances of the play Garden of Alla: The Alla Nazimova Story, which performs July 7 through July 23, and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nazimova’s revolutionary film, Salomé. Screenings will take place at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 8 (Salomé) and Saturday, July 15 (Camille), each immediately following that evening’s 8 p.m. performance of Garden of Alla. Entrance to each screening is included inthe Garden of Alla ticket price, or separate admission is available for $5.

In Garden of Alla, playwright and performer Romy Nordlinger uses immersive video and original music to invoke the Roaring Twenties and create a panoramic, live silent film that brings the life and times of groundbreaking iconoclast Nazimova — as well as her infamous Garden of Allah “playground to the stars” mansion in Hollywood — to vivid life.

• SaturdayJuly 8 at 10 p.m.Salomé (1 hour 12 minutes)
A landmark queer classic in cinematic history and America’s first feature length art film, Salomé stars Alla Nazimova, who also produced and adapted Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play for the screen. Although Charles Bryant, Nazimova’s husband and “beard” partner in her lavender marriage, is credited as director, it was Nazimova who ran this avant garde masterpiece that features surreal and opulent sets by designer Natacha Rambova, based on Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations. Read the June 2023 AFI Catalogue Spotlight on the occasion of the film’s 100th anniversary here.

But the world of 1923 was not ready for this “wild,” visionary and groundbreaking film: Nazimova was widely ridiculed and reviled. With all the money she had put into Salomé lost, Nazimova was forced into financial and professional ruin.

• SaturdayJuly 15 at 10 p.m.Camille (1 hour 9 minutes)
Starring Alla Nazimova as Marguerite and Rudolph Valentino as her lover, Armand. Produced by Nazimova Productions, the film is famous for its sumptuous, art deco production and costume design by Valentino’s wife (and Nazimova’s lover), Natacha Rambova. A courtesan and an idealistic young man fall in love, only for her to give up the relationship at his status-conscious father’s request.Adapted from the novel “La Dame aux Camélias” (“The Lady of the Camellias”) by Alexandre Dumas.

Free admission with ticket purchase to that evening’s 8 p.m. performance of Garden of Alla: The Alla Nazimova Story, written and performed by Romy Nordlinger. $5 separate admission. Go to or call (323) 851-7977.

Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles, CA 90068 (across the street from Universal CityWalk, between Barham and Lankershim).

Queer Forty Staff

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