I was very very lucky last night.
It was a crazily fortuitous opportunity!
It was too much to believe.
But I believed.
Yes, I saw Forbidden Paradise in the cinema. It was directed by the almighty Ernst Lubitsch.
And it starred Pola Negri.
I had seen the film but a kinda bad copy of it. It was very blurry, scratched, and had Czech intertitles. But it looked appealing and, of course, Pola was fantastic. I didn’t really understand the story at all….I just knew Pola liked kissing the hell out of Rod La Rocque.
But I was grateful for having seen a copy of it at least. Since its release in 1924, copies of have been nearly impossible to find.
So, yes, a miracle occurred.
Yesterday I was all hyped up about going to the silent cinema to see The Extra Girl, which stars Mabel Normand. She has such an adorably girlish face, especially in her short films with Fatty Arbuckle.
But I had to go to Twitter and some person posted something about a not so very famous Lubitsch film screening in Berkeley. And then I read “Negri” and “Collaboration”. Oh my lord.
I clicked on the link and it said they were to screen Forbidden Paradise later on that day.
WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?
I had to read it a few more times in order to fully believe this…..
Yes, they were screening something I’ve been wanting to truly see for ages. They were going to translate it, since the copy also had Czech intertitles.
So I blew off Mabel Normand and prepared for the screening four hours early. My heart would not stop beating. I could not stop thinking about Pola and the costumes and Rod La Rocque.
You have to go all the way to New York if you want to see this film in the Museum of Modern Art, I think. It is extremely rare and a screening of it just happened to be around my area!
We departed two hours earlier with not that much traffic but I still had some anxiety, not knowing why.
This was to be held in a film archive theater.
I was quite elated.
I went in, a lad smiled and asked me if I was Isadora after I told him my last name for my ticket and I nervously headed in the room and found my seat. Pola Negri was far too exciting. I can’t believe she came to visit!
Apparently the copy was imported from France and belonged to the Cinémathèque Française, which has one of the biggest film archives in the world.
The lady introducing the film talked of the lovely Ernst Lubitsch and about his career and his hits but…….she referred to Pola Negri as just an actress who worked with him.
I’m a big fan of Lubitsch but Pola Negri was clearly the biggest thing in this movie. She gave it spice. She did a lot! I love Lubitsch’s direction but are Pola’s talents overshadowed by this man’s?
People, Pola matters. She’s more than just an actress. She did a whole damn lot for her career…but why do I even bother to heat up over this? Not everyone loves Pola like I can.
A few minutes into the movie my eyes were sort of misty. Oh, my emotions!
Pola had a beauty beyond excessive appreciation and such charm. To be honest, I liked Rod La Rocque better than Rudy Valentino. Rod was funny….had a nice nice nice body…..as I could see how Pola looked at his butt in one scene and smiled dirtily. Oh yeah, she had an affair with him after she broke up with Chaplin. Yup, that’s Pola. Can’t blame her for her good taste in men.
The movie was quintessential in its own way. Pola was the Czarina who had a string of many spicy love affairs (with soldiers, ahem) and just had the best costumes. When I was watching this, I kept thinking about how badly I wanted her costumes.
The Czarina (Pola) did not like negativity so she made all the men around her raise the ends of their mustaches in her honor.
When Rod La Rocque stormed in her room and warned her of a revolution, her eyes bulged open from seeing such a hunk, by God. That woman could really play a woman who sure liked her boys.
When proved guilty of car theft, Rod said he would do anything for the sake of his queen’s safety. Pola was so flattered that she promoted him to be her personal guard.
And this is where it gets good!
He visited her some days later and she bade him to have drinks of champagne with her. Sassy Pola was already playing the flirting game.
She got him rather drunk and oops! She dropped her glass and he ran immediately to pick up the pieces!
She stepped on one of them (to show her attraction) and Rod said, “My Queen, I must pick these pieces” or something like that.
Oh what a square, Pola’s eyes said.
Then she pretended to be scared of the wind and they embraced. Her excuse was that she was afraid of her soldiers joining the revolution against her.
They were intimately close…..
Pola got her foot stool (she was five feet tall) and…..
The thing about this is that this kiss was not very ordinary like those cheesy kisses in other silent movies. Forget Rudolph Valentino’s kisses (which I’m sure Pola super enjoyed) for a minute and look at this. This is erotic.
Pola was known for being a romantically passionate woman, when it came to someone she loved. And here you can see Pola being very attracted to La Rocque.
Look how open her mouth is. How her hand touches his temple with the ardent passion felt between them.
Pola introduced sex to movies, all right.
A few minutes later they cut into his fiancee who he had left waiting in the garden…..
Yes, I was correctly quoted in saying I introduced sex into films in the 20’s, but it was sex in good taste and left a great deal to one’s imagination. For example – in “Forbidden Paradise” (a filmed satire of Catherine the Great of Russia) directed by Ernst Lubitsch, my favorite director since we started our careers in Berlin on Max Reinhardt’s stage – the Czarina invites her aide-de-camp to visit her in her private budoir (the aide was played by Rod La Roque who was over 6′ tall). According to the part he was very stiff and shy during the visit as he had left his fiancee waiting for him in the garden by the goldfish pond. The Czarina was trying to kiss him, but to no avail, as he was much taller and she only reached to his shoulder. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a footstool and reached out with her foot to pull it closer, stepped onto the stool and was then the same height as he – she put her arms around him and kissed him. He responded to the kiss. In the next shot the cameras zoomed to the fiancee who noticed the lights in the Czarina’s room go out and the camera then turned to the pond where two goldfish were making love.
(Credit to polanegri.com for sharing this great quote from one of her last interviews)
I remembered that quote. It was sort of messed up that I thought it was hilarious when the curtains closed while the Czarina and her Rod were making out and the man’s fiance could see them from the window as she stood there waiting in the garden. Oh, poor Anna. You did know the Czarina was a temptress, yes?
But, come on, we can’t be mad at Pola for being attracted!
But it just kept getting better!
A feast was thrown in his honor for being promoted!
Rod made this speech about how everyone should be faithful to the Czarina and how she was fair and loving and blah blah blah (this was just his man organ talking) and the other soldiers knew what just had been happening. Mr. Rod here was just one of her preys.
And surely did something happen before the feast!!!
But then Rod had to get all bitchy and demanded an explanation of the rumors the soldiers had told him about the Czarina sleeping with maybe the whole army. They didn’t translate those intertitles but I think that’s what he meant.
Pola told him it wasn’t important.
Yet Rod had killed a man spreading those rumors in a duel.
He wanted the entire army arrested for calling their Czarina a slut.
Pola said no.
He got kind of physical (Pola had said that Rod La Rocque was abusive with her in real life).
Then she told him it was none of his business and kicked him out.
In the following days or maybe my memory is failing me….he entered her room and Anna the fiance happened to be in the same room with them both. Pola was being all flirty with Rod and oh dear…..
A few days later Rod refused Pola’s advances because he wanted to remain faithful to his Anna. Oh sweet lord. He and Pola made a great couple, to be honest.
Pola got pissed and she ordered her guards to “arrest” him by handcuffing him and leaving him in her room. Ah!
After pulling his hair and forcing a kiss, he still refused and she called her guards to arrest him. Oh, and she also demoted him.
Well, those are the many saucy details I am going to share about this film.
I have got to say that it is one of my favorite Pola movies now. She is so eloquent with her emotions! But what makes it be one of my favorites yet again?? Ernst Lubitsch!!!
One thing I forgot to mention was that this film had amazing quality, compared to other copies. You could see Pola’s beauteous face quite clearly….and even Adolphe Menjou’s loveliness!!!
By the way, Rod La Rocque remind me of James Franco quite a bit. Maybe it was the smile.
I wish I could see this movie again. It was hilarious. I still cannot believe Pola came to visit!!! And with Lubitsch, too!! I sure wish this film could be released in DVD restored…..It is a masterpiece.
This was the Negri/Lubitsch last film and I wish they could’ve at least made more films together. Even talkies! Why didn’t he cast her in any of his talkie films? Okay, Pola was difficult to work with but so were other actresses! Maybe Lubitsch got too involved with American actors/studios that he forgot about his old leading actress from his memorable silent films. She did say he was her favorite director, after all. He brought her to stardom.
Oh, I’m so happy I watched this and fully understood it. This was an opportunity I was meant to take.
I am very happy.