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Essays

Natacha Rambova

Stutesman, Drake

In the 1920s, Natacha Rambova created a unique look in set design and costume for some of cinema’s most imaginative films. She was a powerful influence on designers such as Gilbert Adrian, whom she hired for his first film, and Michael Morris ranks her among such innovators as Erté, Paul Iribe, and Cecil Beaton. She was the niece of interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe, with whom she lived occasionally as a girl and whose style she particularly repudiated. Born Winifred Shaughnessy, Rambova changed her name in 1914 and joined Theodore Kosloff’s ballet troupe as a principal dancer. She designed their sets and costumes until Kosloff interested Cecil B. DeMille in her work, and she created the costume and décor for the Aztec sequence in his The Woman God Forgot (1917), and then sequences in DeMille’s Why Change Your Wife (1920) and Something to Think About (1920). She also designed parts of Alla Nazimova’s Billions (1920). According to Morris, Leider, and Lambert, Kosloff stole all of her credits, which she reclaimed by showing her design sketches to Nazimova.

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Academic Units
Film
Libraries
Series
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019