Theodore Kosloff & Cecil B. DeMille

Meet Madam Satan

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The essay explores a rare and unknown 40-year professional and personal relationship between Russian ballet dancer Theodore Kosloff (1882-1956) and Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959) told through the prism of the making of DeMille’s Madam Satan (mgm 1930). It tracks Kosloff’s colorful career as a dance entrepreneur, from his Bolshoi Ballet beginnings, to his appearance in the premiere Paris season of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, to his eventual relocation to Los Angeles where, starting in 1916, he was an acclaimed character actor in nearly 30 silent movies, primarily directed by DeMille. At the outset of the Depression, with the advent of sound in cinema, DeMille relied upon Kosloff as an artistic advisor to bring to fruition Madam Satan his first and only movie musical. The essay analyzes the high-art roots of Kosloff’s bizarre and exceptional ballet mécanique, Madam Satan’s central dance number staged in a moored zeppelin.

Experiment

A Journal of Russian Culture

References

1

Scott Eyman, Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), pp. 272-73.

5

Suzanne Carbonneau, “Theodore Koslov,” International Encyclopedia of Dance.

7

Arthur Applin, The Stories of the Russian Ballet (London: Everett & Co., 1911), pg. 17.

10

Truman B. Handy, “Flavored With Tartar,” Motion Picture Magazine, (May 1922), pp. 50-51. “Jeannie MacPherson was a pupil training for a production of Scheherazade. A few years later, when Kosloff was “en tour” in Los Angeles, a young woman presented herself at the stage door to invite him to visit the studio where she was principal scenario writer. Kosloff was reportedly overjoyed to recognize her. She introduced him to DeMille who was primed to start Geraldine Farrar’s “The Woman Man Forgot.” Kosloff then spoke almost no English, but DeMille cast him as Aztec Chief.”

12

Simon Louvish, Cecil B. DeMille, A Life in Art (London: Faber and Faber, 2007), pg. 137.

13

Agnes de Mille, Dance to the Piper (Boston: Little, Brown, 1951), pp. 45-56. In this, her first marvelous volume of reminiscence, de Mille depicts the scene at the Kosloff ballet studio.

14

Handy, “Flavored With Tartar,” pp. 50-51. When “The Woman God Forgot,” was completed, Kosloff “went on a ballet tour in 1917. Late in 1919, on the cusp of departing on an Australian tour he stopped by to see his old friends at Lasky’s [sic]. . . . He was reinvited to act.”

19

Handy, “Flavored With Tartar,” pp. 50-51.

20

Lynn Garafola, ‘Dance, Film, and the Ballets Russes,’ Dance Research, 16, no. 1 (Summer 1998), pg. 9.

23

Charles Higham, Cecil B. DeMille (New York: Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1973), pg. 94.

36

DeMille to Kosloff, Sept. 7, 1929, Box 294 Folder 11, DeMille Archive.

43

DeMille to Kosloff, Oct. 29, 1929, Box 294 Folder 11, DeMille Archive.

46

On Oct. 29, 1929, DeMille advised M-G-M’s London office he was no longer interested in Albert Ketelbey, an English composer he had also pursued. (Birchard, Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood, pg. 242.)

47

DeMille to Kosloff, Oct. 29, 1929, Box 294 Folder 11, DeMille Archive.

48

Kosloff to DeMille, Oct. 29, 1929, Box 294 Folder 11, DeMille Archive. The French-born director/cinematographer Rudolph Maté is “Joan” ’s cinematographer of credit.

56

Kosloff to DeMille, Oct. 29, 1929, Box 294 Folder 11, DeMille Archive. Also: Glazunov’s Bacchanale music was used by Fokine both in Cléopâtre and in the famous Bacchanale danced by Anna Pavlova and Mikhail Mordkin. Kosloff performed a version of the dance in 1910 on his first u.s. vaudeville tour (Carbonneau, “The Russians Are Coming,” pp. 36-9).

57

DeMille to Kosloff, Oct. 29, 1929, DeMille Archive.

58

Kosloff to DeMille, Feb. 18, 1930, DeMille Archive.

60

Higham, Cecil B. DeMille, pp. 197-98.

63

David Chierichietti, Mitchell Leisen: Hollywood Director (Los Angeles: Photoventures, 1995), pg. 39.

80

McCaffey to DeMille, memo July 21, 1930, DeMille Archive.

81

Pete Smith to DeMille, memo July 30, 1930, Box 300 Folder 9, DeMille Archive. The publicist would soon be known as auteur of “Pete Smith Specialties” short subjects.

83

Pete Smith to DeMille, memo July 30, 1930, Box 300 Folder 9, DeMille Archive.

85

Roy Burns to DeMille, memo August 19, 1930. Box 300 Folder 9, DeMille Archive.

87

Roy Burns to DeMille, memo August 19, 1930, DeMille Archive.

95

Conversation with D’Arc, May 4, 2010.

107

Conversation with D’Arc, May 4, 2010.

114

Cecil B. DeMille, The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1959), pg. 188.

Figures

  • n.s. Seely portrait: Theodore Kosloff as Malchus in The King of Kings (1927).

    courtesy of naima prevots

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  • Theodore Kosloff ( far left) in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Woman God Forgot (1917) with Geraldine Farrar, Wallace Reid, and Raymond Hatton.

    courtesy of bison archives

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  • Photographer unknown: Theodore Kosloff and Natasha Rambova, Aztec dance number, Keith Orpheum vaudeville circuit, ca. 1917. Kosloff is dressed in costume created by Rambova for The Woman God Forgot.

    courtesy of “madam valentino,” michael morris (abbeville press, 1991)

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  • Photographer unknown: Theodore Kosloff, Cecil B. DeMille, Jeanie MacPherson, art director Paul Iribe on set of Adam’s Rib (1923)
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  • Photographer unknown: Kosloff as caveman in flashback sequence of Adam’s Rib (1923).

    courtesy of bison archives

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  • n.s. Seely portrait: Theodore Kosloff as Malchus in DeMille unit at Paramount, 1927.

    courtesy of bison archives

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  • Photographer unknown: Theodore Kosloff, The King of Kings (1927).

    courtesy of bison archives

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  • Photographer unknown: Theodore Kosloff trains Betty Compson, chorus girls at Paramount Pictures dance department for Green Temptation (1922).

    courtesy of bison archives

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  • Cosmopolitan Service: Verso text: Edna Wallace Hopper, a pupil of Theodore Kosloff’s dance school, lives up to her reputation of looking every bit as young as the 16-year-old flappers who surround her.

    courtesy of bison archives

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  • Photographer unknown: Theodore Kosloff directs cinema-dance homage at dedication ceremony of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 1923.

    courtesy of bison archives

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  • Cecil B. DeMille, choreographer LeRoy Prinz, chorus girls, Madam Satan pre-production.

    courtesy of the margaret herrick library, academy of motion picture arts and sciences

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  • LeRoy Prinz trains Kay Johnson, Reginald Denny for Madam Satan.

    courtesy of the margaret herrick library, academy of motion picture arts and sciences

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  • Reginald Denny, Kay Johnson rehearse for Madam Satan.

    courtesy of the margaret herrick library, academy of motion picture arts and sciences

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  • Catwalk number, Madam Satan.

    courtesy of the margaret herrick library, academy of motion picture arts and sciences

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  • Theodore Kosloff as “The Spirit of Electricity,” Madam Satan.

    courtesy of the margaret herrick library, academy of motion picture arts and sciences

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  • Kosloff as “Electricity.”

    courtesy of the margaret herrick library, academy of motion picture arts and sciences

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  • Ballet Mecanique, Madam Satan.

    courtesy of the margaret herrick library, academy of motion picture arts and sciences

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  • Mercury Aviation at DeMille Airfield, Wilshire Blvd and Fairfax Avenue (1921).

    courtesy of the bruce torrence hollywood photo collection

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  • Kosloff as “Electricity.”

    courtesy of the margaret herrick library, academy of motion picture arts and sciences

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  • Kosloff as “Electricity.”

    courtesy of the margaret herrick library, academy of motion picture arts and sciences

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  • Photographer unknown: CB DeMille, Kosloff on visit to Cairo Egypt, 1931.

    courtesy of bison archives

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  • Hollywood Bowl performance promotion, Sept. 17, 1938.
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  • Photographer unknown: Kosloff trains corps de ballets for A Midsummers Night’s Dream at the Hollywood Bowl, 1934.

    courtesy of bison archives

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  • [Herald] Examiner reference library Jan 13, 1937, verso text: Theodore Kosloff will do the name role [Petrouchka] in the Igor Stravinsky ballet . . . as part of the regular Philharmonic orchestra program (Shrine Auditorium—March 12-13) instructing a group of his 100 ballet girls in the art of “limbering up.”

    courtesy of bison archives

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  • Photographer unknown: Theodore Kosloff on Paramount lot behind Cecil B. DeMille, unidentified, ca. 1930.

    courtesy of bison archives

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