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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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).
DeMille to Kosloff, Oct. 29,1929, DeMille Archive.
Kosloff to DeMille, Feb. 18,1930, DeMille Archive.