From: “A Creature of Flame and Desire,” by Sergio Delgado, Copyright, 2014.
During her reign in the 1920’s, the press made Miss Negri’s love life into something of a sport: who was she seeing? How long would it last? Who was she engaged to? Would they ever get married? Pola must have found the whole thing amusing and helpful in terms of publicity. There are many instances in which she hinted at an engagement with a “well-known Englishman” or “a wealthy American Businessman,” and giving some excuse for not naming names. Ultimately, the press managed to ferret out the identity of her swains, only to come up with a denial from the intended.
She had a few very serious and very public love affairs over the years. None of them lasted and most of them ended in disaster. In fact, most of the men in her life–and one woman–died on her in one macabre coincidence after another. It might almost be “The Curse of Pola Negri” were it not too cheesy to call it that.
Miss Negri often called herself “a fatalist in matters of the heart.” She believed she was always destined to fail in her love affairs and it literally became a self-fulfilling prophecy for her. Here’s the list:
1. Count Eugene Dombski: 1919-1922. Divorced
2. Charles Spencer Chaplin: 1923. Briefly engaged
3. Bill Tilden, 1923 Dated. Tilden was gay.
4. William Haines, 1924. Dated. Haines was gay.
5. Rod La Rocque, 1925-1926. Dated. There are suggestions that he was physically abusive.
6. Rudolph Valentino, 1926. Reportedly engaged. Valentino died of a perforated ulcer.
7. “Prince” Serge Mdvani. Married 1927-1930. After his divorce from Pola, Mdivani married twice more and died after he fell off his polo pony and was kicked in the head.
8. Glen Kidston !929. Dated. Reportedly engaged. Kidston died in an airplane crash while trying to set an air speed record from England to South Africa.
9. Milton Berle, 1932: Dated. He was the MC on Pola’s first vaudeville tour.
10. Russ Colombo, 1933, Dated. Colombo was a bandleader who turned Miss Negri’s song, “Paradise” from “A Woman Commands” into a standard. Colombo would marry twice and die when a gun he was examining went off and shot him in the head.
11. Margaret West, 1947-1962. Pola’s friend–and lesbian lover, according to some–died in 1962 of sudden cardiac arrest.
Was she ever happy? She always believed she was “fated to be alone.” At the end of her life she was alone, reclusive, and blind. She truly paid the price of her own belief.