One Polish name is particularly associated with the advent of film and Hollywood glamour, and that name is Pola Negri. From the 1910s-1940s Negri achieved worldwide recognition as the first European actress to be invited to Hollywood and a classic femme fatale during the golden era of films.The beginning of Negri’s life is as dramatic as any Hollywood film: born in Lipno in central Poland as Barbara Apolonia Chałupiec, Negri was the youngest of three children and the only one to survive. Negri’s father was exiled to Siberia by the Russians for alleged revolutionary activity, which sent the young Negri and her mother to Warsaw to scrape by in poverty. After storming the Warsaw stage scene Negri’s popularity helped the actress launch a silent film career in Berlin. The popularity of her 1919 film Madame Dubarry in the United States brought down the embargo on German films in America. After several more successes in German cinema Paramount invited Negri to bring her talents to Hollywood, and her 1922 contract with the film company was the first to be signed by a European star.
Negri’s career with Paramount included films like The Spanish Dancer and Forbidden Paradise which came out right before the industry moved away from silent movies and into the “talkies.” Negri starred in the lacklustre A Woman Commands, but her song “Paradise” from the film became a hit and took Negri on a Vaudeville tour to promote the song.