Olga Baclanova

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Olga Baclanova
Olga Baclanova - publicity.JPG
Baclanova circa 1930
Born Olga Vladimirovna Baklanova
(1896-08-19)19 August 1896[under discussion]
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died 6 September 1974(1974-09-06) (aged 78)
Vevey, Switzerland
Other names Baclanova
Olga Baklanova
Occupation Actress
Years active 1914–1943
Spouse(s) Vlademar Zoppi (m. 1922–29) 1 child
Nicholas Soussanin (m. 1929–35) 1 child
Richard Davis (m. 1937 – 1974?)
Relatives Gleb Baklanov, brother
Olga Baclanova.jpg

Olga Vladimirovna Baclanova (Russian: О́льга Влади́мировна Бакла́нова; 19 August 1893[under discussion] – 6 September 1974) was a Russian-born actress of stage and screen and operatic singer, and ballerina.[1] She achieved prominence during the silent film era and was often billed under her last name only, as Baclanova, similarly to the surname only nomenclature assigned to fellow countrywoman Nazimova.[2][3][4]

She was billed as the "Russian Tigress" and remains most noted by modern audiences for portraying the fictional Duchess Josiana in the Universal silent The Man Who Laughs and trapeze artist Cleopatra in Tod Browning's horror movie Freaks (1932), which features a cast of actual carnival sideshow freaks.

Early life[edit]

She was born on 19 August 1893 in Moscow, Russia.[1][3] Baclanova was the daughter of Vladimir Baklanoff and his wife Alexandra,[3] herself an actress in early Russian films. Baclanova studied drama at the Cherniavsky Institute[3] before being accepted into the prestigious Moscow Art Theatre in 1912. Over the next decade she appeared in Russian films, and also performed extensively on stage, touring and performing in many countries of the world, in the 1930"s had a program called Olga Baclanova's Continental Review and she often appeared as a guest on radio programs singing songs in her native Russian, she had trained in operatic voice at the Moscow Arts Theatre


Baclanova first came to New York City with the 1925 touring production of the Moscow Art Theatre's Lysistrata. Though the rest of the company returned to Russia in 1926, she stayed to pursue career in the United States.[3] A statuesque blonde, Baclanova quickly established herself as a popular actress in American silent movies and achieved a notable success with The Docks of New York (1928), directed by Josef von Sternberg. Later that year, she also appeared in The Man Who Laughs as Duchess Josiana, the femme fatale love interest to Conrad Veidt's disfigured hero.

The introduction of talking films proved difficult for Baclanova, as audiences did not respond to her heavy Russian accent. She no longer secured leading roles, and was relegated to supporting parts. Her career was in decline when she was offered the role of the cruel circus performer Cleopatra in Tod Browning's film Freaks[5] (1932) This horror movie, which featured actual carnival freaks, was highly controversial and screened only briefly before being withdrawn. It would be 30 years before Freaks gained a cult following. The movie did not revive Baclanova's film career, which ended in 1943.

Baclanova worked extensively on stage in London's West End and in New York, for about 10 years starting in the mid-1930s. In 1943 she appeared in "Claudia" at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, Washington.

Personal life[edit]

Baclanova was married three times and bore two sons with her first and second husbands. The birth of her second son with actor Nicholas Soussanin was front page news and covered quite extensively in the press in 1930.

Later years[edit]

After her retirement she migrated to Switzerland. She died on 6 September 1974 in Vevey, Switzerland.[1]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Olga Baclanova Is Dead at 74. Starred in Films and on Stage". New York Times. September 11, 1974. Retrieved 2014-12-10. Olga Baclanova, the Russian born stage and motion-picture actress, died Friday at Vevey, Switzerland, She was 74 years old. Miss Baclanova, a graduate of the Moscow Art Theater, came to this country in 1926 ... 
  2. ^ Mank, Gregory W. (1999). Women in horror films, 1930s, p. 118. McFarland, ISBN 978-0-7864-0553-4
  3. ^ a b c d e Meienberg, L. Paul. "Olga Baclanova Biography". Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  4. ^ Vazzana, Eugene Michael (2001). Silent film necrology, p. 25. McFarland, ISBN 978-0-7864-1059-0
  5. ^ a b c d Meienberg, L. Paul. "Olga Baclanova--The Ultimate Cinemantrap!". Retrieved 2009-06-07. 

External links[edit]