Vera Vasilyevna Kholodnaya (née Levchenko; Ukrainian: Віра Василівна Холодна ; Russian: Вера Васильевна Холодная; 5 August 1893 – 16 February 1919) was a Ukrainian actress of Russian Empire cinema.[1][2][3] She was the first star of Imperial Russian silent cinema. Only five of her films still exist, and the total number she acted in is unknown, with speculation ranging from 50 to 100.[4]

Vera Vasilyevna Kholodnaya
Вера Васильевна Холодная
Vera Vasilyevna Levchenko

(1893-08-05)5 August 1893
Poltava, Russian Empire
Died16 February 1919(1919-02-16) (aged 25)
Odessa, Ukrainian People's Republic
Years active1914–1918
Vladimir Kholodny
(m. 1910)

Early life


Born in Poltava (Russian Empire, now Ukraine), she went to live in Moscow with her widowed grandmother at the age of 2. As a girl, she dreamed of a career in classical ballet and enrolled at the Bolshoi Theatre ballet school. From early childhood. Vera participated in family theatricals. When she was age 10, Vera was sent to the famous Perepelkina's grammar school.[citation needed]

Personal life


At the graduation prom she met Vladimir Kholodny, who was then a student, an editor of a daily sport newspaper and a race-driver, said to be one of the early Russian car racers. They got married in 1910 despite disapproval of both families.[4] Vera often accompanied him in races, which resulted in road accidents. She also adopted his surname, which translates to "the cold one". Later, many took it for a well-chosen pseudonym. Their daughter Evgeniya was born in 1912, and they adopted a girl, Nata, a year later.[5]

Career rise

Vera Kholodnaya

In 1908, Vera attended a performance of Francesca da Rimini, with Vera Komissarzhevskaya in the title role. She was deeply impressed with Komissarzhevskaya's artistry and decided to venture in film acting. She approached Vladimir Gardin, a leading Russian film director, who cast her in a minor role in his grand production of Anna Karenina.[citation needed]

In 1915 Yevgeni Bauer was to direct the film Song of Triumphant Love (Pesn Torzhestvuyushchey Lyubvi),[6] a mystical love drama (after Turgenev) and was searching for an actress of outstanding beauty. When Vera Kholodnaya was introduced to Bauer, he at once approved her for the role, being impressed by her beauty.[4]

Song of Triumphant Love was an enormous success and Yevgeni Bauer immediately started shooting his another movie starring Kholodnaya. It was a melodrama Flame of the Sky (Plamya Neba) about guilty love of a young woman married off to an old widower, and his son. Although Flame of the Sky was shot after Song of Triumphant Love, it was the first to go on screen and so brought fame to Vera Kholodnaya.

At first it was hard for Vera to convey complex psychological nuances[6] and so she imitated the acting of Asta Nielsen but gradually developed her own style. Vera's extravagant costumes and large gray eyes made her an enigmatic screen presence which fascinated audiences across Imperial Russia.

Her next picture was The Children of the Age (Deti veka), aired in 1915,[7] a drama with pretensions to revealing social problems.

Tremendous success was Pyotr Chardynin's tragic melodrama The Mirages (1916), followed by the 'fancy drama' Beauty Must Reign in the World by Yevgeni Bauer, melodrama Fiery Devil, and another melodrama A Life for a Life, which turned one of the most popular films in Vera Kholodnaya's career and brought her the title 'the Queen of Screen'.[4] The author of this title was Alexander Vertinsky who venerated the actress and frequented her house. In 1916 Khanzhonkov's company started making the film Pierrot with Vertinsky and Kholodnaya playing the leads. Unfortunately, the film was not completed.

In the beginning of 1917 was released of one of the best films with Vera Kholodnaya, namely By the Fireplace (U kamina), based on a popular romance. The tragic film about a family broken by a rich lover ended with the death of the protagonist played by Vera Kholodnaya. The triumph of the drama exceeded all the films shot in Russia before that.[4] It was so until 1918 when the movie Be Silent, My Sorrow, Be Silent (Molchi, grust, molchi) aired and received even great acceptance.[4][8] Like many of her films, it was based on a Russian traditional love song. At the same time there was probably no other film so much criticized, especially after the revolution. By the middle of 1918 Vera Kholodnaya turned from just a popular and admired actress into a real phenomenon of the Russian cinema.[9]

Her latest movies were Krasnaya zarya (1918), Zhivoy trup (1918), The Last Tango (1918).[10]

However, only five works with Kholodnaya have been preserved.[11] The Children of the Age was the earliest of them. The other four extant films are: The Mirages (1916), A Life for a Life (1916), A Corpse Living (1918), and Be Silent, My Sorrow, Be Silent (1918).

A Life for a Life was the film that definitively established Kholodnaya's star status.[12]

World War I and the Russian Revolution

Ossip Runitsch, Ivan Khudoleev and Vera Kholodnaya

After her husband was drafted to fight in World War I, Kholodnaya signed with a rival Khanzhonkov studio.

During World War I, Kholodnaya took part in charity concerts, selling gifts to support soldiers and their families. Soldiers worshipped Kholodnaya, calling her "our Verochka".[13] In breaks between shooting sessions, Kholodnaya travelled to the front to visit her husband.[14]

By the time of the Russian Revolution, a new Kholodnaya film was released every third week. At the Fire Side (1917) was her massive commercial success: the movie was run in cinemas until 1924, when the Soviet authorities ordered many of the Kholodnaya features destroyed. At the Fire Side was a drama based on a love triangle.[15] The film's success prompted its director Petr Chardynin to make a sequel, Forget about the Fire, the Flame's Gone Out (1917), which was released during the October revolution. Forget about the Fire, together with another film, Be Silent, My Sorrow, Be Silent (1918) – both with a circus theme – broke all commercial records for Russian pre-revolutionary cinema.[15]

During the Russian Civil War, the Bolshevik authorities requested film companies to produce less melodrama and more adaptations of classics. Accordingly, Kholodnaya was cast in a screen version of Tolstoy's The Living Corpse. Her acting abilities in this film were applauded by Konstantin Stanislavski, who welcomed Vera to join the troupe of the Moscow Art Theatre.[citation needed]

By this time, the actress had determined to move with her film company to Odessa, where she died at the age of 25 in the 1918 flu pandemic. On learning about her death, Alexander Vertinsky, wrote one of his most poignant songs, "Your fingers smell of church incense, and your lashes sleep in grief..." A director with whom she had worked for several years filmed her large funeral. Ironically, this seems to be her best known film today.

Circumstances of her death


Official Russian records state that Vera Kholodnaya died of the Spanish flu during the pandemic of 1919.[16] While that seems quite likely, there is much speculation around her death. Other stories claim she was poisoned by the French ambassador with whom she reportedly had an affair and who believed that she was a spy for the Bolsheviks.[17]

Vera Kholodnaya and Ossip Runitch in The Last Tango, 1918



Her life was dramatised in Nikita Mikhalkov's film A Slave of Love (1976).[18] A documentary on her life was filmed in 1992. A year later, her image was depicted on a postage stamp and in 2003 a life-size bronze statue of her was erected in Odessa, created by the artist Alexander P. Tokarev.



Only eight of Kholodnaya's films have survived, in part or in whole:[19]

Year Title
1914 Anna Karenina
1915 Children of the Age
1916 Mirages
1916 A Life for a Life
1917 Tormented Souls (Izterzannye dushi)
1918 Be Silent, My Sorrow, Be Silent
1918 Skazka liubvi dorogoi
1918 The Last Tango

Lost films

Year Title
1915 Vaniushin's Children (Deti Vaniushina)
1915 Flame of the Sky (Plamia neba)
1915 Song of Triumphant Love (Pesn' torzhestvuiushchei liubvi)
1915 Nakazannyi Antosha
1915 Probuzhdenie
1916 Beauty Must Rule the World (V mir dolzhna tsarit' krasota)
1916 Odna iz mnogikh
1916 Lunnaia krasavitsa
1916 Shakhmaty zhizni
1916 Razorvannye tsepi
1917 Stolichnyi iad
1917 Radi schast'ia
1917 Pytka molchaniia
1917 U kamina
1917 Izterzannye dushi
1917 Pochemu ia bezumno liubliu
1917 Kak oni lgut
1917 Na altar' krasoty
1917 Toboi kaznennye
1917 Bluzhdaiushchie ogni
1917 Pozabud' pro kamin, v nem pogasli ogni
1917 Chelovek-zver'
1918 Zhivoi trup
1918 Ternistyi slavy put'
1918 The Woman who Invented Love (Zhenshchina, kotoraia izobrela liubov')
1918 Meshchanskaia tragediia
1919 Azra
1919 Krasnaia zaria
1919 V tiskakh liubvi
1919 Pesn' Persii
1919 Kira Zubova

Films that were never released

Year Title
1918 Kniazhna Tarakanova
1918 Ispoved' monakhini
1919 Tsyganka Aza
1919 Dama s kameliiami

See also



  1. ^ Peter Rollberg (2009). Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Cinema. US: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 345–346. ISBN 978-0-8108-6072-8.
  2. ^ Anne Commire; Deborah Klezmer, eds. (2000). Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Yorkin Publications. p. 642. ISBN 978-0-7876-4067-5.
  3. ^ Sergei Eisenstein (1996). Richard Taylor (ed.). Selected Works, Volume 3. BFI Pub. p. 383. ISBN 978-0-85170-530-9.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Vera Kholodnaya Russian silent cinema actress :: people :: Russia-InfoCentre". Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  5. ^ Parrill, William B. (8 June 2015). European Silent Films on Video: A Critical Guide. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-1021-4.
  6. ^ a b Tsivian, Yuri; Taylor, Richard (13 December 2013). Early Cinema in Russia and Its Cultural Reception. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-92837-9.
  7. ^ "Muchnik's Picks: Music in Moscow Over the Weekend | Arts and Ideas". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  8. ^ Ioffe, Nadezhda (1 January 1995). Back in Time: My Life, My Fate, My Epoch : the Memoirs of Nadezhda A. Joffe. Mehring Books. ISBN 978-0-929087-70-2.
  9. ^ Feinstein, Elaine (19 March 2006). "Anna of All the Russias". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  10. ^ "L'ENCINEMATHEQUE: La collectionneuse". Archived from the original on 8 May 2016. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  11. ^ "The Presidential Library to di..." Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  12. ^ Sobolev, R. P. (1961). Liudi i fil'my russkogo dorevoliutsnnogo kino. Moscow: Iskusstvo. pp. 137–38.
  13. ^ Kashchenko, E. S. (2012). "Izmenenie sistemy stereotipov v otechestvennom kinematografe 1910-1930-kh gg. (na primere fil'mov "Zhizn' za zhizn'" (1916) i "Semero smelykh" (1936))" (PDF). Noveishaia Istoriia Rossii: Zhurnal. 2: 176. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 April 2014.
  14. ^ Banchik, N. (2002). "Svet sgorevshei zvezdy—skvoz' goda, okeany". Russkii Bazar: Zhurnal. 10 (306).
  15. ^ a b Ginzburg, S. S.; Гинзбург, С. С. (2007). Kinematografii︠a︡ dorevoli︠u︡t︠s︡ionnoĭ Rossii. Moskva: Agraf. p. 170. ISBN 9785778402478. OCLC 173182496.
  16. ^ Greta, De Groat; Groat, Greta de. "Gloria Swanson". Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  17. ^ Віра Холодна. 1893–1919. 120 років від дня народження
  18. ^ "A Slave of Love". Archived from the original on 4 July 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  19. ^ Velikiĭ kinemo : katalog sokhranivshikhsi︠a︡ igrovykh filʹmov Rossii, 1908–1919. Ivanova, V. (Valentina), 1937-2008., Иванова, В. (Валентина), 1937–2008. Moskva: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie. 2002. ISBN 5867931552. OCLC 49633949.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)