Rambo va va voom

Natacha Rambova (1897 – 1966) was an American costume and set designer, artistic director, screenwriter, producer and occasional actress. Later in life she worked as a fashion designer and Egyptologist.

image found here

Her mother Winifred Kimball, was married four times, eventually settling on millionaire perfume mogul Richard Hudnut. Rambova was adopted by her stepfather, making her legal name Winifred Hudnut.

Richard Hudnut advertising found here

Rambova was a rebellious teenager. She was sent home from a boarding school for “conduct unbecoming of a lady“. At the age of 17 she fell for 32 year old Theodore Kosloff (who already had a wife and daughter in Europe) and the pair began a tumultuous but short lived love affair. While Kosloff was away on a hunting trip, Rambova packed her bags and called a taxi. However Kosloff returned unexpectedly and caught her leaving; angered, he shot her in the leg. She managed to escape and never reported the matter to the police.

Theodore Kosloff found here

Shortly after this, she started working for Alla Nazimova who employed her as an art director and costume designer. It was on the set of one of Nazimova’s films that Natacha met Rudolph Valentino. They moved in together and devised a plan to sell Valentino’s autograph for 25 cents. This venture kept them afloat between paychecks.

Valentino found here

Natacha took photos of Valentino for a magazine called Shadowland that featured art and dancer photos. The pair were forced to separate (or at least pretend to) as the divorce proceedings for Valentino’s marriage to Jean Acker began. Once the divorce was final, they married on May 13, 1922 in Mexico. However, the law at the time required a year to pass before remarriage and Valentino was jailed as a bigamist. The scandal seriously hurt both their careers.

Jean Acker found here

They worked together on several films, most of which failed to make money at the box office. Natacha specialized in “exotic” effects in both costume and stage design. For costumes she favored bright colors, baubles, bangles, shimmering fabrics and feathers. She also used the effect of sparkle on half nude bodies slathered in paint.

image found here

After her divorce from Valentino, Rambova opened an elite couture shop on Fifth Avenue in 1927. Later she closed the shop and moved to France after meeting her second husband in 1934. Following her second divorce she developed an interest in the metaphysical and published various articles on healing and astrology.

image found here

Natacha believed in reincarnation and psychic powers. Later in life she became an Egyptologist and a follower of Madame Blavatsky, visiting psychics, partaking in séances and automatic writing. In the mid 1960s she was struck with scleroderma, and became malnourished and delusional as a result. She died of a heart attack in 1966 at the age of 69. Her Egyptian antiquities were donated to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and she willed a huge collection of Nepali and Lamaistic art to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Natacha was portrayed by Yvette Mimieux in The Legend of Valentino (1975), and by Michelle Phillips in Ken Russell’s feature film Valentino (1977).

image found here

Published in: on January 2, 2012 at 9:14 pm  Comments (47)  
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47 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Now every tourist trap in Hollywood sells stars autographs….no longer 25 cents.

    • Not something I’m collecting though I do have Paul Hogan’s if anyone’s interested.

  2. I’d say the delusions began long before the scleroderma hit…

    The King

    • Yeah, about twenty years before. Pity, she was a talented and fascinating person in her youth.

  3. Had to look for scleroderma, what a nasty thing.
    So she was a follower of la Blavatsky, achje … she lived here in Wuerzburg for a short time. “Isis unveiled” and all this, later there was Annie Bessant …. You know the book Uranias Children by Howe? Could be interesting for you.
    This Acker wrap looks nice!

  4. …”worked as a fashion designer and Egyptologist”.

    and i thought “engineer and stripper” were a bit out of phase…

    • I know a doctor who also has a degree in archaeology though I guess that’s not so unusual. Perhaps if she was a stripper on the side as well….

  5. This is why I love Mexico. You can buy prescription drugs under the counter and pay off the cops to get out of speeding tickets–speaking from experience on both counts–but try to marry again before a year has passed and you’re going straight to jail!

    • were you speeding on prescription drugs?

  6. Richard Hudnut- I remember my mother using his Three Flowers loose face powder!

    She had style, didn’t she. Bags of style!

    • My mother used Richard Hudnut hairspray

  7. It really doesn’t seem like shooting her in the leg would be the best way to win her back…

    • a bunch of roses and a heartfelt apology might have been a better tactic

  8. I love the set design pic nursie

    • Me too. and the photo of Jean Acker

  9. Kosloff sounds like an abusive beast if he shot her. No wonder she wanted to leave!

    • He was also a cheating husband and a big game hunter. not “qualities” I’d look for in a relationaship

  10. Shooting her in the leg? Is that implying she’s a horse?

    • It’s implying a lack of respect

  11. One of my boys wanted to become an Egyptologist when he was younger.

    • What does he want to become now Tammy?

  12. That was quite a life.
    It’s good that her stuff went tO the museums.

    • I wonder if some museum would want my vast corset collection

  13. I just want to put everyone here on notice: if you shoot me in the leg, I will report you to the police.

  14. It’s ironic how newspapers of the time covered his death. Because most of the major dailies in the US were Monday thru Friday, you had the real awkward moment as a reader when you read the Friday issue saying that he was on the road to recovery, only to discover on Monday Hollywood and the world were lamenting his untimely death.

    • Oh those awkward moments……

  15. Michelle Phillips looks a little like Twiggy …

    • I hadn’t noticed the resemblance before but you’re right daddyp

  16. One of my favorite sentences in the English language, “conduct unbecoming to a lady”, ladies like that are the only ones worth knowing.

    • I shall henceforth strive to conduct myself unbecomingly

  17. Well she kept herself busy. Might try that shooting thing on The Cat’s Mother if the worst comes…

    • Good Lord! should I warn her?

  18. A doctor at the asylum decided to take his inmates to a baseball game. For weeks in advance, he coached his patients to respond to his commands.
    When the day of the game arrived, everything seemed to be going well. As the national anthem started, the doctor yelled, ”Up nuts!” And the inmates complied by standing up.
    After the anthem he yelled, ”Down nuts!” And they all sat.
    After a home run he yelled, ”Cheer nuts!” And they all broke into applause and cheers. Thinking things were going very well, he decided to go get a beer and a hot dog, leaving his assistant in charge.
    When he returned there was a riot in progress. Finding his assistant, he asked what happened.
    The assistant replied, ”Well…everything was fine until some guy walked by and yelled, ”PEANUTS!”

    • Tony where do you find these dreadful jokes?

  19. He shot her in the leg? Good grief!

    • way to impress a lady…..

      • He had a funny way of saying, “Don’t go.”

  20. I’ve not seen Valentino. I bet Ken Russell had a field day making their lives even spicier than they already were.

  21. Oh dear, it sounds like Rambova and Valentino were desperately in love, but their marriage only lasted 5 years.

    Luckily, The King knows that I control the Castle Guard!

  22. Any special Friday plans for 2012?

  23. I wonder if the derivation of the Hollywood hero Rambo’s name has any connection to your heroine. That would be sorta funny.

  24. You had me at Egyptologist. And then again at Valentino.

  25. I thought Jean looked like she’d be worth keeping, but after following links discovered she had misgivings about marrying Rudy and locked him out on the wedding night, so given Natacha’s obvious charms I’m understanding his motives a little better. Please keep trying to conduct yourself in a manner unbecoming to a lady, when done right it’s fantastic, when done wrong you get shot in the leg I suppose.

  26. A fascinating but exhausting life – where do these people find the energy to get married and divorced so often?

  27. A fascinating shift in her career, I would say. From fashion designer etc to Egyptologist

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