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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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