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вторник, 17 мая 2011 г.

Natalia Paley. Too beautiful to be real

Princess Natalia Pavlovna Paley (Наталья Павловна Палей) (December 5, 1905 – December 27, 1981) was a French-born fashion icon, socialite, and film actress who was a first cousin of the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II.
Countess Natalie Pavlovna de Hohenfelsen was born at her parents' estate, 2 avenue Victor Hugo (now 4 avenue Robert Schuman), in Boulogne-sur-Seine, close to Paris, France, on December 5, 1905. She was the last child of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovitch of Russia, who was the son of the late Emperor Alexander II, who had been assassinated in 1881. Natalie's mother was also an aristocrat, Olga Valerionovna Karnovitch, soon to become Countess de Hohenfelsen, a noblewoman from Hungary.
Like most other aristocratic Russians who had survived and settled in France, Natalie went looking for a job. She found one when she went to Lucien Lelong's fashion house, 16 avenue Matignon, near the Champs Elysees, where she was signed as a model.
With her aristocratic background and her sparkling beauty, Natalie was an invaluable windfall for Lelong's business. For Natalie, this man's position was synonymous with power, money and security. As Natalie warmed to the thought of marriage, her family and friends saw their union as a misalliance. Despite this, the couple contracted a civil marriage on August 9, 1927.
Though they shared the same infatuation for the arts and fashion, too many things separated the newlyweds to bring them true happiness. Too involved with his work, and in love with one of his famous models who was doomed to die of tuberculosis, Lelong never grew to understand his wife's languor, or her frequent outbursts of temper when she was out of the limelight.
With her husband's affection going to another woman, Natalie searched for consolation. Spending the summer of 1930 in Venice, she embarked on an affair with charismatic dancer Serge Lifar, whose talent was applauded around the world. A former lover of ballet master Serge de Diaghileff, he was the ideal companion for Natalie.
Their relationship lasted almost two incredible years, until Natalie met another man whose sensibilty and creativity could match Lifar's talent. Again, her choice was strange.
Legendary writer Jean Cocteau was conspicuously homosexual, and a genius whose life reflected his art. Yet his addiction to opium had begun to ravage him. Sadly, he would share his affliction with Natalie who, along with actor Jean Marais, would be among the most important liasons of his life, as she was the only woman he ever wanted to marry, though they never had any sexual relations.
Natalie  left Cocteau in the fall of 1932.
 She became a movie actress and took parts in several European movies, including Sir Alexander Korda's The Private Life of Don Juan (1934) and Marcel L'Herbier's L'epervier (1933). She eventually moved to the United States, and acted in George Cukor's Sylvia Scarlett (1935), where she began a close friendship with the film's main star, Katharine Hepburn, which would last through her life.
 Her Hollywood film career was over almost as soon as it had started.
Shortly after her divorce from Lelong on May 24, 1937, she made the official statement to the press that she would marry a theatrical producer, John Chapman Wilson, the following September.
Wilson knew that his beautiful and popular wife could open many doors for his business as a Broadway producer. Natalie, for her part, liked her husband's humor, and his homosexuality suited her distaste for physical love. Once again, she was searching for a friend, and nothing more.
Since Wilson was a heavy drinker, whose habit gradually was spiralling out of control, most of their friends had deserted them by the late 1950s. Toward the end, his mental imbalance manifested itself in his bedroom decor, a nightmare of black furniture, black walls, black curtains, and even black sheets. Natalie tried to do what she could to help him, but he was self-destructive and she could do nothing more. Confined to a wheelchair, often violent, and in a state of increasing dementia, he was a shadow of his former self when he died in November 1961, at age 62.
So many of her friends, the witnesses of her former splendor, were now dead.
Jean Cocteau, Erich Maria Remarque, Coco Chanel, Noel Coward, Lucien Lelong, and so many others, had departed. Now, she was condemned to loneliness. After 1975, she shut herself off from the world and became a recluse. She even refused to see her few remaining friends and family, though she took their phone calls, but when she became blind, she was grateful to find a few admirers who took care of her until the end. In 1978, she was deeply moved when dancer Serge Lifar sent her a short letter, using a Pushkin quotation:
"We shall never forget our first love. The heart of Russia won't forget you. And you, my heart will never forget you."
On December 21, 1981, she had fallen in her bath and had broken her femur when she was rushed to the Roosevelt Hospital emergency unit. After surgery had failed and her condition had worsened, she whispered to her doctor and nurses, "I want to die in dignity."
She was 76 when she passed away on December 27
" If her film career was brief, and her talent unspectacular, Natalie Paley was, on the other hand, the answer to a Hollywood publicist's dream. She was a fascinating creature from a wealthy and famous family, the quintessence of French chic, and almost too beautiful to be real. Her romantic and tragic life was one that no mere fiction could have equalled. From Czarist Russia, to 1930s Parisian high society, and then on to the elite circles of Hollywood and New York City, her life blossomed, then faded. In the end, all that remained was a sad and lonely woman who had graced her century as a rare, but wasted, flower. "

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