A Russian actress of stage and screen, Olga Baclanova came to the United States as a member of the Moscow Art Theatre's cast of "Lysistrata" in December of 1925. She chose to remain in America and caught the attention of motion picture producers during a Los Angeles staging of Max Reinhardt's spectacle "The Miracle." Hired as a side, her eye-catching stylized acting style seized attention on the screen, leading to increasingly conspicuous roles in "The Dove" (1927), "The Man Who Laughs" (1928), "Street of Sin" (1928), "The Docks of New York" (1928) and "Forgotten Faces" (1928). Sound did not present her well, since her heavily accented speech sounded stagey. Yet a role in Tod Browning's infamous "Freaks" (1932) has immortalized her.
She returned to Broadway in 1933 and appeared in three productions, of which "Murder at the Vanities" proved the only success. She graced the touring versions of several hits, including "Grand Hotel" and "Cat and the Fiddle" before crossing the Atlantic to work on the London stage, where she enjoyed steady employment until World War II.
There remains some controversy about the date of Baclanova's birth. David S. Shields/ALS