Copyright 1912 by
American-Examiner Great Britain Rights Reserved*
The Only Girl Who Ever Broke D'Annunzio's Heart
Interviewed for the First Time--By Alan Dale
An Intimate Picture of the Woman "With a Riddle for a
Who May Be a Greater Bernhardt
IDA RUBENSTEIN probably is the most interesting theatrical personality
in Europe. Paris knew her first, only a few years ago, as a dancer,
from Russia, and was captivated. But she presently justified her boundless
ambition by exhibiting dramatic talent of the highest order. D'Annunzio,
greatest of modern literary geniuses of the decadent school -- spendthrift
and dandy. who had broken many feminine hearts, including that of Eleanor
Duse, and cynically wrote a novel about it -saw Ida Rubenstein and threw
himself at her feet. For her he wrote his tragic masterpiece, "St. Sebastian,"
while attacking the citadel of her heart with all his acquired skill.
She produced his tragedy, brilliantly, and then coldly turned her back
upon him--the only woman who had successfully resisted D'Annunziio--the
first to break his heart.
By ALAN DALE
newest "Art" Photograph of Ida Rubenstein - "She was Livid - almost
Green. Her Lips, Scarlet Like A Wound, gave One an Odd Sensation of
Mingled Fascination and Repulsion," says Alan Dale, Who is Seen Sitting
in a corner with Her Dog
Paris, June 1
Versailles, that once sheltered poor Marie Antonette before she lost
her head, now shelters the enigmatic, mysterious actress-dancer known
as Ida Rubinstein who is never likely to lose her head.
Versailles, full of memories of the past, leaps into the immediate present
as the much discussed Russian who has blossomed forth into a full-fledged
Parisienne. As it is at the Trianon
Palace that Mlle. Ida Rubinstein abides. (I may add that it is a
hotel, because if I didn't, you would probably discover it.) But, like
most Parisian ladies--even of Russian birth--Mlle. Rubinstein has what
they call a pieds-a-terre (a foothold) in Paris.
She may lose herself at Versailles whenever she chooses, but she has
a nook here at no. 82 Rue Vanneau,
which she calls her atelier (workshop).You see, I'm translating
everything I can for you out of sheer goodness of heart. Thank goodness
I didn't have to trip out to Versailles, where all the tourists go.
I was not obliged to chat to Mlle. Ida amid the atmospheric souveniers
of Marie Antoinette. There is a fitness in everything.
She bade me into her atelier at 82 Rue Vanneau, and thither went I,
filled with curiosity. Mlle. Rubinstein had just closed an engagement
at Chatelet Theatre in "Helene of Sparta," that ran for six nights only--probably
owing to its stupendous success. However, know that she was no poor
little struggler-ess, cast down by the non-run of a colossal production.
What cared she? Moreover --the king is dead; Long live the King! Mlle.
Rubinstein is billed to appear in Oscar Wilde's "Salome" in a few weeks
to come, with special music, special costumes (or non-costumes?) and
specially special scenic effects. I had never seen Ida Rubinstein. "All
Paris" had spoken to me of her, and I know her, of course. She was always
Last year when I was in Paris she produced an enormous affair called
"The Martyr of St. Sebastien," by D'Annunzio, with music by Debussy,
and that, too seemed too big for Paris. In fact, Ida Rubinstein is a
power here, as women can be when they are odd, or beautiful, or fantastic,
or energetic. She produces the best of everything, and if it fails,
is she cast down? Not on your life! Jamais, which means never!
They put me in a little elevator, at no. 82 Rue Vanneau, and told me
it would stop all by itself on the sixth floor. I hate those elevators
minus elevator boy. They move as though they never wanted to get anywhere--or
intended to get anywhere--and there you are, locked in, and powerless.
As I was enclosed in this personal ascenseur I said goodby to myself
and shut my eyes.
When I awoke--it seemed like an hour after--I was on the sixth floor,
at the open door of Mlle. Rubinstein's atelier. There she stood, in
a narrow gray satin skirt, so tight that it showed every line of her
figure. A hat with one of those backward feathers that look like the
rudders of boats added to her height, and she wore a veil, well over
her face. It was a curious riddle of a face. She was livid--almost green.
The whiteness of her skin gleamed strangely. Her lips, scarlet, like
a wound, gave one an odd sensation of mingled fascination and repulsion.
Two dark eyes pierced the veil. Mlle. Rubinstein looked pensive, distraite,
and exceedingly sad. Her hands, with the long tapering fingers, were
unadorned by a single jewel. A single diamond glistened among the laces
on her unemotional breast. She was a remarkable figure, and the sight
of her oppressed me vaguely. I felt I should never be able to "make
conversation." Words failed me--which is unusual.
She stood there in her immense studio, lighted from above (the studio,
not Mlle. Rubinstein). It was a colossal apartment, with a slippery
floor. At one end was a raised platform, red-carpeted and railed. A
few books, yellow-bound, graced a shelf. It was all very odd and systematic.
A few minutes (probably seconds) later, she smiled. If the Sphinx could
smile, it would smile exactly as Mlle. Ida Rubinstein did.
"I practice the dance here," she said apologetically, in perfect English--almost
the English of an Englishwoman--"although I live at Versailles."
Her voice, though low and well modulated, echoed through the room. I
could not imagine her practicing dancing anywhere. She seemed so languid.
Presently she sank on a sofa and looked at me through her veil and half-closed
eyes. A tiny little dog, the cutest, tiniest spaniel I have ever seen,
dashed into the room and, doggily, begged me to take him on my lap.
The little dog broke the ice. Mlle. Rubinstein broke into a human smile
as I fondled the dog.
"That is Cora," she said, with a semblance of animation. "Isn't she
a dear? I have fifty dogs at my house in Versailles, and, above all
I have a leopard, that I acquired in Africa. I love my leopard better
than anything, but I cannot bring it to Paris, because it is savage.
Cora is the only pet I have here."
At any rate, I had made a hit with Cora. She nestled in my arms and
never even looked at Mlle. Rubinstein, who still lay on the sofa in
"Paris is so frivolous," she said presently, after I had lured her from
a veritable jungle of monosyllables.
She had said "Yes" and "No" so often I had begun to despair of her and
had nearly given her up, when, somehow or other, she seemed to spring
into life. She lifted up her veil, and her white face looked whiter,
her red lips redder, and her dark eyes darker.
"Paris is so frivolous," she repeated, "that sometimes I think it is
above its head. My beautiful production of 'Helene of Sparta' - quite
magnificent, and I was Helene - has closed. The same thing happened
with 'The Martyr of St. Sebastien.' Do you know why? Paris was jealous
of D'Annunzio. It was the first time he had ever written in French,
and they were afraid. They said he wrote bad French, and other stupidities
like that. He had always written in Italian and had been translated.
Oh, D'Annunzio is wonderful. His books could be dramatized, but he will
not permit it. He prefers to be his own master. In the future, I think
he will write plays instead of novels. He has acquired a taste for it.
But Paris is so light!"
She looked at me cynically. Her face now seemed drab in the fading light.
The little warm body of Cora was a comfort to me.
"You know that they wouldn't have Ibsen in Paris," she went on. "they
simply will not tolerate him. Oh, yes, 'Nora' they don't mind, because
it is so easy. The other plays they will not tolerate. And Strindberg
- they do not know him here. I once saw 'The Father' in St. Petersburg.
It is very dreadful - too dreadful for Paris. Paris wants to laugh all
the time. Then paris must dine, and paris must sup, and the theatres
must not interfere with that. I am going to produce 'Salome,' the one-act
play, and it will be good for an entire evening."
She was getting a bit less languorous, but with the best of intentions
one could not have called her a merry soul!
"They will dine before they come to see 'Salome'," she said, and it
will begin very late, and they will sup when they have seen 'Salome,'
and it will end very early. They like that. One dares not make a serious
appeal, for they are not serious in Paris."
"I have not yet seen my costume." she said carelessly (and I wondered!),
but it will be very beautiful. It is especially designed for me. Yes,
I dance the Dance of the Seven Veils, and I try to do something new.
You know we have not finished with 'Salome' in Paris. It is all so beautiful!
I consider myself an actress and a dancer. I think that dance is part
of the drama. It is an expression of drama. The real dancer must be
dramatic. She cannot dance unless she has drama in her soul. I love
to combine dance and drama. Yet I love serious plays. My nature is serious.
I cannot laugh at the Boulevard theatres in Paris. They oppress me."
Was it a pose? If so, it was well done. She had not budged from the
sofa. Her veil was still lifted, but she had ceased to smile.
"They want me to go to America." she said softly. "They want me to act
in America, but - it is so far! I have never been there."
I was silent, it is not wise to contradict a lady. Rumor sayeth that
once, a decade ago. Mlle. Ida Rubinstein was in America. Rumor, forsooth!
Prate not to me of rumor. If Mlle. Rubinstein wants me to believe that
she has never been to America, I'll believe it. That did seem to be
"If I ever go to America," she said, "I want to play drama there in
English. I want to play Hedda Gabier, which I love. That is my ambition.
Another of my ambitions is to play 'Helene of Sparta' in German in Berlin.
Perhaps I shall do it. Then I dance always. If I ever come to America,
I shall dance as well. But, you see, I speak English. When I was a little
girl I had an English governess in Russia, and I spoke even better than
I do now. We are all linguists in Russia."
"Do you know your fellow-countrywoman, Nazimova, who has made a hit
in America, playing in English?"
She looked at me inquiringly, "I never heard of her," she said. "She
could not have been famous in Russia. Once a famous Russian actress,
now dead, went to New York and played there in Russian, but she was
not a success. No, I do not know Nazimova. Do they like Ibsen in America?"
I gave hear a brief - frightfully brief - history of Ibsen in the United
States. She listened with closed eyes, or at least I fancied that she
listened. Perhaps she didn't. In any case, I do not think that
a career in U.S.A. is of vast importance to her. She makes her magnificent
productions here in Paris, and if they fail she does not worry. Her
look of profound melancholy is merely habitual.
Cora barked and jumped from my lap. I felt I could not stay in that
oppressive studio without Cora.
Mlle. Ida Rubinstein sat up and addressed some endearing epithets to
Cora. Yet this little dog did not go to hert. It capered round and round
the room. Mlle. Rubinstein laughed aloud for the first time. The dog
amused her I certainly did not. She showed me pictures of "The
Martyr of St. Sebastien" around the walls of the atelier. She had five
hundred of them by which to remember that most costly of experiments.
She pointed to them rather listlessly, trailing her gray satin skirt
on the polished floor. The little dog barked itself away. I shivered
slightly. She put down her veil and moved toward the door. Alone in
the self-working elevator, I breathed again. I could not understand
Mlle. Ida Rubinstein, though, and perhaps because, her English
was so perfect.
Left Caption: One of Mlle. Ruben-stein's Poses
in "Hellene of Sparta."
Middle Caption: Mlle. Rubenstein, as She Appeared
in the Principal Part of Her Ballet, "Sheherazade."
Right Caption: From a Paris Poster of Mlle. Ruben-stein
in "Hellene of Sparta."
*The original copyright has expired, and was never renewed. This
material is presented for scholastic purposes only, and is completly
in the public domain.