to American-Examiner are scarce, but the columnist was a longtime
drama critic for Hearst's Journal -- who also did pieces like:
Mlle. Anna Held Receives Alan Dale, Attired
in a Nightie, with sketches
similar to the one for this article.
Sarah Bernhardt became Ida's private acting tutor. Her revival of Bernhardt's
Dames aux Camélias
(1923) was a popular success.
American painter Romaine Brooks also loved D'Annunzio, but wound up
in a relationship with Ida.
'Alan Dale' was born Alfred J. Cohen in England, and wrote novels like
A Marriage Less Than Zero. Like Ida, he was also of Jewish descent.
Both Vicki Woolf and Michael de Cossart give the address
of her studio as 54 Rue Vanneau.
She moved to 7 Place des Unis-Etats
de Sparte ran at the
Chatelet Theatre from May 4
to May 10, 1912
ran at the
Chatelet Theatre from June 12
to June 19, 1912
Martyr de St. Sebastien premiered at the
Chatelet Theatre on May 22, 1911
Ida Rubinstein's clothes were most often made by the Maison (house
Although independently wealthy, Rubinstein acquired a fortune in jewelry,
thanks to Walter Guinness and others.
Her studio was also decorated by Leon Baskt.
Ida later played the Sphinx in Maurice Rostand's Secret du Sphinx
She and her friend Sarah Bernhardt both kept exotic pets. Ida owned
a panther who frightend Serge Diaghilev out of his wits, causing the
authorities to take it away. I frankly doubt that any hotel would allow
St. Sebastien was D'Annunzio's first major work in French rather
Gabrielle D'Annunzio would write two more plays for her -- La Pisanelle
(1913) and Phaedre (1923). She would also reprise St.
Sebastien in the 20's and '30's.
Salome had all-new
costumes and decor by Leon Baskt.
Vicki Woolf and Michael de Cossart say that Rubinstein sailed
to New York in order to appear at the Metropolitan Opera in 1909.
Ida danced Cleopatra for two weeks in Berlin with the Ballet
Vicki Woolf says that her
governess was Italian.
Alla Nazimova later starred in a 1922 movie
Ida later rejected an offer to replace Anna Pavlova in the Boston Opera
Company in 1916. The dangerous Atlantic crossing in wartime might explain
Leon Baskt, designer of St. Sebastien, made uncounted numbers
of drawings and sketches of Ida from 1906 until
his death in 1924. Unfortunately, any works of art in her posession
were lost when her house was looted by the Nazis in WWII.
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 doing things.
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 her. 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 "Helene 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.