Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mystery babe Natacha Natova (and my Natacha=Nathalie thesis)

"Playtime" at the Piccadilly Hotel, 1925
Natacha Natova (the initial photo)
Natasha: closeup
     [I can be a bit obsessive. The following post, a few hours' work, illustrates the phenomenon. I've added to it since then. I don't think I'll ever get to the bottom of this thing.]

     It's no secret that I love artifacts of times past, especially those with which I have some connection—a shared locality, interest, whatnot.
    I’m especially a sucker for mystery babes of the past.
    Earlier today, I came across a picture of a Russian dancer who performed with her troupe (a “company”) in the Vaudeville circuit in the late 20s-early 30s. Her name was Natacha Natova. See above.
    Intriguing, eh? I'm obsessed!
    It's the only pic I could find specifically of this mysterious Natacha Natova. She is sometimes described as a “famous” dancer—a "danseuse"—but, beyond the fact that she had a company that performed in a 1929 movie, I can find almost no information about her at all. [Well, see UPDATES.] I did come across an obscure remark in a French article that seemed to say that Ms. Natova went to America because of Americans' relative embrace of the "cult" of energetic dancing—a phenomenon at the time perhaps related to jazz. (Natacha NATOVA - brillante danseuse russe classique était folle du jazz et elle le considérait comme l'expression parfaite du culte de l'énergie qu'avaient les Américains à cette époque.)
     One ship's manifest, recording Natova's trip to the U.S. in 1925, indicates that she was born near St. Petersburg, Russia, a cultural center and home to perhaps the most important figures of 20th Century ballet. Serge Diaghilev was originally based in that city.
     Yep, she and the Natacha Natova Company appeared in The Hollywood Review of 1929, MCd by a wisecracking—and racist, by today's standards—Jack Benny. Here’s their part of the movie, doing an adagio dance:

     Apparently, an “adagio” act entails the throwing, spinning, and twirling of a petite dancer/acrobat, and Natova was the baton du jour. Here's a still of our girl being used as a jump rope:

Natacha as rope, 1929
     I found a book that mentions Natova (spelled Nattova) on the circuit in 1929. It includes this clip, evidently from Billboard, April 6, 1929:

     It appears that Natova later continued such an act with the popular variety performers (in Britain, I believe), the Ganjou Brothers, but Natova decided to go solo in 1931 and was then replaced by a dancer named Juanita (the Ganjous had a “Juanita” version of the act, I think, well into the 50s. See). [UPDATE: it appears that the troupe that performed on film in '29 was the Ganjou Brothers [Bob & George; Serge was still in Europe]. For some reason, they used Natova's name. The Ganjous, who were Polish/Russian, later produced the Dior Dancers.)]
     I noticed that has a record of a Natacha Nattova (note the 2 T’s), born about 1905 in Petrograd, Russia. Nevertheless, her ethnicity is listed as “French.” (The Ballet Russes, albeit "Russian," never performed in Russia; it was essentially self-exiled and based in Paris.) She sailed the Aquitania to New York on Nov. 6, 1925, from England.

Natacha arrives in New York, 1925. (Click on graphic to enlarge.)
     That looks like our girl, all right.
     Unfortunately, that's pretty much all that I can find on Natacha. But I have run across yet another female Russian dancer of the time, one Nina Natova. Could it be that Nina is Natacha? Or are they sisters? What gives? I'm thinkin' sisters.

     [UPDATE: I've done further looking and have found that, in Britain, Natacha Nattavo (two t's) had a male dance parter, Jean Myrio, and, together, they were called "Myrio and Natacha" or "Natacha and Myrio." The partnership seems to have existed on both sides of the Atlantic, for I've found records of the two in Britain up through September, 1925, but then in the New York area in 1926. By late 1927, however, she was dancing with G. Rodion and Harry Glick. She fired (or had fired) the latter, who sued but lost the suit (see below). (She explained that Glick was not strong enough to catch her or toss her around and that, besides, there was no need for a second man.)
     It appears that Myrio's real name (but who knows what's real with this crowd) was Jean Henry [or Henri Jean] Raoul Delteil, a classically trained dancer (and Russian? French?), who later married a famous artist's model, known as Desha Delteil (1899-1980). The two formed their own dance duo and performed in Britain and France in the 1930s:
[Desha Deltiel] married Jean Henry Raoul Delteil, known as Jean Myrio, another classically trained dancer from [Michel] Fokine's company. In the 1930s she and Myrio performed at a number of nightclubs in Paris and London, and their dance interpretation of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue at the Kit-Cat Club was recorded in a Pathé motion picture review. In 1939 they worked at the Casino de Paris together with Josephine Baker. Jean had a small house in the Dordogne where Maurice Chevalier, with friends Nita Raya and Josephine, were hidden from German invaders during World War II. After the war, Desha and her husband established the first classical dance school in the French town of Bergerac. A French source claims she died in 1980 and is buried in Bergerac.
     Myrio's mentor, Fokine, hailed from St. Petersburg and studied at the Vaganova Dance Academy. You'll recall that Nathalie Hoyer studied under Agrippina Vaganova and that she, too, hailed from St. Petersburg, as did our girl Natacha (Petrograd). Good grief.
     Oddly (or?), our girl Natacha was also a famous model, having modeled for famous artists by (I believe) 1923 (Serge Yourievitch, Emile Arthur Soldi-Colbert). In fact, Natacha Natova (or Nattova) was voted as having the most beautiful figure of any "foreigner"--not sure when. About 1927? Photos of her during that period testify to her beauty.
     I've also found that, in London in 1925, she actually slapped a fellow performer during an argument. (See clippings below.) It's hard to tell what that was about, though one reporter referred to "jealousy."]

Nattova & Rodion, Scherl's Magazine, 4.1928, H.2, Februar

* * *

As we'll see, Natacha Nattova's early partners included:
Jean Myrio, aka Jean Henry Raoul Delteil or Henri Jean Raoul Delteil
Gritzanov Rodion (later, Radion Gritzanov)
Val [Valagimer] [Vladimir] Gueral
Nicholas Daks
G. Bogdan (aka Bogdan Ganjou)
Harry Glick (briefly)
* * *

Who was G. Rodion?
Natacha's partner c. 1927-8
Records found on
Gritzanov Rodion (naturalization) Russian Pol Age 32
Feb 4 1929
Manger Hotel
April 17, 1928
Petition for Naturalization Gritzanov Rodion ALSO Rodion Gritzanov 
Has resided in New York since Jan. 1, 1914
Dancer and Actor, Manger Hotel
B. Oct 22, 1896 New Macshanitza, Russia
Renounces citizenship, Russia, Poland
Witnesses: Suzanne Barse, dancer; Martha Arnold, dancer  
Radion Gritzanov
b. Oct 22, 1896
d. April 1968
ss 125-09-1924
10024 New York, New York, New York, USA
* * *
     Here's a pic of Nina:

Nina Natova
Nina's the second from left (with her Monte Carlo pals, Natalie beside her)
     Evidently, these photos depict Nina when she was a member of the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, performing 'Les Cent Baisers.' The picture was taken by a Dr. Evan Murray-Will, who photographed performers from the Ballets Russes while they were on tour in Australia from 1936-7.
     Let's compare Nina's photo with photos of Natacha snatched from the movie made seven years earlier:

     --And, of course, there's this photo, which is not dated, but looks early:

     Maybe they're sisters. Nothing I see here suggests otherwise. I just can't tell.
     I mentioned that Nina went to Australia. I have several shipping records indicating that Nina  travelled to Australia:

From ship manifest for N. Natova, arriving in Australia, 1936

This indicates that, in Dec. of 1933, Nina travelled from Britain to New York
at age 25 (indicating that her birth year was about 1908). See below.

Nina travelling from London to Brisbaine (Australia), in Sept. of 1936.
Natalie Hoyer, her sister, is also on the list
Nina's petition for naturalization (in New York), January, 1933 records indicate that Nina died in New York (state) in 1972.

     Good grief! I just came across this factoid: Nina Natova is the sister of Nathalie Branitzka (who seems also to go by the name Nathalie Hoyer). I've come across Nathalie or Natalie's name several times today; she was important in the Ballet Russes scene of the 30s.
     And get this. I remember reading (some time today) that "Natache" (and "Natashe") is the Russian pet name for "Natalie." So Maybe Natalie/Nathalie is our mysterious Natache. But I'm not sure yet. Don't want to jump to conclusions.
     Before receiving that revelation, I discovered that Nina may have first arrived in the U.S. in 1933—at least she travelled to NY from England at that time (but possibly not for the first time). In New York, in the same year, she petitioned for naturalization (see above). 
     Curiously, by 1935 (and through 1936), she worked at a dance school called "Natova-Snodgrass" in Columbia, South Carolina—that must've been just before she headed for Australia with the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet. (A "Frances Snodgrass" appears on some of these shipping manifests, along with Nina and Natalie.)

     I also learned that Nina returned, from France to the U.S. (New York), in late 1939. (Do you suppose the Natovas were Jewish? Clearly, many in these companies were) It seems clear that she ultimately remained in the U.S. She died in Sea Cliff, Nassau in 1972.

Natalie (Nathalie), late 30s?
Nathalie Branitzska in Australia
Dancers from the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet at Bungan Beach, New South Wales;
left to right, Jean (Jan) Hoyer, Anna Skarpa (crouching), Nathalie Branitzka,
unidentified dancer, two friends, and Igor Youskevitch, 1936 or 1937. (See)
     Let's get back  to Nathalie (or Natalie). I found a ballet Russe website that offers this bio:
     Nathalie Branitzka was born July 18, 1905, in St. Petersburg, Russia. She studied ballet at the Petrograd Ballet School under the famous teacher Agrippina Vaganova in St. Petersburg. She later studied with Lubov Egorova in Paris. She started her professional career in the Anna Pavlova Company, continuing with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe and appeared with Vera Trefilova and Pierre Vladimioff in Berlin. Following Diaghilev’s death, she performed with Boris Kniaseff's ballet company in Paris in 1930. She joined with De Basil's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo dancing from 1932-1937. Rising to soloist, she made a world tour and appeared in many works by Leonid Massine, including Choreartium, Jeux d'Enfants, Beach and Scuola di Ballo, and in Mikhail Fokine's Carnaval and Les Sylphides. She moved to US to teach with her husband, Jan Hoyer, who had also been a member of both companies. She was the director of her own eponymous ballet school in New York City. She died March 8, 1977, in New York City.
     The Nathalie Branitzka-Hoyer collection is our one of our largest and most diverse collections. It was donated by her son, Andre von Hoyer.
     Recall that the 1925 passenger manifest for "Natacha Nattova" indicates that she was born in Petrograd, as was Nathalie (see above). Interesting. Still, there's no mention of the (Natacha) Natova Company here and, indeed, there would seem to be some confict with Branitzka's activities from 1929-1930 (above) and the apparent location and activities of our Natacha during the same period (evidently in the U.S.). Further, it seems highly unlikely that a dancer with this hard-core ballet background would have anything to do with American vaudeville or Hollywood films, those presumably lowbrow entertainments. And so, despite the delicious facts that (1) "Natache" is the Russian pet name for Natalie and that (2) Natalie's sister's last name was "Natova" (etc.), I don't think that Natalie is our mystery woman. And since (among other reasons) Nina arrived in the states in 1933 (not sure about that), I don't think Nina is Natache either.
     Could it be that Natache is a third sister, a rogue sister? Maybe.

On the other hand...
     I've just come across this picture of Nathalie Branitzka likely from her time in Australia:

     It's signed by Natasha Branitzka! OK, now I'm confused. (Note, however, that she spells the name with an s, not a c.)

     UPDATE: It's time to start comparing photos, I think. I took stills of Natacha from the 1929 film and a photo of Natalie c. 1936—the one with her husband and sister (below), among others. In the first comparison below, I took the hair from the '29 photo and put it around Natalie's head at the right.
     We'll, if you ask me, they're the same person. I'm aware, of course, that people often do disagree about such resemblances.
     For now, I'm thinking that fancy Ms. Nathalie Branitzka, the ballet dancer, is none other than lowbrow Ms. Natache (or Natashe) Natova, the vaudevillian.
     If so, then it's curious that the available literature on Nathalie makes no mention of that odd, early period of her career. Or maybe it's obvious what's going on: she wished to distance herself from her vaudevillian/Hollywood adventures. Could be. Or maybe there was a political reason for obscuring her American adventures.

Natacha in 1929, Natasha in 1936
Natache at left; Nathalie at right. Same gal?
Natacha Natova, 1923?-1927
Nathalie?, Natacha

Natacha Nattova, 1928; Nathalie Branitzka, c. 1937
Natache c. 1924 at left; Nathalie c. 1936 at right
     I'm now tilting in the direction of supposing that Natalie/Nathalie Hoyer/Branitzka is indeed "Natacha" Natova, though I cannot be certain. 
     Here's another lead: the names of the Ganjou Brothers—Bill and Bob and Serge—seem curiously to correspond (more or less) to the names of brothers (or simply guys with the same surname?) in the Ballet Russe with Natalie. The surnames don't match, but, obviously, that's no clincher: these people often seemed to go by multiple monikers. I'll see if I can nail this lead down. If the Ganjou Bros are those Ballet Russe bros (a few years later), then that about clinches it for the Nathalie Hoyer/Branitzka = Natacha Natova thesis. That is, if those guys cavorting with Natacha in the 1929 film are the same guys dancing with Nathalie years later in the Ballet Russe, then, well, bingo. --This did not pan out.

Nathalie Branitzka, Jan Hoyer and Nathalie's sister Nina Natova.
Nathalie and Nina's surname was Zaharachevich-Kapustiansky
New Zealand/Australia, 1937

P.S.: essentially, more updates

• Found this old photo of Natacha Nattova (note the spelling): Amazon

     NATACHA NATTOVA Rare! Small 3x5 photograph of the dancer is shown on stage in a butterfly pose Photograph signed: "Nattova". Sepia, 3x5.
     Russian ballerina Natacha Nattova appeared in the West in a variety of venues in the late 1920s. She starred in the show "Playtime" at London's Piccadilly Hotel, in New York in the "Greenwich Village Follies," and in the MGM Hollywood Revue (1929). She was the model for Serge Yourievitch's bronze statue "La Danseuse." Toned. Corners worn. Mounting residue on verso. Otherwise, fine condition. For more information contact HistoryForSale. DOCUMENT 295677

• Here's another photo I found:

Russian dancer Natacha Nattova poses for the camera in 1929. [Nude at right]

• Evidently, our girl appeared in a New York production--the Greenwich Village Folllies--for five months starting in late 1925!: "Chanin's 46th Street Theatre , (12/24/1925 - circa. 5/1926)
First Preview:Total Previews:
Opening Date:Dec 24, 1925
Closing Date:May 1926Total Performances:180

Category: Musical, Revue, Original, Broadway
Description: A revue in two acts
Serge Yourievitch's bronze statue 
"La Danseuse" [Nattova] (1915? 1923?)
Music by: Harold LeveyOwen Murphy;  Lyrics by: Owen MurphyHarold Levey
• Natacha Nattova - Goldberg - Physical Culture, April 1927:

Jean Myrio?
The Vaudeville News, Aug 21, 1925
The Vaudeville News, Jul 17, 1925
The Mail (Adelaide) Jun 20 1925
• Text from Variety, OCTOBER 5. 1927
 …Harry Burns followed and scored with his balloon bit, set more extravagantly now and almost a new act, but still the balloon bit. Natacha Nattova. who knocked them dead here and elsewhere with her sensational adagio work in the "O.[G.?] V. Follies," closes the first part. Miss Nattova's act is elaborately staged. She does little to hint of her former sensational work until the finale, but does It then and does it well. She wowed with a breath- taking twirl finish. Joe Price, speedy knce*dropper, and included in the company, likely to be heard from….

Bert Lytell Co Natacha Nattova  
     Judge Holds Harry Glick Not Entitled to Unperformed Services Professional qualification and satisfaction are important factors in a theatrical contract concluded Judge Lauer In the $900 damage suit by Harry Glick against Nattacha Nattova, danseuse. While Glick held a written contract, the clause that he prove up to Miss Natovas terpsichorean standards made or unmade the argument. The danseuse state* Glick was a good, strong man, but not up to snuff on lifts and adagios for which she engaged him. Glick. who Is a physical culture exponent, stated he was engaged at $160 a week and guaranteed six weeks as a strong Miss Nattova. alleged Glick \. is strong he did her bodily harm in proving weak on the dance partnership' when with the "Greenwich Village Follies." Glick argued he was let out when the revue man- agement concluded that Miss Nattova's partner, G. Rodion, was all [that was] necessary, and that she did not need two team-mates. Following argument by Sidney Kalfus of Ken, Her & Goldstein, representing Miss Nattova, Judge Lauer gave her the decision.
• Jan 2, 1926. "Nattova and Myrio"mentioned

• "Navatto and Myrio" appeared from June to Sept., 1925, in London:
Press and magazine cuttings of reviews of 'Cleopatra', adapted from the book by Brammer and Gruenwald; with photographs and illustrations of members of the cast; typescript inside front cover gives cast list, cast changes and dates; includes magazine extract photographs of cast members in scenes from the musical Performed at Daly's Theatre, London, 2 Jun 1925, closing performance, 5 Sep 1925; presented by George Edwardes; produced by Oscar Asche; scenery by Alfred Terraine and Joseph and Phil Harker; music by Oscar Straus; lyrics by Harry Graham; additional numbers by Arthur Wood The Opera House, Manchester, 11 May 1925 Casts: Alec Fraser, Frank Cochrane, Shayle Gardner, Henry Hallatt, Stanley Rendall, Alan Dale, Jay Laurier, Neta Underwood, Ninon Zaria, Laurie Newton, Alma Lee, Peggie Lovat, Marjorie Blareau, Evelyn Laye, Jeanne Planas, John Coyle, Carl Brisson, Tilly Brisson, Nattova and Myrio, Illene Evelyn, Ireland Cutter
The Queenslander, Aug 29. 1925
Desha Deltiel, famous model (wife of "Jean Myrio")
Myrio and Desha, the 1930s
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 6, 1927
Motion Picture News, July, 1927:
Philadelphia… The Fox had an exceptionally heavy week with "Frisco Sally Levy." [N]atacha [N]attova, assisted by G. Rodion, headed the surrounding bill, which was further augmented by Jack Osterman, in a snappy monologue, S. L. Rothafel's "Silhouettes,'"'and Lillian Bernard and Flo Henri, feminine harmonizers....

• Kansas City Star - Sunday, October 23, 1927 - At the Orpheum

Let's try that again:
She originally pursued painting? Hmmm. And who are Joe Price and Tosha Samarow [Gypsy]?
This bronze sculpture by Emile Arthur Soldi-Colbert is titled
"La Danseuse" and depicts ballerina Natacha Nattova. This pose
comes from a dance she performed in front of a Prussian Prince who was
so moved that he asked her to marry him. See.
• I've made inquiries:

• Myrio & Desha (and Barte)

• The Sun and the Erie County Independent
Location: Hamburg, New York Issue Date: Thursday, June 20, 1929 Page: Page 3

• Who was Harry Glick? American Radio Digest, 1933:

A jovial radio personality. Once danced with Natacha Nattova.
Fails to mention that he once sued her and lost.
He was a great wrestler, too, I guess.
I think he skated with Rosina Blackburn, too

• Who was Nicholas Daks? (One of Natacha's partners, c. 1927)

Daks, Nicholas - 1899-1978.
First Name: Nicholas
Last Name: Daks
Age at Time of Census: 43
Gender: Male
Race: White
Ethnicity: American
Est. Birth Year: 1897
Birth Location: Russia
January 17, 1899 - September 01, 1978 Plant City, Florida

New York Times
At Radio City: It Happened One Night
February 23, 1934
…A conception of Oscar Wilde's "The Birthday of the Infanta" is the principal stage attraction. The participants in this offering include Eda Vitolo, Gluck-Sandor, Nicholas Daks, Jan Peerce, M. Vodnoy and Stan Kavanaugh. Isabelle Herbert recites the story. The scenes include "The Processional," "The Palace Courtyard," "The Garden of the Palace" and "The Hall of the Palace." The ballet corps, the choral ensemble, the Roxyettes and the Music Hall male dancers also take part in this subject. Interviewed on the radio, 1965, in New York re Radio City Music Hall, etc.

 New York Sun, Jun 30, 1943

• New York Sun, Jan. 2, 1931.
At the Roxy:
A "dance spectacle" named "RHYTHM," with two familiar names: V[al] Gueral and Nicholas Daks, both one-time partners of Natacha Natova. An April 6, 1929 Billboard piece praises Natova's show with the assistance of Daks, Gueral, and G. Bogdan. The seem to be describing at least part of the performance that was (later?) presented in the 1929 "Hollywood Review" film.

• And who is "G. Bogdan"? Why, it's Bogdan Ganjou of the "Ganjou Bros": 
The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg, Canada
Saturday, March 1, 1930
Next Week The Most Spectacular Dancing Famous Exotic International with NICHOLAS DAKS BOGDAN GANJOU Corking Comedy In Cork 

• Name: Valagimer Gueral
Age: 41 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1899
Gender: Male Race: White Birthplace: Russia
Marital Status: Married Relation to Head of House: Inmate Home in 1940: North Elba, Essex, New York
Map of Home in 1940: Lake Flower Avenue House Number: Wa
Inferred Residence in 1935: New York, Manhattan, New York Residence in 1935: New York, Manhattan, New York Resident on farm in 1935:
No Citizenship: Naturalized Sheet Number: 4B
Institution: National Vaudaville Home 5-80 Attended School or College: No Highest Grade Completed: High School, 4th year Weeks Worked in 1939: 25

Name: Vladimir A Gueral
Age: 42 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1898
Gender: Male Race: White Birthplace: Russia
Marital Status: Married Relation to Head of House: Son-in-law Home in 1940: New York, New York, New York Map of Home in 1940: View Map Street: Fort Washington Avenue Inferred Residence in 1935: New York, New York, New York Residence in 1935: Same Place Citizenship: Naturalized Sheet Number: 11A
Occupation: Dancer Attended School or College: No Highest Grade Completed: Elementary school, 7th grade Class of Worker: Wage or salary worker in private work Weeks Worked in 1939: 12