Sog.: dal romanzo The Tattooed Countess di Carl Van Vechten. Scen.: Pierre Collings. F.: Bert Glennon. Int.: Pola Negri (contessa Elnora Natatorini), Charles Emmett Mack (Gareth Johns), Holmes Herbert (Richard Granger), Blanche Mehaffey (Lennie Porter), Chester Conklin (Sam Poore), Lucille Ward (Lou Poore), Guy Oliver (giudice Porter), Dot Farley (Mrs Baerbauer), May Foster (Mrs Fox), Dorothea Wolbert (Annie). Prod.: Adolph Zukor, Jesse L. Lasky per Famous Players-Lasky Corp. DCP. Bn.
In 1926, “Photoplay Magazine” carried an article headlined How Pola Was Tamed: “For three years they tried every means of taming that fascinating tiger cat”, wrote Ivan St Johns, “and now, the funniest thing in the world has happened. Pola has licked herself with her own sense of humor”. Comedy was not so respected in those days. Chaplin was acclaimed a genius by the critics but William Randolph Hearst thought comics were the lowest thing on the totem pole. The critics felt Pola Negri demeaned herself in this. Negri, born in Poland, won fame in Germany under the direction of Ernst Lubitsch. She and Lubitsch were the first great figures to be tempted to Hollywood. Wrote Mordaunt Hall in the “New York Times”: “To see the talented Pola Negri lending her charming presence to a photoplay daubed with broad comedy gives one quite a shock. Yet this is what happens in her new picture, A Woman of the World, which for the most part is genuinely entertaining, despite the sudden jumps from buffoonery to drama”.
“Photoplay” failed to include it as one of the six best of the month – and yet they were far more enthusiastic. “Awake! Negri fans from your long siesta. The fascinating, continental Pola is with us once again. A dangerous, cynical, tempestuous Italian countess she is, wearing a tattoo – insignia of an amorous adventure. Director Mal St Clair deserves credit for the restraint shown in the small town scenes and types that must have tempted exaggeration”. But many critics were upset that Carl Van Vechten’s novel should have been turned on its head.
Mal St Clair – only 28 when he made this – was one of the outstanding young directors who were deeply impressed by Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris and by the Lubitsch comedies made under the Chaplin influence. But he was trained at Mack Sennett and could never entirely step out of the great man’s shadow. He had been a newspaper cartoonist – he kept on drawing cartoons even in his scripts. Wrote Louise Brooks: “I find that it is a key film in forming Mal’s peculiar brand of comedy – combining ‘society’ comedy with slapstick. People are educated to laugh. In 1925, exhibitors could no longer afford to pay for Sennett comedies and stopped showing them. Fashions changed so fast that by the time Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released in 1928, Mal’s stock company of comics had become passé, simply grotesque. The failure of that picture ended Hollywood’s regard for him and his own faith in himself”.