Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 16:00


Giulio Antamoro
Introduced by

Tamara Shvediuk and Federico Striuli

Piano accompaniment by

Stephen Horne (Miss Dorothy, Cunegonde) and Antonio Coppola (Smarrita!)

Dianne Karenne

Diana Karenne was a very prolific and multifaceted figure, who totally devoted herself to art, being a film actress, scriptwriter, director, producer, but also a film critic, painter and, seemingly, a musician. For a decade she worked in several European countries, moving from Italy in the teens to Germany in the early 1920s, as the national film industries developed. She eventually settled in France in the second half of 1920s, where she played her most well-known role in Alexandre Volkoff’s Casanova, 1927. She was a nomad but, solely for the sake of the art of cinema.
The almost total lack of surviving titles of Karenne’s filmography contributed to her legend. More particularly, up until today only one film, Miss Dorothy, preserved by the Cineteca Nazionale in Rome, and a few fragments from her long and intense career in Italy were still known to exist.
Despite all the efforts made by film historians and scholars, Diana Karenne remains one of the most elusive figures  of Italian silent cinema. She encouraged myths about herself as she scattered conflicting details here and there about her date and place of birth and, especially, her real name.
There are not so many confirmed details and everything so far written about her is, essentially, wrong. We know that she was born for sure between 1891 and 1897 in Kiev, Ukraine. But her actual name was certainly not Leucadia Konstantin (as often has been reported). The most credible theory as to her real identity is that she was the half-sister of Gregor Rabinovitch, who became a famous producer in France, Germany and Italy from the 1920s until the 1950s (this connection is mentioned in some documents held by the descendants). In 1914 she arrived in Italy with the name of Dina Alexandrovna Karen and, shortly after that, she also began using the name Nadezhda Belogorskaya (or Belocorsca) in her private life. She had her breakthrough in cinema in 1916. At the end of her film career, she married Russian poet Nikolay Otzup, also acquiring his surname, and lived in a secluted way until her death which  did  not  occur, as again often reported, in Germany in 1940 under the Allied bombings, but in Lausanne on 18 October 1968 (as proven by her death certificate).

Tamara Shvediuk


Tuesday 27/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Diana Karenne, Polish by birth (or Ukrainian?), rose to being a great Italian diva almost without having to climb her way up the ladder. Her first film in a starring role brought her enormous success (Passione tsigana, 1916). Alongside being actress, she soon became a screenwriter, producer and director known for her “irascible despotism” (so claims an article of the time). Some called her the “Intellectual Diva”: she dabbled in painting, played the piano (note how she moves her hands on the keyboard in Miss Dorothy) and socialized with the Futurists. A “strange little mind, a woman of extraordinary artistic resources” enthused one critic. Whereas a colleague who couldn’t stand all the praise said: “These hypersensitive and overly intellectual women are a real human disaster”. Little remains of what seems to have been a rather varied career, which took Karenne to France and Germany in the 1920s and was eventually silenced by sound cinema. None of the movies she directed has survived. Miss Dorothy is a film about identities that are hidden, revealed, concealed and laid bare only at an enormous expense. Watching it, we can enjoy a taste of the multifaceted talent that many attributed to Karenne and that perhaps we will never be able to fully confirm. A reviewer who was feeling complimentary finds her “a little fat”, and we dare not think what she looked like when she was thinner. We first see her as a governess, stiff as a board, wearing glasses and a black dress with a high neck that seems to choke her, her hair in a chignon and a ruler in her hand that is ready to strike. Rather sexy, despite what the intertitles would have us believe, if I may say so. It’s only one of her lives: we’ll see her (in flashbacks) happy and young as a student and later in her complicated existence as an adult woman whom fate has deprived of too much. Her wide range of changing emotions spans small joys, anxiety, agony, thrills, melancholy and defiant glares: without ever becoming convoluted or relinquishing her chilly haughtiness that both disturbs us and attracts us.

Andrea Meneghelli

Cast and Credits

F.: Cesare Cavagna. Int.: Diana Karenne (Thea Nothingham, alias Dorothy Chester), Romano Calo (Giorgio e Ruggero Di Sangro), Lia Formia (Mara), Carmen Boni (Alma). Prod.: Nova Film. 35mm. L.: 1233 m (incompleto). D.: 60’ a 18 f/s. Bn. Didascalie italiane / Italian intertitles.


Film Notes

Towards the end of her film career in Italy, and after her experiences as an independent producer, Karenne made some films for the Roman production companies Tespi Film and Nova Film – the latter run by the well-known director Giulio Antamoro (who made, among others, the 1911 version of Pinocchio and Christus in 1916) –, including Miss Dorothy.
Apparently based on a short story by Russian exile Ossip Felyne (according to Bernardini and Martinelli’s filmography), Smarrita! survives today as an incomplete copy. In fact, Gosfilmofond preserves only one element of this film, a dupe negative print of reels 1, 4, 5 and 6, stored under the distribution title for the Soviet Union, Maria Grieg.
However, despite the narrative gaps, the surviving footage has significant elements of interest. First, it shows a cross-section of Italy as it just emerged from the so-called “biennio rosso” (“two red years”), a period full of social tensions, workers’ struggles and strikes. Second, Antamoro’s generous use of closeups releases the full photogenic power of Karenne, and allows the audience to savour every moment of lacerating passion but also the actress’ small gestures of anger, coquetry and vanity.
The identification of Smarrita! was definitely puzzling. The almost total lack of references for this film in contemporary Italian and Russian magazines did not give any hints to the plot or the characters’ names. However, known actors Romano Calò and Alfredo Bertone appear and this, together with the character of a “governor” (a role mistakenly attributed by Bernardini and Martinelli to Bertone himself), led to a final confirmation.

Tamara Shvediuk

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Giulio Antamoro, Diana Karenne. F.: Cesare Cavagna. Int.: Diana Karenne (Maria Grieg), Alfredo Bertone (Sergey Koshuch), Romano Calò (Carl Carelli), Dana Marigia, Gaetano Nobile, Franco Piersanti. Prod.: Nova Film. DCP. D.: 48’. Bn (from a dupe negative print).


Year: 1913
Country: Francia
Running time: 6'
Film Version

Dutch intertitles