Jump to: navigation, search

Nita Naldi


Nita Naldi (born Nonna Dooley) was an American silent film actress. She was usually cast in the role of the "femme fatale" or "vamp".

By the mid-1920s, Naldi's film career was coming to an end and in September 1925 she travelled to Europe with her lover J. Searle Barclay where she made 3 final films, including Alfred Hitchcock's The Mountain Eagle. The couple returned to New York in November 1927 and then married on a return visit to France in August 1929.[1]

According to Hitchcock, when Naldi arrived in Munich with Barclay, who was around 20 years older and married to another woman at the time, she introduced him to the director as her "daddy".[2] When Hitchcock married Alma Reville in December 1926, the newly-weds spent some of their honeymoon in Paris with Naldi and Barclay.[3][4]

In 1937, Hitchcock recalled his experiences of directing Naldi in The Mountain Eagle[5]:

I went back to Munich to meet my star. As she stepped off the train Munich quite audibly gasped. They had never seen anything like her before. She travelled with her father, who looked like Earl Haig. Her Louis SIV heels clicked down the platform. The dog on its leash was long and gleaming with brushing. Her maid followed her. It was like the royalty Germany hadn't seen for five years.


However, Nita turned out to be a grand person. For all her entourage, there was nothing high-hat about her. She talked to everybody in her heavy New York drawl. The Germans, accustomed to the starchiness of the Hohenzollerns, fell hard for this American royalty, with her father and her dog, and her maid, who was more democratic than the stagehands.

I shall never forget one afternoon. We had been working hard all the day, and Nita was nearly all in. She had to play one more scene, where she was cleaning Malcolm Keen's rifle when a face appeared at the window and she pointed the gun at him.

The scene was going well when, just as she turned the gun to the window, I saw it waver. It veered from side to side. It moved up and down. It went round in circles.

Then, without a word, Nita tilted to one side and fell headlong.

The floor was very hard. The set was built on a foundation of stones set in cement. Before the camera had even stopped turning, she had recovered. And all she said was: "Why don't they build these lousy sets right over here. This floor's too gol-darned hard for comfort!"


Nita was playing a scene where she had been run out of town (unjustly of course) by the Kentucky farmers. She had to turn on them and tell them just what she thought of them.

In silent days, we never wrote dialogue, except for close-ups where anyone could lip-read. In a big emotional scene, we let people say just whatever came into their heads. It helped them to get over the atmosphere.

When Nita finally turned on these "farmers," I called, "Give them all you've got."

She did. She gave them, in English, Italian, American, Bowery, Park Avenue, and, maybe, double Dutch. She called them anything and everything she could lay her tongue to. She told them where they got off, where they came from, where they were going to. She used words we had never before heard.

When, shuddering and shaking with emotion, she stopped and I called out "Cut" the whole studio — none of whom understood a word she had said — burst into spontaneous applause.

In his 1949 filmography of Hitchcock for Sight and Sound, Peter Noble incorrectly stated that Naldi made an uncredited appearance as the "Native Girl" in The Pleasure Garden (1925). The role was in fact played by German actress Elizabeth Pappritz.[6]


With Hitchcock...

See Also...

Image Gallery

Images from the Hitchcock Gallery (click to view larger versions or search for all relevant images)...


Notes & References

  1. nitanaldi.com: passenger manifests
  2. News Chronicle (1937) - Life among the Stars
  3. "Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock" - by John Russell Taylor (1978), page 25
  4. Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (2003) by Patrick McGilligan, page 89
  5. News Chronicle (1937) - Life among the Stars
  6. Hitchcock Annual (2000) - German Hitchcock by Joseph Garncarz