Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in Moscow, Russia, Baclanova was the daughter of Vladimir Baklonoff and his wife Alexandra, herself an actress in early Russian films. Baclonova studied drama at the Cherniavsky Institute in Russia before being accepted into the prestigious Moscow Art Theatre in 1912. Over the next decade she appeared in Russian films, and also performed extensively on stage, touring and performing in many countries of the world.
During a 1925 performance in New York she defected and decided to follow a life and career in the USA. A statuesque blonde, Baclanova quickly established herself as a popular actress in American silent movies and achieved a notable success with The Docks of New York (1928). The introduction of talking films proved difficult for her, as audiences did not respond to her heavy Russian accent. She no longer secured leading roles, and was relegated to supporting roles. Her career was in decline when she was offered the role of the cruel circus performer Cleopatra in the 1932 film Freaks. The film was highly controversial and only screened briefly, and it would be thirty years before it achieved a following as a cult film. It did not revive her film career which ended in 1943.
After her retirement she settled in Vevey, Switzerland where she died after several years of poor health.
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