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Theodore Kosloff & Cecil B. DeMille

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Meet Madam Satan

The essay explores a rare and unknown 40-year professional and personal relationship between Russian ballet dancer Theodore Kosloff (1882-1956) and Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959) told through the prism of the making of DeMille’s Madam Satan (mgm 1930). It tracks Kosloff’s colorful career as a dance entrepreneur, from his Bolshoi Ballet beginnings, to his appearance in the premiere Paris season of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, to his eventual relocation to Los Angeles where, starting in 1916, he was an acclaimed character actor in nearly 30 silent movies, primarily directed by DeMille. At the outset of the Depression, with the advent of sound in cinema, DeMille relied upon Kosloff as an artistic advisor to bring to fruition Madam Satan his first and only movie musical. The essay analyzes the high-art roots of Kosloff’s bizarre and exceptional ballet mécanique, Madam Satan’s central dance number staged in a moored zeppelin.

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