The letter S in Germany is pronounced like the English
Z, hence Sorina would be pronounced "Zorina."
Alexandra's grandmother, Maria Cvikevich, nee Michnevich,
was descended from Polish nobility.
Alexandra won several beauty contests and she was
considered to be one of the most beautiful women in Europe in the 1920s.
A self portrait of Feodor Chaliapin hung in our parlor
in Berlin, Germany. It was about an 8x10 picture drawn with charcoal.
On it he wrote: "To my unforgettable, dearly beloved Shura (a nickname
for Alexandra) from her loving Feodor." The portrait along
with everything else perished in a bombardment.
Alexandra's husband always gave her a generous allowance
for clothes, wanting her to outshine all the other women. She took
the money, sent it to her family in Prague, hired a dressmaker who made
exact replicas of gowns made by Worth or whatever designer was in fashion
at that time. No one was the wiser. One day she succumbed and
went to some famous couturier and had a dress made for herself. When
she got to the function, lo and behold, there was another woman dressed
exactly the same. My mother smiled, while the woman rushed out indignantly.
Mother heard that the woman sued the designer, who had vowed that this
was the one and only dress made. Mother also gave away her dresses
and lingerie to charity. One day she went to a function at the Russian
club and there, arrayed in the best of her nightgowns and pegnoirs, were
some new immigres from Russia, who thanked her profusely for the beautiful
There were two incidents that she told me about.
Both were functions for movie stars and other dignitaries in the film making
industry. When walking into the hall the guests were announced by
the majordomo who would knock on the floor with his staff and say "baron
and baroness x" or "count and countess y" or Alexandra Sorina and Serge
Otzoup, and so on. While the guests were lined up on both sides of
the red carpet, a very distinguished woman was announced. She slowly
proceeded forward as....the elastic on her panties snapped; and they came
tumbling down. This did not faze her, as she stepped out of them,
and with an elegant movement of her foot, quickly disposed of them behind
a column. Another time during a masked ball one young and aspiring
actress appeared as a mermaid. On her completely naked body some
artist had painted fish scales in gold. She was escorted out of the
During the premiere of "The Hands of Orlac" in Prague,
Czechoslovakia, people were swooning in the theater. The first one
to be carried out in a dead faint was a police officer.
Alexandra had an offer to go to Hollywood to make
films there, but rejected it; she did not want to leave her family behind. Besides, she had just fallen in love with my father, the only man who was ever in her life. She was never involved in any scandals, unlike other actresses, who would try to advance, as they say, "through the bedroom." Alexandra was an exception. In spite of her star status, she never asked for special consideration. One time she was supposed to play the lead; another actress became furious and demanded that she be the star. Alexandra quietly spoke to the powers that
be and asked to be given the supporting role.
When making a film in Paris my mother went to the
most famous hairdresser of those times, Antoine. Antoine slept in
a coffin which was prominently displayed in the parlor. He snipped
a bit here and there, and swept Alexandra's hair up in the most impressive
manner. That evening after the festivities she attended, mother took
out all the pins to brush her beautiful long and curly blond hair.
She became hysterical when she saw that the hair on half of her head was
cut very short. The hotel's hairdresser was roused from his sleep
and he evened out my mother's hair the best he could. It took a while
for it to grow back to its original length.
While in Paris, Alexandra tried to take in the sights,
but, when she got to the Champs Elysses, she was afraid to cross the boulevard.
Then she attached herself to a group of people feeling that surely the
crazy French drivers would not mow down their own people, only to realize
halfway across the street, that they were German tourists.
for a review of "Die
Frau mit dem schlechten Ruf"(1926) starring Alexandra Sorina and Lionel