Anna Pavlova's Only Movie Appearance Is Coming to DVD

January 4, 2018

And Pavlova’s just one of the reasons we can’t wait to see it.

Let’s go way, way back in time, to the year 1916. Anna Pavlova was the most famous ballerina (probably the most famous dancer, period) in the entire world, and Hollywood was a brand-spanking-new business. In fact, silent film was considered to be such a creative wild west that anyone—even women, still barred from voting at that time—who possessed the money and the chutzpah faced relatively few barriers to making movies. One of these female film pioneers was the writer/director/editor Lois Weber.

Weber adapted the 1829 opera La Muette de Portici into the silent film “The Dumb Girl of Portici” as a star vehicle for Pavlova. (“Dumb” is an outdated term referring to a person who can’t speak.) It was the most expensive Universal production of its time, with a huge cast and filming not only in California, but also in Chicago—just to accommodate Pavlova’s star schedule. #yaskween

This new restoration of the feature film (with a brand-new score) got some rave reviews at film festivals last year. Next, it’s out on DVD and Blu-Ray February 6. The dance-history nerd in me simply. cannot. wait! Not only does this movie represent an extremely rare chance to see a ballet LEGEND in action, but film critics who’ve already seen the movie are saying that Pavlova is a darn good actress to boot. In The New Yorker, Richard Brody wrote, “Pavlova’s performance in the movie is no fluke or stunt—it’s a fully realized, deeply committed performance that reveals Pavlova to be, from the very start, one of the greatest movie actors, a charismatic and expressive actor who’s as forceful in repose as in action, as vital in quiet scenes as she is screen-bursting in melodramatic ones.” NBD.

Other things to look forward to on the DVD/Blu-Ray release include vintage newsreels featuring Pavlova, a 1935 documentary about her called The Immortal Swan, and even Pavlova’s own home movies! Did we mention that we dance-history nerds are freaking out?!