Eugenia Paul

American actress and dancer, born one of four siblings in Dearborn, Michigan, and christened after Tchaikovsky’s opera ‘Eugene Onegin’. Her ancestry was Russian and her surname at birth (depending on which source you read) has been variously given as Popoff, Popov, Popova or Popoffon. In the mid-50s, a fanciful story circulated which had her descending “from Genghis Khan on her father’s side and a tribe of Gypsies on her mother’s”.

Eugenia trained as a ballet dancer in New York and made her way to Los Angeles in 1952 while touring with the American Ballet Theatre. Warner Brothers promptly signed her as a dancer to a three-year contract. She went on to acting studies with Michael Chekhov and further ballet lessons under the tutelage of Bronislava Njinska. In 1955, she signed with 20th Century Fox to be cast cast as exotic characters in a couple of low budget films: a B-western (as Liwana, a chief’s daughter in Apache Warrior (1957)) and a C-grade zombie flick (as an African native in The Disembodied (1957)). Luckily, she was better served by television as a romantic lead (Señorita Elena Torres) in Walt Disney’s Zorro (1957). Unable to shake off typecasting, the parts that came her way for the remainder of the decade were confined to Hispanic or Native American lasses in TV westerns ranging from Death Valley Days (1952) and Broken Arrow (1956) to The Adventures of Jim Bowie (1956). Having (in 1952) married Bob Strauss, heir to the Pep Boys Auto Supply Company fortune, Eugenia called quits in 1960 and left the film business to raise a family.

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