Pola Negri was born in Lipno, Poland, and moved to Warsaw as a child. Living in poverty with her mother, a teenage Pola auditioned and was accepted to the Imperial Ballet. Due to an illness that ended her dancing career, she soon switched to the Warsaw Imperial Academy of Dramatic Arts and became an actress. By 17 she was a star on the Warsaw stage, but World War I would soon change the theater scene. Without the theater, Pola turned to films. With her new career in pictures and her stage success in “Sumurun”, she went to Berlin and was teamed with German director Ernst Lubitsch. The Lubitsch-Negri combination was very successful and the roles that Pola played were earthy, exotic, strong women. One of her films, Passion (1919), was optioned and retitled “Passion” for exhibition in America. The film was such a success that by 1922 she and Lubitsch were both given contracts to work in Hollywood. While her first few films showed some success, they were overshadowed by her reported romances with such stars as Charles Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino. Forbidden Paradise (1924), made with Lubitsch, and Hotel Imperial (1927) were two of her more successful films. However, three things conspired to end her career in Hollywood: (1) The perception that her mourning for Rudolph Valentino was insincere, though Negri did describe him as the love of her life; (2) The Hays Office codes that would not allow her to show the very traits that made her a sex-siren in Europe; (3) Her thick Polish accent would not play in the sound pictures that were coming into vogue.
Pola Negri returned to Europe and eventually made films for UFA, which was under Nazi management. In 1941 she returned to America penniless. She made Hi Diddle Diddle (1943) and became an American citizen in 1951. Her next and last movie was The Moon-Spinners (1964).
She died of pneumonia in San Antonio, TX, in 1987.