Sunday, March 21, 2010

Anna Sten

Anna Sten was born in Kiev December 3, 1908, as Anjuschka Stenski Sudakewitsch. Her father, a Russian ballet master died when she was 12. At 15, while acting in an amateur play in Kiev, Anna was discovered by Method Actor "father" Konstantin Stanislavsky, who arranged an audition for her at the Moscow Film Academy. Her first credited role was in Boris Barnet's 1927 comedy The Girl with a Hatbox (Available on Netflix). She soon relocated to Germany, where she starred in several films, including Trapeze (1931) and The Brothers Karamazov (1931), both well received. It was in the latter film she was noticed by Samuel Goldwyn, who brought her to the United States with the aim of creating a new screen personality to rival the popularity of Greta Garbo.

After arriving in Hollywood, Anna was tutored in English and taught Hollywood's film making technique. Unfortunately, Anna's first American production, Emile Zola's Nana (1934), was not successful at the box office, nor were her two subsequent Goldwyn films, We Live Again (1934) with Frederic March and The Wedding Night (1935), opposite Gary Cooper. Goldwyn reluctantly let her contract lapse. Personally, I think while Anna's performances were solid, the films themselves weren't exceptional, and American audiences were growing tired of European stars being transported to Hollywood. Anna had to walk in the footsteps Garbo and Dietrich, which probably didn't help matters either. Goldwyn's tutoring of Anna is mentioned in Cole Porter's 1934 song "Anything Goes" from the musical of the same name: "If Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction / Instruct Anna Sten in diction / Then Anna shows / Anything goes."

Rather that retreat back to Germany or Russia, probably impossible at the time anyway, Anna continued to work in Hollywood. In the 1940's she worked with Fox and Universal in films including The Man I Married (1940), So Ends Our Night (1941), again opposite Fredric March, They Came to Blow Up America (1943) with George Sanders, Three Russian Girls (1943), and Let's Live a Little (1948). In the 1950's she appeared in one film and had several television appearances. Her final film role was in The Nun and the Sergeant (1962).

Anna Sten died November 12, 1993 at the age of 84.

Double click on the images for a larger view.

Motion Picture magazine November 1932

German postcard.

Early Thirties portrait.

British postcard - hand tinted.

Nana - publicity still.

Alberto Vargas painting of Anna from the photograph above.

Another Nana publicity still, this on a postcard mailed from Rotterdam.

Nana publicity still.

Players 1934 Film Stars cigarette card.

Frame captures from We Live Again.

Publicity stills from We Live Again.

Frame captures from The Wedding Night.

Publicity still from The Wedding Night.

Frame captures from So Ends Our Night.

Anna Sten - What do you think - Allure?


Raquel Stecher said...

Great post as usual. I have never heard of Anna Sten. She definitely had the exotic look. I love that first photograph with her and the cigarette.

It seems like Anna's story is much like many other starlets. Lots of potential, little opportunity.

Raquel Stecher said...

Okay now I'm admitting I'm a huge liar! I have seen Anna in We Live Again. I thought that was a great movie (albeit very melodramatic). I liked her character and empathized with her. She was very much a Tess d'Urbervilles sort of tragic female.

broadcastellan said...

Thank you for remembering Anna Sten. I thought she was delightful in Bomben auf Monte Carlo. She also proved her comedic talent (and put her accent to good use) on the Lux Radio Theater, in "Graustark."

I wrote about and posted images of her here:

Operator_99 said...

Harry, Thanks for the comments AND for reminding me of the Lux Radio Theater program. I have Graustark and am listening to it now. Gene Raymond and James Gleason co-star with Anna, for those who don't know the episode. Cecil B. DeMille comments in the intro that he was interested in signing Anna when Goldwyn him told him about his latest star - Anna.

Miss Rayne said...

I saw her recently in Lets Live a Little (1948) she was the best thing about the whole movie, Hedy Lamarr notwithstanding!

COCAMIA said...

OMG!! She is sooo beautiful!!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I love that line from Cole Porter.

Anonymous said...

I thought she did a fine job,didnt have any trouble with her accent and i understood every word so what was realy the problem?