27 July 2012

Xenia Desni

Ukrainian-born actress Xenia Desni (1894 - 1954) was a star of the German silent cinema, whose career ended with the coming of sound film. She was the mother of actress Tamara Desni.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 571/1, 1919-1924. Photo: A. Eberth, Berlin.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 886/3, 1925-1926. Photo: Decla / Ufa.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3151/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Xenia Desni
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 195.

Variety Dancer
Xenia Desni (or Desny) was born in Kiev, Russian Empire (now Ukraine) in 1894 (according to some sources 1897). During the Russian revolution she flew to Constantinople where she worked as a variety dancer. Xenia - also known as Dada - traveled at the beginning of the 1920's to Berlin where she would have a short but successful film career. She made her film debut with Sappho (1921, Dimitri Buchowetzki). She often worked with director Johannes Guter such as for Weib und Palette/Wife and Palette (1921), Die Schwarze Pantherin/The Black Panther (1921), Bardame/Barmaid (1922) and her breakthrough film Die Prinzessin Suwarin/The Princess Suwarin (1923) starring Lil Dagover. In the next years followed other successful productions such as Wilhelm Tell (1923, Rudolf Dworsky, Rudolf Walther-Fein), Der Sprung ins Leben/Leap Into Life (1924, Johannes Guter), and Die Andere/The Other (1924, Gerhard Lamprecht). An international hit became the silent operetta Ein Walzertraum/A Waltz Dream (1925, Ludwig Berger) with Willy Fritsch. This was followed by Familie Schimeck/The Schimeck Family (1926, Alfred Halm, Rudolf Dworsky) with Olga Tschechowa, Madame wagt einen Seitensprung/Madam dares an Escapade (1927, Hans Otto) opposite Hermann Thimig, and Erzherzog Johann/Archduke John (1929, Max Neufeld) with Igo Sym.

Xenia Desni, Willy Fritsch, Ein Walzertraum
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 48/5, 1925-1926. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Ein Walzertraum/The Waltz Dream (1925, Ludwig Berger).

Walther Rilla and Xenia Desni
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5014. Photo: National Film / Verleih Mondial-Film.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1735/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3760/1, 1928 - 1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Xenia Desni
German card by Ross Verlag, no. 3738/2, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Balázs, Berlin.

Declining Career
After the advent of sound film, Xenia Desni's career declined soon. She would only appear in one more film, Kriminalkommissar Eyck/Detective Superintendent Eyck (1940, Milo Harbich). Xenia had a strong influence in shaping the career of her daughter Tamara Desni (1913 - 2008). In 1931, Tamara acted in three German sound films before leaving with her mother to Great Britain. In 1931, she made her triumphant London stage debut in the successful operetta White Horse Inn at the Coliseum Theatre. Subsequently she worked for decades as an actress on the West End and in the British film industry. Her father, James Brodsky, had left his family to settle in the United States. Tamara was married five times, a.o. with Canadian actor Raymond Lovell . In the early 1950's Tamara moved to France and her mother probably moved along. Xenia Desni died in  Roquefort-les-Pins, France.

Xenia Desni
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 962. Photo: Verleih E. Well & Co.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1735/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Xenia Desni
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 513/1. Photo: Sascha.

Tamara and Xenia Desni
Photo of Xenia and her daughter Tamara Desni. Collection: Didier Hanson. Given to Didier by Madeleine, Tamara's daughter.

Scenes from Ein Walzertraum/A Waltz Dream (1925). Source: Sittichfan (YouTube).

Source: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Stephanie D'heil (Steffi-line) (German), Wikipedia, BritMovie.co.uk and IMDb.


Anonymous said...

If anybody is interested in additional photos of Tamara and Xenia Desni, please contact Tatiana at tanyabeh87@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I looking for relatives Tamara Desni.
Please, write me:

Paul van Yperen said...

@ Kostyagina@gmail.com:

Sorry, but we can't help you.

Paul van Yperen, editor EFSP.