Ileana Leonidoff, a former Russian dancer, debuted in the famous futurist film Thais (1917), directed by Anton Giulio Bragaglia. In fact, threequarter of the film is classic diva drama about a man devouring woman, played by Thais Galitzky, who causes a noble friend and rival in love (Leonidoff) to commit suicide by racing with her horse towards an abyss. Thais repents and kills herself by mortal vapours, in the only scene where we really see futurist settings, designed by Enrico Prampolini. Curiously enough, in the film Leonidoff’s character was named Bianca Stagno-Bellincioni, the name of a known real actress. Maybe because the real Stagno-Belllincioni was the Italian interpreter of Massenet’s Thais.
While Galitzky played once more in another Bragaglia film with futurist sets, Perfido incanto (1918), and then ended her career apparently, Leonidoff went on to a rather short but quite prolific career in the late 1910s. She had leads in several period pieces, directed by Aldo Molinari for the Vera Film company and almost always opposite Guido Guiducci. The first of these was Saffo (1918), where Leonidoff played the title role, followed by Maria di Magdala (1918), Venere (1919), Il mistero di Osiris (1919) and Giuditta e Oloferne (1920). She also performed in films by renowned directors such as Augusto Genina (Il siluramento dell’Oceania, 1917), Leopoldo Carlucci (La flotta degli emigranti, 1917), Febo Mari (Attila, 1918), Eleuterio Rodolfi (Il mistero della casa di fronte, 1919) and Ugo Falena (Giuliano l’Apostata, 1919; Il volo degli aironi, 1920). She had a minor part as Tamah in La sacra Bibbia (1920) by Pier Antonio Gariazzo, a film in which her co-partner Guiducci played Moses. Costumes for this film were by the well-known Caramba (Luigi Sapelli). The film was shown worldwide, in the US too (in 1922, under the title After Six Days). See also www.flickr.com/photos/italiangerry/2247923101/
After one more film by Molinari, Il principe di Kaytan (1922) Leonidoff withdrew from the cinema and little is known of her further career. She went back to dancing. Together with Dimitri Rostaff she was the first director of the newly founded Ballet School of the Opera of Roma in 1928. She remained active in Italy as choreographer in the 1930s. In 1951 she was the first director of the newly founded Ballet Oficial de Bolivia. In the mid-1950s she was also highly active in Guayaquil, Equador, at the Casa de la Cultura del Guayas. They still have a Sala Ileana Leonidoff there, opened in 1991.
The card above is surely for one of Leonidoff’s costume films. Ed. Vettori, Bologna.
NB IMDB dates Thais and Perfido incanto as 1916, which is wrong. IMDB also states that Leonidoff was in Perfido incanto which is wrong as well. The films have been confused with each other very often, even by the filmmaker himself in hindsight. Perfido incanto is considered lost, while the Paris film archive owns (and restored) a print of Thais.
(Source: Vittorio Martinelli, Il cinema muto italiano, 1917/1918/1919/1920)
Picture taken from Motography –The Motion Picture Trade Journal, Chicago, the USA, February 09th 1918 issue
Blake of Scotland Yard (USA,1927) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0017681/