Olga Chekhova Hitler’s favorite film star
Olga Chekhova Hitler’s favorite film star. One of the great adventuresses of her time, Olga Chekhova, married into Anton Chekhov’s family and then became Hitler’s favorite film star, Goebbels’s protege, supposedly Stalin’s and Beria’s secret agent, possibly mistress of the head of Smersh, the Soviet intelligence organization, and finally was mythologized by the English tabloids as “The spy who vamped Hitler”. Russian-German actress Olga Konstantinovna Chekhova was born on 14 April, 1897 in Russian Empire. Her film roles include the female lead in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mary.
Born Olga Knipper, she was the daughter of Konstantin Knipper, a railway engineer and the niece and namesake of Olga Knipper (Anton Chekhov’s wife). She went to school in Tsarskoye Selo but, after watching Eleonora Duse, joined the Moscow Art Theater’s studio.
There she met the great actor Mikhail Chekhov (Anton’s nephew) in 1915 and married him the same year, taking his surname as her own. Their daughter, also named Olga, was born in 1916.
Two years after the 1917 October Revolution, Chekhova divorced her husband but kept his name. She managed to get a travel passport from the Soviet government, possibly in exchange for cooperation, which led to permission to leave Russia.
Olga Chekhova was accompanied by a Soviet agent on a train to Vienna, then she moved to Berlin in 1920. Her first cinema role was in Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau silent movie Schlob Vogelod (1921). She played in Max Reinhardt’s productions at UFA, the same studios where Fritz Lang directed Metropolis (1927).
She made the successful transition from silent film to talkies. In the 1930s, she rose to become one of the brightest stars of the Third Reich and was admired by Adolf Hitler. She appeared in such films as Der Choral von Leuthen although she preferred comedies
Published photograph of Olga Chekhova sitting beside Hitler at a reception gave the leaders of the Soviet intelligence service the impression that she had close contacts with Hitler. She had more contact with the Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, who referred to her in his diaries as “eine charmante Frau” (“a charming lady”).
After adventures in Hollywood and encounters with Greta Garbo, by 1933, when Hitler came to power, Olga was already a successful film star, a sort of sub-Marlene Dietrich who starred in 150 movies, including a version of Maupassant’s decadent Bel-Ami and an early version of Moulin Rouge in which she cavorted naked with a python. No wonder Hitler, while still an obscure beerhall orator, had ogled Olga. Now she was regularly described as his “favorite”, and indeed he made sure he met her almost as soon as he could.
“La Chekhova, eine charmante Frau,” as Goebbels always called her in his diary, became one of the leading film stars of the Nazi galaxy: Hitler sent her Christmas presents with handwritten notes.