Nita Naldi

Meaning: “Bear”
Gender: Female
Pronunciation: NEE-tah
Origin: English, Choctaw
Other forms of the name: N/A

Nita is a name that I never really took into consideration, but after spotting it on a silent film actress I started to think about it. Its short, feisty and exotic sounding, a perfect choice for many.

Besides meaning “bear” it can also be a nickname for Anita. Bears are greatly respected creatures and were said to be worshipped by fishing and hunting tribes. In a Russian fairytale called “Morozko” a man named Ivan tries to kill a mother bear and her cubs and for this his head was turned into a bear’s causing him to be shunned from society. Another story is “The Brown Bear of Norway” which tells the story of girl who marries a Prince who was magically turned into a bear. She eventually is able to turn him back by the force of her love and many travels. There are lots of different stories like this, some being “White-Bear-King Valemon”, “The Sprig of Rosemary” and “East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon”. In a Korean legend a God made a she-bear complete a difficult task, which she did, and then turned her into a woman and married her.

Nita Naldi was the silent film actress I was talking about earlier. She was born Mary Dooley to a working class Irish family in New York City. In 1910 her father left the family and in 1915 her mother died, leaving Nita to take care of her siblings. She began working as an artist’s model and a cloak model before debuting as a chorus girl in “The Passing Show of 1918” on Broadway. Nita eventually became apart of the “Ziegfeld Follies” which is when she changed her name to Nita Naldi; Naldi was a homage to a childhood friend, Florence Rinaldi.

Nita performed in a few plays and had a few tiny roles in films before being cast in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” opposite John Barrymore, who lovingly called her “Dumb Duse”, which was her breakthrough role. She was then cast and Dona Sol in “Blood and Sand” with Rudolph Valentino. This role established her reputation as a “vamp”. Nita retired from film fairly young and never made a talkie, even though she had a nice voice. She did however star in a few more plays, through people were critical of her weight. Nita died just short of her 66th birthday of a heart attack. She now has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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