Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Georgia: Tamara Toumanova (Tumanishvili)

Tamara Toumanova, via
Edit:  I have been meaning to tell you about Tamara Toumanova for almost two years now.  Unfortunately, I kept running into problems like lack of information about Tamara's life, and even contradicting information from different sources.  As fate would have it, a few weeks ago I accidentally stumbled upon the NY Times article mentioning the name of a Georgian teenager, Tamara George Pkhakadze.  Tamara Toumanova's uncle, Zakaria Tumanishvili, is Pkhakadze's great-grandfather.  I decided to contact the little Georgian via Facebook and was given wealth of information about Toumanova.  The post below is based on several  sources.  Still some statements may be unclear or inaccurate.  I am so happy to inform you that there is a thorough research being done by the Pkhakadze family to clarify the "mystery" behind Tamara's origin and to provide more in-depth view into her life.  I'm sure you would agree Tamara Toumanova deserves such treatment. 

Tamara Toumanova was a prominent American ballerina and actress.  While scholars do not agree about the indentity of her biological father* (either Konstantin Zakharov or Vladimir Khassidovitch), we know Tamara's mother was Georgian Princess Euginia Tumanishvili (she gave Tamara her last name) who had to flee Georgia after the Russian Revolution.  Tamara was born on a train March 2, 1919 while her mother was trying to get to China through Siberia.  From China the mother and the baby moved to Cairo, Egypt and later to Paris, France.  They moved to the U.S. in 1937. 
George Balanchine saw young Tamara in ballet class and engaged her for de Basil’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as one of the three “baby ballerinas”.  Balanchine created the role of the “Young Girl” for Toumanova in his ballet Cotillon and had her star in his Concurrence and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.  She came to be called “The Black Pearl of the Russian Ballet”, because, as A. V. Coton wrote, “she was the loveliest creature in the history of the ballet”, with black silky hair, deep brown eyes and pale almond skin.

In the U.S. Tamara appeared in the following movies:

Spanish Fiesta (as Gypsy Fortune Teller), 1942
Days of Glory (as Nina), 1944 (Starring with Gregory Peck, this is his debut film)
Tonight We Sing (as Anna Pavlova), 1953
Deep in My Heart (as Gaby Deslys), 1954
Invitation to the Dance (as The Girl on the Stairs in "Ring Around the Rosy"), 1956
Torn Curtain (as Ballerina), 1966 (Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews)
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (as Madame Petrova), 1970
Billy Wilder TV documentary (as herself), 1970
That's Dancing! documentary as herself (film clip), 1985

Tamara Toumanova died in 1996 in Santa Monica, California and was buried next to her mother at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Tamara Toumanova, via

Toumanova in her dressing room, via

Tamara Toumanova. La Esmeralda. via

Tamara Toumanova and Gregory Peck starring in Days of Glory, via

Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Marine Fantasy with Tamara Toumanova), early 1940s, via

Make sure you watch Toumanova and Gene Kelly's mesmerizing performance in this YouTube clip from Invitation to the Dance.  I can watch this over and over without getting bored.  And who said wearing pink and red together is a modern invention?!

Other sources for the related info: Tamara Toumanova (Tumanishvili) Facebook page
NYTimes article by Toni Bentley
NYTimes article by Jack Anderson
Toumanova on Mubi

*There is a research being done in Georgia to prove that Tamara's biological father was Konstanit Zakharov who died while fleeing Georgia.  Vladimir Khassidovitch was Tamara's step-father and for legal purposes he claimed Tamara to be his daughter upon their arrival to the U.S. 


  1. What a stunning ballerina and actress. Lovely post, Maya. I like these black and white images that capture Tamara's beauty. I'll add "Days of Glory" to my movie list (I love old films and I love Gregory Peck!)

    1. Stephanie, this is Gregory Peck's debut movie. He himself was not satisfied with his acting in his first movie, but it was very significant as it has rocketed his career.
      This was also the first film produced by screen writer Casey Robinson. Robinson and Toumanova married in 1944 and divorced in 1955.

  2. Beautiful photogrphs.
    I am glad to see you back, Maya.

  3. შესანიშნავია! მადლობა, ამ მშვენიერებას რომ მაზიარეთ და წარმატებები! :)

  4. შესანიშნავია! მადლობა, ამ მშვენიერებას რომ მაზიარეთ და წარმატებები! :)

  5. Well, whoever her daddy was, he passed on some amazing genetic material - she's glorious! Thank you for sharing:)) xo

  6. Ditto to everything Stephanie just said! It's a lovely post, Maya, and you clearly put a lot of thought into it. I'll check if our version of NetFlix (LoveFilm) has Days of Glory.

    I've been meaning to contact you - to send Happy Thanksgiving wishes (do you cook an American style Thanksgiving? I would love to see Georgian influences - pomegranites, walnuts, etc would be wonderful with the meal) - I met a woman, a waitress at a lovely cafe in London, and thru a bizarre coincidence - talking about that wonderful Georgian cheese bread - I discovered she was from Georgia. I told her about you and gave her my card but haven't heard from her. I thought it would be nice for you two to be in touch.

    Wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving: your generous heart and gratitude comes through in everything you do. hugs - as Stephanie says - from across the pond. xox

  7. She's stunning! Thank you so much for this post, Maya, it was very interesting to read))

  8. Beautiful ! Ballerinas used to make me dream when I was a kid !

  9. Wow, she was unbelievably beautiful - that profile! - those cheekbones! How amazing that you have researched this (I love research and miss it) you could write a book on her. Also love that her physique is so strong - too often I go to the ballet nowadays and I find the dancers are now waaaay too thin (so thin I can't watch them!)

  10. Wowza! Absolutely stunning, and the scene with Gene Kelley was dead sexy!

  11. What a striking woman, thanks for sharing, I've never seen or heard of her before. x

  12. What a great story and she is beautiful. Ballet photos does something to me.
    If I was single I would surround my bedroom walls with ballerina photos in tutu's and pink point shoes.
    So gorgeous.

  13. I'm so glad i headed over here to find this wonderful introduction to and celebration of Toumanova. And yes, the Gene Kelly performance with her is indeed mesmerising. Wow.

  14. hello Maya ! I answer your question : I bought my unicorn tee shirt in New Look ! Have a great week end !

  15. the greatest article . as we know the truth about her origin so,correct the mistakes about Tamara's roots in Wikipedia . please :)

  16. and i know that Tamara was Russian from her father's side and Georgian from her mother's side and she was Georgian Orthodox

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  18. Love the pink and red, too. And amazing they could dance like that right after having a smoke. I would be totally winded.



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