Moussia 19: Los Angeles, 1919: “Madame will cut a wide swath in stagedom”

Moussia at the age of 24, picture taken in Los Angeles in 1919

For Vladimir and Moussia, 1919 was a year full of bad news. The year before, they had still thought that Kerensky would make a political come back. In the Civil War, the Whites under General Kolchak and the Czechoslovak Legion had made large gains in Siberia. General  Kolchak, who considered himself in charge of a government which had succeeded  the Kerensky Government, had installed himself in Omsk. The White armies had also advanced, from the South, under General Deniken. Estonia and Latvia were clearing their territories of the Red Army.

But, in the course of 1919, the Red Army regained the upper hand. Vladimir must have known that his parents and his sister Elena and her baby were fleeing further to the South through territories where the civil war was raging. There was no news from Olga and her two sons. In London and Paris, Kerensky was not getting anywhere in obtaining help from Britain and France to support the White armies. It must have been clear to Vladimir and Moussia that they could not continue their rather lavish lifestyle of 1918 and that they must reckon with the possibility that they would have to support themselves without any more cheques coming from Baranovsky bank accounts.

In the course of the year, Moussia succeeded in making contact with theatre circles in Los Angeles and made her debut there in November 1919, in the Majestic theatre. This theatre had just been taken over by the Wilkes brothers: Ernest (the playwright) and Tom (the producer). Moussia got a small part, that of a “bad little, bold little siren”, which attracted much attention, see the article below.

The couple decided to go their separate ways, for the time being. Vladimir helped to move Moussia and the Rumanov couple, Michal and his wife Ariadna who was becoming known as a concert pianist, from Vallejo Street in San Francisco, where they had lived for just over a year, to a bungalow at 1655 West Adams Street in Los Angeles. The final move was on 31December 1919, see the photograph below. The 1920 United States Census was taken on 5 January, 1920. The Rumanov couple is listed as living at the new address, with Mary Baranovsky as their “roomer”. Vladimir stayed in San Francisco but he also moved house. In the 1920 census he is listed as ‘lodger, civil engineer’ at 120, Ellis Street.

Moussia makes her debut in the Majestic theatre in Los Angeles in November 1919 (dictionnary: Darb is an Americanism probably nearly obsolete today, a slang word from the 1920s meaning “something or someone very handsome, valuable, attractive, or otherwise excellent.”)

Typed caption glued on the back: “The second journey to L. Angeles 31 december 1919”.On the left : Vladimir Baranovsky. In the car: Moussia, on the right: probably Michal Rumanov


(to be continued)

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