She was born Marem-Ides Leventon (or Adelaida Yakovlevna Leventon) in Yalta, Crimea, Russian Empire. She was born on June 3 [O.S. May 22], 1879, though other sources also indicate 1878 or 1876. Her parents were Yakov Abramovich Leventon, a pharmacist, and Sarah Leivievna Gorowitz (later known as Sofia Lvovna Gorovitz or Horovitz).
Her stage name Alla Nazimova was a combination of Alla (a diminutive of Adelaida) and the surname of Nadezhda Nazimova, the heroine of the Russian novel Children of the Streets. She often was singularly known by her stage name's last name, "Nazimova".
She married Sergei Golovin in 1899, purportedly in the City Church of Boruysk on June 20, 1899. Their marriage was officially dissolved 11 May 1923.
She married Charles Bryant in a "lavender marriage" in 1912. A lavender marriage is one that is for show, which keeps the sexuality of one or both parties a secret. This continued until he married Marjorie Gilhooley 1925. He listed himself as being single on his marriage record to her, revealing Alla's marriage to him as a sham.
She also had affairs with numerous women, including Jean Acker, wife of Rudolph Valentino. She was also reportedly involved with his other wife, Natacha Rambova. People Nazimova is confirmed to have been involved with romantically include actress Eva Le Gallienne, film director Dorothy Arzner, writer Mercedes de Acosta, Glesca Marshall, and Oscar Wilde's niece, Dolly Wilde. Another rumored lover was Bridget Bate Tichenor.
She also is reportedly the person who created the phrase "sewing circle" to refer to lesbians and bisexual women who were concealing their sexuality. These women in the sewing circle were most often actresses.
Alla passed away July 13, 1945, and is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
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