Slovenian film star Ita Rina

Ita Rina (1907-1979)

Slovenian film star Ita Rina - Centennial of the birth

October 2007

Last month marked the centennial of the birth of the first Slovenian film actress of European renown, known in the film world under her professional name Ita Rina. Her real name was Ida Kravanja. She was born on 7 July 1907 in Divača, a small town in Kras near the current western Slovenian border with Italy, known above all as a railway junction. As an attractive nineteen-year-old, she was tempted to enter a beauty contest in Zagreb, which she did secretly, not telling anyone at home. She was noticed there by representatives of the German film company Ostermayer, who invited her to Berlin for a screen test, which meant the beginning of her flying film career and her breakthrough from anonymity into the world of film glitz and glamour.

Film Erotikon ('Seduction') in 1929

Starting with small roles in a number of German films Ita Rina gained celebrity with the Czech film Erotikon ('Seduction') already in 1929

Since the invention and establishment of film, such a life has been the silent and secret wish of many girls, coming true only for the rare few, and Ita Rina was actually a model of fulfilled dreams of glory and success in film. In 1926, she ran away from home to Berlin, where she debuted in the role of a chamber maid in the film Was die Kinder ihren Eltern verschweigen. During the following three years, she took small roles in a number of other German films until moving to Czechoslovakia where, already in 1929, she gained celebrity with the Czech film Erotikon ('Seduction') by director Gustav Machaty. Because of its audacity, evident from the title, the film was a sensation at the time, causing controversy among the audience, with some indescribably taken by it, while others felt utterly disgusted. With her role in this still silent film and later in the first Czech sound film Tonka Sibenice ('Gallows Toni'), Ita Rina secured a lasting place in the history of film art.

In Belgrade, she acted in several films made in Yugoslavia in the 1930s

After that, she continued her career in Czechoslovakia for a short time and then moved to Belgrade with her husband, whom she met in Berlin where he was studying electrical engineering. In Belgrade, she acted in several films made in Yugoslavia in the 1930s, mainly by foreign producers. She declined an invitation from Hollywood for personal reasons.

After WWII she led a quiet life with her family in Belgrade

In the years after WWII, she continued to live in Belgrade with her family, the doors to film being closed to her until 1960, when Serbian director Veljko Bulajić invited her to participate in his film Rat ('War'), in which she played the role of the mother. This was also her last film. Until her death in 1979, she led a quiet life with her family in Belgrade, under her new name Tamara Djordjević, which she took from her husband when she married. She is buried in Belgrade.

Ita Rina appeared in eighteen feature films, mostly by German and Czech producers or in co-productions

She lived to see and lived through the transition from silent to sound film that buried many silent film stars of the time. But unfortunately, because of her personal circumstances and because of the war and the subsequent situation in Yugoslavia, her film career ended all too soon.

She left almost no trace in Slovenian and Yugoslav film, since in Yugoslavia at the time the conditions for more substantial film production, especially of feature films, had not developed. Which is why she could succeed as a film actress only abroad where, at the height of her career, she earned a ‘star’ 15,000 marks per month and was an idol to teenagers as well as modern emancipated women.

Part of her fame also touched Slovenia, when she came to Ljubljana for the opening night of Erotikon where, as elsewhere in Europe and America, the audience received her with great admiration.

The memory of Ita Rina faded with time, but was revived a few years ago by the Slovenian Cinematheque, which mounted a permanent exhibition of the actress’s photos and posters at the Škrjateljnova domačija, the house where she was born. The Slovenian Cinematheque also marked the recent centennial of her birth by reprinting a monograph on her life and work, now in an extended edition complete with English translations.