Nita Naldi was an American silent film actress. One of the most successful actresses in Hollywood during the “Roaring Twenties”, she was often cast in the role of the “femme fatale”/”vamp”, a persona first popularized by actress Theda Bara.
Born Nonna Dooley in New York City into a working class Irish family. She was named for her great aunt, Mary Nonna Dunphy, who founded Academy of the Holy Angels in Ft. Lee, New Jersey. She would attend the school in 1910.
Her father left the family in 1910, and her mother died in 1915. Left with the care of two teenage siblings Naldi began to seek work. She took odd jobs including artist modeling and cloak model. Eventually she entered vaudeville with her brother Frank. By 1918 she debuted on Broadway as a chorus girl at the Winter Garden in “The Passing Show of 1918”. This led to more stage jobs and soon Naldi found herself in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919. At this time she changed her name to Nita Naldi. Naldi was a homage to a childhood friend Florence Rinaldi.
Naldi continued working on Broadway and after a well received performance in “The Bonehead” was offered a stint with well known producer William A. Brady. Brady cast her in his play “Opportunity” in 1920.