Theo Richmond

Trading on a famous name

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The Mystery of Olga Chekhova

Antony Beevor

Viking, pp. 300, £

Was Hitler’s favourite actress a Russian spy? asks the publisher’s ‘shout line’ on the book-jacket, positioned to look like the author’s subtitle, suggesting that we are to be plunged into the world of a latterday Mata Hari. Readers hoping to have the curtain lifted on boudoir vamping, messages in invisible ink, or le Carré intrigue will be disappointed. Hitler, the film buff, admired some of Olga Chekhova’s German-made movies, but nowhere does Antony Beevor claim that she was his favourite actress. The cover photograph, showing dictator and actress seated side by side, could also suggest a closer relationship than in fact existed. As Beevor makes plain, she met him only at official parties and receptions, was never a guest at Berchtesgaden or admitted to the F