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Maria Ouspenskaya

Maria Ouspenskaya
in Love Affair (1939)
Personal information
Birth dateJuly 29, 1876
Place of birthTula, Russia
Date of deathDecember 03, 1949(age 73)
Death placeLos Angeles, California, USA
OccupationActress • Acting teacher
Years active1915 1949

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Maria Alekseyevna Ouspenskaya ( ; July 29, 1876, - December 3, 1949) was a Russian actress and acting teacher. She achieved success as a stage actress as a young woman in Russia, and as an elderly woman in Hollywood films.

Ouspenskaya was born in Tula, Russia, and studied singing in Warsaw and acting in Moscow. She was a founding member of the First Studio, a theatre studio of the world-famous Moscow Art Theatre. There she was trained by Konstantin Stanislavski and his assistant Leopold Sulerzhitsky in the 'system'.

The Moscow Art Theatre traveled widely throughout Europe, and when it arrived in New York in 1922, Ouspenskaya decided to stay there. She performed regularly on Broadway over the next decade. She taught acting at the American Laboratory Theatre

and in 1929, together with her colleague from Moscow Art Theatre Richard Boleslavsky, she founded the School of Dramatic Art in New York. One of Ouspenskaya's students at the school during this period was Anne Baxter, then an unknown teenager.

Although she had appeared in a few Russian silent films many years earlier, Ouspenskaya stayed away from Hollywood until her school's financial problems forced her to look for ways to repair her finances. According to ads from "Popular Song" magazine in the 1930s, around this time Ouspenskaya also opened the "Maria Ouspenskaya School of Dance" on Vine Street in Los Angeles. There, one of her famous pupils included Marge Champion (who was the model for Disney's Snow White.)

Her first Hollywood role in Dodsworth (1936) brought her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She received a second nomination in 1939 for her role in Love Affair. She strongly portrayed Maleva, a sinister old Gypsy fortuneteller in the horror films The Wolf Man (1941) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). Her other successes included The Rains Came (1939), Waterloo Bridge (1940), Beyond Tomorrow (1940), Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), The Mortal Storm (1940), and Kings Row (1942).

Ouspenskaya died several days after suffering a stroke and receiving severe burns in a house fire, which she allegedly caused by falling asleep while smoking a cigarette. She was buried in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

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