rus / eng

Theater & Opera

Eugenie Leontovich - The Russian Enigma
 
According to different sources, Eugenie was born either in 1894 or 1900, in Moscow...
 
By the popular (and rather romantic) legend, she used the "1900" year when filling out the border crossing permits in the Nazi-occupied France in 1939, permits allegedly stolen by her husband to enable their escape back to America.
 
...She studied at the Moscow Imperial School of Dramatic Art, and then at the Moscow Art Theater, under the famed teacher Meyerhold, later joining his troupe.
 
During the Russian Revolution and the subsequent Civil War, Eugenie suffered the loss of her father and her three brothers, officers of the Imperial Army murdered by the Bolsheviks.
 
In 1922 she escaped to America, settling in New York and trying her luck on Broadway. A string of immediate successes followed, culminating into the adaptation of Vicki Baum's novel Grand Hotel, in which Leontovich played the part of Grusinskaya - the play and its later movie adaptation with Greta Garbo was a huge success! 
 
The Broadway fame brought Leontovich several notable roles in Hollywood comedies and musicals, including Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's Twentieth Century (1932).
 
In 1927 she became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
 
But the forays into movies were just momentary distractions from Leontovich's Broadway career. In 1935 she starred in Tovarich, a highly successful comedy about a pair of Russian aristocrats who survive in Paris by going into domestic service.
 
During the World War II, she starred in Dark Eyes, a comedy about three Russian exiles in New York, written by the actress herself.
 
In 1948 she moved to Los Angeles, where she established her own theatre, The Stage, working as both producer and actress there. And in the 1960s she was artist in residence at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. She also taught acting across the country, including in California and New York.
 
Her personal life was not happy: both of her marriages, to Paul Sokolov, a Russian noble, and Gregory Ratoff, a producer, ended in divorce, and she never had any children. Eugenie Leontovich died in her Manhattan home in 1993, aged either 93 or 99.
 
Sources:
Barry Moreno, Ellis Island's Famous Immigrants,
Harris, Dale. "Exile on Broadway; Obituary: Eugenie Leontovich", The Guardian (London). April 14, 1993

 


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