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Theater & Opera

Richard Boleslawski  – Stanislavski's avantgarde in America
 
Richard Boleslavsky was born in Debowa Gora, Poland, then part of the Russian empire. He followed the path of a professional military officer, graduating from the Tsarist Tver Cavalry Officers school. 
 
His military aspirations, however, did not interfere with one of his other passions: acting! He trained at the First Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre under Konstantin Stanislavski and his assistant Leopold Sulerzhitsky, where he was introduced to their revolutionary 'method acting' system.
 
During World War I, Boleslavsky was drafted to the cavalry and fought on the Tsarist Russian side. His personal experiences became the basis of some of his future works in cinema, including his war movies Miracle at the Vistula (1923) or Lances Down (1932). 
 
Boleslavsky's personal life reflected his tumultuous ways: he was married three times and had a son named Jan with his last wife, Norma Drury – the only woman that stayed with him until the end.
 
In early 1920s, he immigrated to America, settling in New York City and changing his name to "Richard Boleslavsky" to make it more palatable to English-speaking natives. Joining forces with his fellow student and emigre Maria Ouspenskaya, in 1923 he established the American Laboratory Theatre in New York and started teaching Stanislavski's "Method acting".
 
The school soon had several prominent students, including Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler and Harold Clurman, who would later found the Group Theatre (1931–1940), the first American acting troupe to utilize Stanislavski's techniques in practice.
 
Boleslavsky was noticed by Hollywood executives, who offered him contracts to make several significant films with some of the major stars of the day: Rasputin and the Empress (1932) with the star trio of John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore and Ethel Barrymore; The Painted Veil (1934)  with Greta Garbo; and Men in White (1934) with Clark Gable.
 
For his contribution to the Dreams Factory, Boleslavsky was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at Hollywood Blvd.
 
Richard Boleslavsky died just a few weeks short of his 48th birthday, on January 17, 1937.
 
Sources:
Benedetti, Jean. 1999. Stanislavski: His Life and Art. Revised edition. Original edition published in 1988. London: Methuen.

 


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