in Love Affair (1939)
|Born||Maria Alekseyevna Ouspenskaya
July 29, 1876
Tula, Russian Empire
|Died||December 3, 1949
Los Angeles, California, United States
Maria Alekseyevna Ouspenskaya (Russian: Мария Алeкceeвнa Успенская; 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.
Life and career
Ouspenskaya was born in Tula, Russian Empire, and studied singing in Warsaw, Poland, 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. Her pupils included Marge Champion, the model for Disney's Snow White.
In spite of her pronunciation of the English language being markedly inflected by a Russian accent, Ouspenskaya found work in Hollywood films predominantly playing European characters of various national origins. Her first Hollywood role was in Dodsworth (1936) which brought her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She received a second nomination for her role in Love Affair (1939). She strongly portrayed Maleva, an 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 was allegedly caused when she fell asleep while smoking a cigarette. She was buried in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.
From the Lon Chaney / Universal Studios film The Wolf-Man Maleva, The Gypsy Woman (Maria Ouspenskaya) utters (her most famous quoted phrasing) as the Wolf-Man is dying:
"The way you walked was thorny, though no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Now you will have peace for eternity."
- Robinson (2007, 81) and Nissen (2006, 141).
- Obituary Variety, December 7, 1949; page 63.
- Benedetti (1999, 210).
- Benedetti (1999, 209-211).
- Smith, Ronald L. (2010). Horror Stars on Radio: The Broadcast Histories of 29 Chilling Hollywood Voices. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-4525-7.
- King, Susan (September 30, 2009). "Marge Champion still has the dance moves". The Los Angeles Times.
- Robinson (2007, 81).
- "Academy list its selections". The Palm Beach Post. 1940-02-12. p. 9.
- "Fag Blamed For Actress' Death". Tri City Herald. 1949-12-04. p. 3.
- Mank, Gregory W. (McFarland & Co.). Women in Horror Films, 1940s. 1999. p. 95.
- Benedetti, Jean. 1999. Stanislavski: His Life and Art. Revised edition. Original edition published in 1988. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-52520-1.
- Robinson, Harlow. 2007. Russians in Hollywood, Hollywood's Russians: Biography of an Image. Boston: Northeastern UP. ISBN 978-1-55553-686-2.
- Nissen, Axel. 2006. Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Illustrated ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8.
- Maria Ouspenskaya at the Internet Movie Database
- Maria Ouspenskaya at the Internet Broadway Database
- Maria Ouspenskaya at Find a Grave