Eugenie Leontovich

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Eugenie Leontovich
Eugenie Leontovich Tovarich 1939.jpg
Leontovich as Tatiana in Tovarich
Born Eugenia Leontovitch
March 21 or April 3, 1900 (one source indicates 1893)[1][2]
Kamenes, Podolsk, Moscow Oblast, Russian Empire
Died April 3, 1993
New York, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress, dramatist, acting teacher
Spouse(s) Gregory Ratoff (1923-1949; divorced)

Eugenie Leontovich (Russian: Евге́ния Леонто́вич; born Eugenia Leontovitch; March 21 or April 3 (the discrepancy may be between the O.S. (Julian) and N.S. (Gregorian) calendars) in either 1900, which most sources cite and which Leontovich herself claimed, or as early as 1893, according to a border crossing manifest from September 23, 1922, which gives her age as 29, indicating 1893 as her year of birth[1][3][4][5][6]
[7] – April 3, 1993) was a Russian-born United States stage actress with a distinguished career in theatre, film and television, as well as a dramatist and acting teacher.

She was described as "[o]ne of the most colourful figures of the 20th-century theatre, a successful actress, producer, playwright and teacher."[8] She was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play for William Saroyan's The Cave Dwellers.

Early life[edit]

Born in Podolsk, she studied at Moscow's Imperial School of Dramatic Art, and then under Meyerhold at the Moscow Art Theatre, which she subsequently joined. As the daughter of an officer in the Russian Imperial Army, Leontovich suffered greatly during the Revolution. Her three brothers (who were Army officers like their father) were murdered by the Bolsheviks. In 1922, she "found her way to New York and set about mastering the English language". Her success led to Broadway stardom.[8]


Eugenie Leontovich as Grusinskaia, the dancer, in the original Broadway production of Grand Hotel (1930)

After touring the country in Blossom Time, she was cast as Grusinskaia in the Broadway adaptation of Vicki Baum's novel Grand Hotel.[8] An enormous success, the play, which opened in 1930, was later filmed with Garbo in the part created by Leontovich.[8] After Grand Hotel Leontovich was given the role of Lily Garland (aka Mildred Plotka) in Twentieth Century, a comedy by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. She played the role from December 29, 1932 until May 20, 1933.[9]

She also played the Archduchess Tatiana in Tovarich, a comedy about a pair of Russian aristocrats who survive in Paris by going into domestic service. It was in this play that she made a highly successful London debut at the Lyric Theatre in 1935, with Cedric Hardwicke as her co-star. During World War II she appeared on Broadway in Dark Eyes, a comedy she wrote with Elena Miramova about three Russian exiles in New York. The play was produced in London after the war with Eugenia Delarova and Irina Baronova.[8] In 1936, she had played Shakespeare's Cleopatra at the New Theatre, returning to London in 1947 as a female Russian general in a farce which she co-authored, Caviar To The General, which temporarily displaced Phyllis Dixey at the Whitehall. A year later, she moved to Los Angeles, where for the next five years she had her own theatre, The Stage, where she both produced and performed.[8]

In 1954, she created the role of the Dowager Empress in the play Anastasia on Broadway. (The role was played by Helen Hayes in the film version.)

In 1972, she adapted Anna Karenina for off-Broadway, calling it Anna K. and appearing in it with success.[8] Leontovich made a handful of films. For most of her long professional life she was identified with the stage. For seven years in the 1960s she was artist in residence at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. She taught acting in California and New York City.[citation needed]


Leontovich, whose students addressed her and referred to her as "Madame", lived in a Manhattan apartment surrounded by family pictures and icons. Both of her marriages ended in divorce and she had no children. She had been a naturalized United States citizen since 1929.[10]

According to her official biography, her first husband, Paul Sokolov, was purportedly a Russian noble. Her second husband was actor, producer, and director Gregory Ratoff, whom she married on January 19, 1923; they lived in California until their divorce,[when?] and she moved to New York.[3]

Broadway plays[edit]

Leontovich made her Broadway debut in 1922 in Revue Russe, appearing with Gregory Ratoff, whom she married the following year. She appeared on Broadway in Bitter Oleander (1935), Dark Eyes (1943) which she co-wrote, and Obsession (1946). Her most notable role as the Dowager Empress in Anastasia (1954).[9]


She appeared in a handful of films: Four Sons (1940), The Men in Her Life (1941), Anything Can Happen (1952), The World in His Arms (1952), The Rains of Ranchipur (1955) and Homicidal (1961). She also appeared in an episode of the television series Naked City.[11]


  1. ^ a b 1922 travel manifest giving Leontovich's age as 29, which would indicate an 1893 year of birth,; accessed October 20, 2015.
  2. ^ This source gives 1898 as Leontovich's year of birth,; accessed October 20, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Eugenie Leontovich, 93; actress, writer, director", Chicago Tribune, Chicagoland, p. 6, April 4, 1993.
  4. ^ "Eugenie Leontovich, 93, Actress, Playwright and Teacher, Is Dead". Glenn Collins, The New York Times, p. 11, April 3, 1993; accessed October 20, 2015.
  5. ^ According to her Petition for Naturalization as a United States citizen, dated September 5, 1929, she was born April 3, 1900 at Kamenes, Podolsk, although the discrepancy may be between the O.S. (Julian) and N.S. (Gregorian) calendars.
  6. ^ Petition for Naturalization,; accessed October 20, 2015.
  7. ^ Profile,; accessed October 20, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Harris, Dale. "Exile on Broadway; Obituary: Eugenie Leontovich", The Guardian, p. 13 (London). April 14, 1993
  9. ^ a b IBDb profile,; accessed October 20, 2015.
  10. ^ Evidence of Eugenie Ratoff (née Leontovich)'s United States citizenship/nationality
  11. ^ Eugenie Leontovich at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]

Media related to Eugenie Leontovich at Wikimedia Commons