Leontovich, Eugénie (1894–1993)
Leontovich, Eugénie (1894–1993)
Russian-born actress, director, playwright, and drama coach. Name variations: Eugenie Leontovich. Born in Moscow, Russia, on March 21, 1894 (also seen as 1900); died on April 2, 1993; daughter of Konstantin Leontovich and Ann (Joukovsky) Leontovich; studied at the Imperial School of Dramatic Art, Moscow; married Paul A. Sokolov (divorced); married Gregory Ratoff (an actor-director), around 1923 (divorced 1949).
made New York debut in Revue Russe (Booth Theater, October 1922); toured for several seasons as Bella Bruna in Blossom Time; appeared as Mrs. Pepys in And So to Bed, Sarah Bernhardt in Fires of Spring, and Maria in Candle Light (Chicago, 1929); appeared as Grusinskaya in Grand Hotel (National Theater, November 1930) and on subsequent tour (1931–32); appeared as Lilly Garland in Twentieth Century (Broadhurst Theater, December 1932); made London debut as the Grand Duchess Tatiana in Tovarich (Lyric Theater, April 1935) and played Tatiana on subsequent U.S. tour (1937–38); appeared as Natasha in Dark Eyes, which she wrote with Elena Miramova (Belasco Theater, New York, 1943); appeared as Nadya in Obsession (Plymouth Theater, New York, October 1946), and Gen. Tanya in Caviar to the General, which she wrote with George S. George (New Lindsey Theater, London, January 1947); founded The Stage Theater in Los Angeles, California (1948); directed and played Mrs. Esther Jock in The Web and the Rock (Las Palmas, CA, October 1952); founded the Leontovich Workshop in Los Angeles (1953); appeared as the Empress in Anastasia (Lyceum Theater, New York, December 1954), and on subsequent tour in U.S. and Australia; directed A Month in the Country (Studebaker Theater, Chicago, IL, November 1956); appeared as the Queen in The Cave Dwellers (Bijou Theater, New York, October 1957), and on subsequent tour; was artist-in-residence at the Chicago School of Drama (1963–64); wrote, directed and starred in Anna K. (Actors Playhouse, New York, May 1972); directed Medea and Jason, which she also adapted from the Robinson Jeffers' version of Medea and Euripides (Little Theater, New York, October 1974); founded the Eugénie Leontovich Workshop for actors in New York City (1973).
Four Sons (1940); The Men in her Life (1941); Anything Can Happen (1952); The World in His Arms (1953); Homicidal (1961).
Russian actress Eugénie Leontovich, a graduate of the Imperial School of Dramatic Art in Moscow, was a veteran of the Moscow Art Theater and Russian State Theater when she made her first appearance at the Booth Theater in New York in 1922 in Revue Russe, a Paris revue that was brought to America by the Shuberts. After learning English, Leontovich spent her early career performing on Broadway and touring the country in countless plays, including And So to Bed and Twentieth Century. In April 1935, she made her first appearance in London, at the Lyric Theater, playing the Archduchess Tatiana in Tovarich. In Hollywood in 1950, Leontovich both acted in and directed a production of The Cherry Orchard, and in 1952, she appeared in The Web and the Rock, staging the production as well.
In December 1954, back in New York, she won a Tony Award for her performance as the Dowager Empress in Anastasia, a play about a young girl who claims to be Anastasia , the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Alexandra Feodorovna . Viveca Lindfors , who played the title role, recalls that Leontovich was an invaluable source of background material for the play, having escaped the Russian Revolution herself. "She was not only a superb actress, but a superb human being," Lindfors writes in her autobiography Viveka … Viveca. "She would bring me some old remedy to treat my throat if it was sore, or some Russian delicacy to nourish me, or Russian fairy tales for my children that they came to love. She never stayed to chitchat or gossip. She knew about the need for space, for bareness. We came to love each other."
From 1940 on, Leontovich also appeared in films, and during the late 1940s she operated The Stage Theater in Los Angeles, where she acted and directed. In 1953, she founded the Leontovich Workshop in Los Angeles, where she directed and coached professional actors. Leontovich continued to act and direct throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In 1964, she joined the faculty of Chicago's Goodman School of Drama, where she also directed a number of productions, including The Three Sisters (1963). She also taught at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and at Columbia College in Chicago. In 1972, she directed Anna K., her own conception of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, in which she also portrayed two old
aristocrats, a performance called "riveting" by Clive Barnes of The New York Times. In 1973, the actress founded a second workshop for actors in New York City.
Petite in stature but dynamic in personality, Leontovich was married twice; her second husband was the Russian-born actor-director Gregory Ratoff, who had a successful career in Hollywood. "My husband was making very big money as a moving-picture director, and I spent it, to my pleasure," she said about her tumultuous years with Ratoff. The couple divorced in 1949, but they apparently remained friends, as Ratoff left her his house in Pacific Palisades, California, after he died in 1960.
Halliwell, Leslie. The Filmgoer's Companion, 4th ed. NY: Hill and Wang, 1974.
Lindfors, Viveca. Viveka … Viveca. NY: Everest House, 1981.
McGill, Raymond D., ed. Notable Names in the American Theater. Clifton, NJ: James T. White, 1976.
Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts