Saturday, December 3, 2011
Celebrity Grave: "Wolf Man" Actress Maria Ouspenskaya 1949
Maria Alekseyevna Ouspenskaya (Russian: Мария Алeкceeвнa Успенская; July 29, 1876 – December 3, 1949) was a Russian actress who achieved success as a stage actress as a young woman in Russia, and as an elderly woman in Hollywood films.
Ouspenskaya was born in Tula, Russia and studied singing in Warsaw and acting in Moscow. She performed extensively in on the Russian stage.
A member of the Moscow Art Theatre, Ouspenskaya was directed by Constantin Stanislavski, and for the remainder of her life advocated and taught his 'system', which in America became "method acting."
The Moscow Art Theatre traveled widely throughout Europe, and when it arrived in New York in 1922, she decided to stay there. She performed regularly on Broadway over the next decade. She taught acting at the American Laboratory Theater  and in 1929, together with her colleague from Moscow Art Theatre Ryszard Bolesławski, 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 up the "Maria Ouspenskaya School of Dance" on Vine Street in Los Angeles. There, one of her famous pupils included Marge Champion (who was the model for Disney's Snow White.) 
Her first Hollywood role in Dodsworth (1936) brought her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She received a second nomination in 1939 for her role in Love Affair. She 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), 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 she allegedly caused by falling asleep while smoking a cigarette. She was buried in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.
1.^ Obituary Variety, December 7, 1949; page 63.
2.^ Lawrence, D. H.; Isaacs, Edith J. R. (1924-12). Theatre Arts Monthly (Theatre Arts, Inc.) 8 (12): 801.
3.^ Smith, Ronald L. (2010). Horror Stars on Radio: The Broadcast Histories of 29 Chilling Hollywood Voices. McFarland and Company. ISBN 9780786445257.
4.^ King, Susan (September 30, 2009). "Marge Champion still has the dance moves". The Los Angeles Times.
5.^ "Academy list its selections". 1940-02-12. p. 9.
6.^ "Fag Blamed For Actress' Death". Tri City Herald: p. 3. 1949-12-04.
7.^ Mank, Gregory W. (McFarland and Co.). Women in Horror Films, 1940s. 1999. pp. 95.