7/29/1876 to 12/3/1949
Maria Alekseyevna Ouspenskaya was a Russian actor and teacher. She was born in Tula, Russian Empire. Maria was a soprano. She studied singing in Warsaw, Poland at the Warsaw Conservatory. She also studied acting at the Adasheff’s School of Drama in Moscow. She toured with several theatrical troupes. She was trained by Konstantin Stanislavski and his assistant Leopold Sulerzhitsky.
Maria traveled throughout Europe with The Moscow Art Theatre. Eventually the troupe traveled to New York City. During that trip Maria defected to the United States. She performed on Broadway for years. She also taught acting at the American Laboratory Theatre. With her colleague from the Moscow Art Theatre, Richard Boleslawski, Maria founded the School of Dramatic Art in New York City.
Previously in her career, she had appeared in silent movies in Russia. To keep her school funded she began working in Hollywood films. She would appear in a couple dozen films over the years, some “A” pictures and some “B” pictures. She also appeared in the Tarzan movie “Tarzan and the Amazons” (1945) with Johnny Weissmuller. At only about 90 pounds she held he own on screen.
With her Russian accent she worked playing European characters of different national origins. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for “Dodsworth” (1936) even though it was the shortest on screen role ever to be nominated. She also received an Academy Award nomination for her role in “Love Affair” (1939).
Maria was addicted to astrology. Apparently to the chagrin of cast and crew on movie sets. She was in nearly daily communication with L.A. Times' astrologer Carroll Righter. Maria would seek her advice on the best times to appear on camera as well as when and where to travel. Due to her overbearing nature she was not popular with cast-mates or hard working crews.
Although Maria only appeared in two horror movies; she was Maleva in both “The Wolf Man” (1941) and “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” (1943), she will always be associated with Universal’s classic line of monsters. Fans of the genre have embraced her as their own. Madam would be pleased.
Maria died from a stroke and severe burns from a house fire. The fire was allegedly caused by Maria falling asleep with a lit cigarette. Maria was a notorious chain smoker. Her gravestone has her birth date as 1887. She was actually born in 1876.