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Michael Chekhov

Michael Chekhov

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Also Known As: Michael Checkhov, Michail Aleksandrowitsj Tschechow, Michail Tschechow, Michael Tschechoff, Mikhail Alexandrovich Checkhov Died: September 30, 1955
Born: August 29, 1891 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Russia Profession: actor, drama teacher, drama coach, director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A distinguished actor, theater director and stage impresario of Russian and German ancestry, Michael Chekhov was the nephew of famous playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov. He began his career in his native Russia and was a member of the legendary Moscow Art Theater, but his international acclaim really began to spread when he emigrated to England and set up the Michael Chekhov Theatre and an influential acting school. He later set up another famed acting school in New York and, indeed, his work in theater education may be his most important legacy. Indeed his acting students included the likes of Gregory Peck, Yul Brynner and Beatrice Straight. Nonetheless, the intense, diminutive Chekhov, most typically cast as intelligent, impassioned Middle Europeans, also made his mark as an actor, and in middle age began to work occasionally in films as well. Chekov made his film debut in the very pro-USSR, pre-Cold War romance, "Song of Russia" (1943). With his good speaking voice and accent, he was generally cast as immigrant types, downtrodden "little men" and intellectuals; his role in the wartime drama "In Our Time" (1944) was quite typical. In 1945, Chekov won an Oscar nomination as Best...

A distinguished actor, theater director and stage impresario of Russian and German ancestry, Michael Chekhov was the nephew of famous playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov. He began his career in his native Russia and was a member of the legendary Moscow Art Theater, but his international acclaim really began to spread when he emigrated to England and set up the Michael Chekhov Theatre and an influential acting school. He later set up another famed acting school in New York and, indeed, his work in theater education may be his most important legacy. Indeed his acting students included the likes of Gregory Peck, Yul Brynner and Beatrice Straight. Nonetheless, the intense, diminutive Chekhov, most typically cast as intelligent, impassioned Middle Europeans, also made his mark as an actor, and in middle age began to work occasionally in films as well.

Chekov made his film debut in the very pro-USSR, pre-Cold War romance, "Song of Russia" (1943). With his good speaking voice and accent, he was generally cast as immigrant types, downtrodden "little men" and intellectuals; his role in the wartime drama "In Our Time" (1944) was quite typical. In 1945, Chekov won an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his work as a psychiatrist colleague of Ingrid Bergman's who helps her solve the murder mystery of "Spellbound". His feature work was only occasional and ranged from the routine likes of "Cross My Heart" (1946) and "Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven" (1948) to the good soap opera "Invitation" (1952) to the laughably arty and pretentious "Specter of the Rose" (1946), where Chekhov at least played his over-the-top material to the fullest. His last film role was as a music teacher in the lush and sudsy "Rhapsody" (1954) before his death of a heart attack. Chekhov's film roles were generally modest, but, as with other emigres like Albert Basserman, his work was a testament to the strength of the acting traditions underpinning his early training.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Rhapsody (1954) Prof. Schuman
2.
 Holiday for Sinners (1952) Dr. Konndorff
3.
 Invitation (1952) Dr. Fromm
4.
 Texas, Brooklyn & Heaven (1948) Gaboolian
5.
 Cross My Heart (1947) Peter
6.
 Abie's Irish Rose (1946) Solomon Levy
7.
 Specter of the Rose (1946) Max "Poli" Polikoff
8.
 Spellbound (1945) Dr. Alex Brulov
9.
 In Our Time (1944) Uncle Leopold
10.
 Song of Russia (1944) Stepanov
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1912:
Joined Konstantin Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theatre
1913:
Had small part in the play "The Wreck of the 'Good Hope'"
1915:
Cast as the character Frazer in "The Deluge"
:
During the period of the Bolshevik Revolution (1918-1919), underwent "spiritual crisis"; began following the teachings of Rudolph Steiner
1918:
Opened own acting studio in Moscow; closed for financial reasons in 1921
1922:
Garnered attention in title role of Gogol's "The Inspector General"
1923:
Appointed as director of the Second Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre
1924:
Played title role in "Hamlet" with Moscow Art Theatre
1927:
Denounced by the Soviet government as a "mystic" and an "idealist"
1928:
Allowed to immigrate to Germany to work with Max Reinhardt
1928:
Formed troupe of "method" actors who spent seven years traveling throughout Europe
:
Visited the USA at invitation of Sol Hurok; met Beatrice Straight whom he declared "the face of destiny"
1938:
Established an acting studio, the Chekhov Theatre School, at Dartington Hall in Devon, England
1940:
With the advent of WWII, relocated acting studio to Ridgefield, Connecticut
1940:
Mounted production of Dostoyevsky's "The Possessed" on Broadway
1941:
Opened Michael Checkhov Theatre Studio in NYC
1943:
Feature film acting debut, "Song of Russia"
1945:
Received Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Alfred Hitchcock's suspenser, "Spellbound"
1954:
Last film, "Rhapsody"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Moscow Art Theatre: -

Notes

Among Chekhov's acting students in Hollywood were Marilyn Monroe, Jack Palance, Anthony Quinn and Akim Tamiroff.

Chekhov and fellow Russian actor-director-coach George Shdanoff were the subjects of the 1999 documentary "From Russia to Hollywood".

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Olga Tschechowa. Actor. Born on April 26, 1897; divorced in 1918; died on March 9, 1980.

Family close complete family listing

uncle:
Anton Chekhov. Playwright, short story writer.
daughter:
Ada Tschechowa. Actor. Born on September 9, 1916; died on January 28, 1966.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Lessons for the Professional Actor"
"On the Technique of Acting"
"To the Actor"
"To the Director and Playwright"
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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