skip navigation
Uta Hagen

Uta Hagen

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

The Boys From Brazil DVD Alive and hiding in South America, the fiendish Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele (Peck)... more info $9.98was $9.98 Buy Now

The Other DVD Legendary director Robert Mulligan brings to life this chilling horror film... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now



Also Known As: Uta Thyra Hagen Died: January 14, 2004
Born: June 12, 1919 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Germany Profession: actor, acting teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A celebrated Broadway actress who is also noted as perhaps one of the most respected acting teachers in the USA, Uta Hagen has been an outspoken critic of both the Stanislavsky 'Method' as practiced (but not of the Russian master himself) and of formalism in acting. Born in Germany, but raised from childhood in Madison, WI, Hagen made her professional acting debut in 1937 playing Ophelia opposite Eva Le Gallienne in the latter's ground-breaking New York production of "Hamlet". That same year, she made her Broadway debut as Nina in a Broadway production of Chekhov's "The Seagull" starring Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, both of whom would have a profound influence on her acting style. She went on to star opposite her then-husband Jose Ferrer and Paul Muni in "Key Largo" (1939-40) and was the subject of controversy playing Desdemona to Paul Robeson's "Othello" (with Ferrer as Iago). When the show toured, some less liberal audience members were not accepting of a black actor and white actress having physical contact on stage. Hagen was actually contemplating abandoning the craft until she was cast by Harold Clurman in "The Whole World Over" in 1947. Clurman, one of the founders of The Group Theatre,...

A celebrated Broadway actress who is also noted as perhaps one of the most respected acting teachers in the USA, Uta Hagen has been an outspoken critic of both the Stanislavsky 'Method' as practiced (but not of the Russian master himself) and of formalism in acting. Born in Germany, but raised from childhood in Madison, WI, Hagen made her professional acting debut in 1937 playing Ophelia opposite Eva Le Gallienne in the latter's ground-breaking New York production of "Hamlet". That same year, she made her Broadway debut as Nina in a Broadway production of Chekhov's "The Seagull" starring Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, both of whom would have a profound influence on her acting style. She went on to star opposite her then-husband Jose Ferrer and Paul Muni in "Key Largo" (1939-40) and was the subject of controversy playing Desdemona to Paul Robeson's "Othello" (with Ferrer as Iago). When the show toured, some less liberal audience members were not accepting of a black actor and white actress having physical contact on stage. Hagen was actually contemplating abandoning the craft until she was cast by Harold Clurman in "The Whole World Over" in 1947. Clurman, one of the founders of The Group Theatre, introduced Hagen to Stanislavsky and what she would term "truthfulness on stage" as well as to Herbert Berghof, who asked her first to join his HB Studios as an acting teacher and then, several years later, to be his wife.

While building her reputation as a legendary acting teacher, Hagen also continued a thriving stage career, touring as Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire" opposite Anthony Quinn. In 1950, she received her first Tony Award creating the role of long-suffering George Elgin in Clifford Odets' "The Country Girl". Throughout the 50s and into the early 60s, Hagen continued to build on her reputation, often appearing in classics like Shaw's "Saint Joan" (1952), "A Month in the Country", with Michael Redgrave, and "The Good Woman of Setzuan" (both 1956). In 1962, she was tapped to create the role of Martha to Arthur Hill's George in Edward Albee's blistering "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", earning a second Tony Award. More recently, she triumphed in a revival of Shaw's "Mrs. Warren's Profession" (1985) and in the title role of psychotherapist "Mrs. Klein" (1996-97). She returned Off-Broadway in 1998 as a celebrated writer who takes a student under her wing in "Collected Stories" (1998).

The actress has maintained that she was 'greylisted' from film and TV work, partly over her association with Robeson. Hagen has also claimed that the few roles she did accept were "for the money". Just over 60, she made her film debut as the sane grandmother of good and evil twins in the haunting "The Other" (1972). Six years later, she appeared alongside Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck in "The Boys From Brazil" (1978), portraying the woman who arranged for the adoption of Hitler clones. It was over a decade before she returned to films as the loyal maid to Sunny von Bulow in Barbet Schroeder's "Reversal of Fortune" (1990). Her small screen roles have included a brief turn as a hotel guest who gets robbed on the ABC daytime drama "One Life to Live" (which netted her a Daytime Emmy nomination), a woman who has problems with the display of religious symbols in a public park in "Seasonal Differences", a 1987 "ABC Afterschool Special" (which garnered her a second Daytime Emmy nod), an outspoken Holocaust survivor in the first two episodes of the NBC drama series "Tattinger's" (1988) and a woman who resists the attempts of her children to put force her to a retirement residence in "The Home", a segment of the 1991 PBS special "The Sunset Gang".

As her Broadway triumphs were not taped and live merely in the memories of those who witnessed them, Hagen earned a second audience as an author. Her first book, "Respect for Acting" (1973), became a widely-selling how to text book on acting. In 1991, reflecting her revised concepts of acting techniques. she rewrote the book and published the new version as "A Challenge for the Actor". Hagen has also fashioned a cookbook, "Love For Cooking" (1976) and penned a memoir, "Sources" (1983). While she occasionally travels to hold master classes or lecture, she primarily devotes herself to running and teaching at the HB Studios in NYC, where classes generally cost less than $10.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Jack Lemmon: America's Everyman (1996) Interviewee
2.
 Reversal of Fortune (1990) Maria Schrallhammer
3.
 Doctor's Story, A (1984) Mrs Hilda Reiner
4.
 The Boys From Brazil (1978) Frieda Maloney
5.
 Intimate Portrait: Marlo Thomas (2000) Interviewee
6.
 Paul Robeson: Here I Stand (1999) Interviewee
9.
 Sunset Gang, The (1991) Sophie Berger ("The Home")
10.
 Seasonal Differences (1987) Omi
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1926:
Moved with family to USA
:
Raised in Madison, WI
1937:
At age 17, wrote letter to Eva Le Gallienne asking to join her theatrical company (date approximate)
1937:
Made professional debut as Ophelia opposite Le Gallienne's "Hamlet" in Dennis, MA
1937:
Broadway debut in "The Seagull"
1942:
First played Desdemona opposite Paul Robeson's "Othello" in Cambridge, MA; husband Jose Ferrer cast as Iago
1943:
Reprised Desdemona opposite Robeson and Ferrer on Broadway; toured in the role in 1944-1945
1947:
Appeared in the Broadway production of "The Whole World Over" directed by Harold Clurman
1947:
Joined faculty of The HB Studios, founded by Herbert Berghof
1948:
Toured as Blanche in "A Streetcar Named Desire" opposite Anthony Quinn; eventually played role on Broadway
1950:
Created role of Georgie Elgin in the Broadway production of Clifford Odets' "The Country Girl"; received first Tony Award
1962:
Had Broadway triumph as Martha in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"; received second Tony Award
1966:
Was featured in the TV production "The World of Carl Sandburg"
1972:
Feature film debut, "The Other"
1973:
Published book "Respect for Acting"
1978:
Co-starred in film "The Boys From Brazil"
1980:
Appeared in one-woman show "Charlotte"; later toured with production
1984:
TV-movie debut in "A Doctor's Story" (NBC)
1985:
Had small role as a hotel guest who is robbed in the ABC daytime drama "One Life to Live"; earned Daytime Emmy nomination
1987:
Co-starred in "Seasonal Differences", an "ABC Afterschool Special" about the reprecussions of the removal of a Nativity scene from public property; earned Daytime Emmy nomination
1988:
Appeared in the first two episodes of the NBC drama "Tattinger's"
1990:
Had featured role of Maria, Sunny von Bulow's maid, in "Reversal of Fortune"
1991:
Published revised concept of acting in "A Challenge for the Actor"
1991:
Starred in PBS drama special "The Sunset Gang"
:
Returned to New York stage starring in the title role of "Mrs. Klein"; toured with the production
1998:
Starred in the Off-Broadway play "Collected Stories"
2001:
Acted opposite David Hyde Pierce in the L.A. production of "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks"
2001:
Sufferd a minor stroke which caused the delay in the Broadway production of "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art: London , England -

Notes

Hagen has received honorary doctorates from Smith College, DePaul University and Wooster College.

In 1981, Hagen was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Among the many luminaries who have studied with Hagen are Jack Lemmon, Christine Lahti, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Bridges, Jill Clayburgh, Kate Reid, Hal Holbrook, Pat Hingle, Tom Berenger, Liza Minnelli, F Murray Abraham, Mercedes Ruehl and Ron Silver.

"I try to teach actors to bring a human being onstage, not actors." --Uta Hagen to People, February 5, 1996.

"We're continuously corrupted because we want to have middle-class lives. Well, that's not the life of an artist. If you want a comfortable living, go work at Macy's; don't look at the theater." --Uta Hagen in Backstage West, July 10, 1997.

"The reason I wrote the second book ... [was] I hadn't really opened the first book since I wrote it, and some people were doing really junky stuff in class, and I said, 'What the hell--why don't you read my book?' And they said, 'We took it right from your book!' So I picked it up and I looked at it and said, 'Oh, my God!' And then I realized and thought, I've got to rework this. So my reason for 'A Challenge For the Actor' is simply to revise my first book." --Hagen in Backstage West, July 10, 1997.

On her first marriage to Jose Ferrer, Hagen told People (February 5, 1996): "We were children, That's my excuse for what a rotten mother I was. I was selfish with my career and expected too much from her."

"I know my mother loves me and I love her, but she's probably one of those people who should not have had children. Or should have had them later in life. Her students are her children, I don't mean this disrespectfully, but there were times I felt she loved her students more than me. ... My mother truly had a difficult time being a single parent. But I'll care about her until the day I leave this world. I am truly grateful when I look back and see the people I got to know and the things I got to do." --Hagen's daughter Letty Ferrer to Daily News, April 28, 1996.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Jose Ferrer. Actor. Married on December 8, 1938; separated in 1946; divorced.
companion:
Paul Robeson. Actor, singer. Had brief relationship when they appeared together in "Othello".
husband:
Herbert Berghof. Actor, acting teacher. Founder of HB Studios in NYC; born in 1909; met in 1947; married from January 25, 1957 until his death in 1990.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Otto Frank Leonard Hagen. Art history professor.
mother:
Thyra Amalie Hagen. Opera singer. Danish.
brother:
Holger Hagen. Older.
daughter:
Leticia Thyra Ferrer. Actor. Born in 1940; father, Jose Ferrer.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Respect for Acting" MacMillan
"Love For Cooking"
"Sources: A Memoir"
"A Challenge For the Actor" MacMillan
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute