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Maria Ouspenskaya
Maria Ouspenskaya, Greta Garbo 1937.jpg
Ouspenskaya (left) and Greta Garbo in Conquest (1937)
Maria Alekseyevna Ouspenskaya

(1876-07-29)29 July 1876
Died 3 December 1949(1949-12-03) (aged 73)
Occupation Actress
Years active 1915–1949

Maria Alekseyevna Ouspenskaya (Russian: Мария Алексеевна Успенская; 29 July 1876 – 3 December 1949) was a Russian actress and acting teacher. She achieved success as a stage actress as a young woman in Russia, and as an elderly woman in Hollywood films.

Life and career

Ouspenskaya was born in Tula, Russian Empire, and studied singing in Warsaw, Poland, and acting in Moscow. She was a founding member of the First Studio, a theatre studio of the world-famous Moscow Art Theatre. There she was trained by Konstantin Stanislavsky and his assistant Leopold Sulerzhitsky.

The Moscow Art Theatre traveled widely throughout Europe, and when it arrived in New York City in 1922, Ouspenskaya decided to stay there. She performed regularly on Broadway over the next decade. She taught acting at the American Laboratory Theatre and in 1929, together with Richard Boleslawski, her colleague from the Moscow Art Theatre, she founded the School of Dramatic Art in New York City. 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 the Maria Ouspenskaya School of Dance on Vine Street in Los Angeles. Her pupils included Marge Champion, the model for Disney's Snow White.

In spite of her marked Russian accent, she did find work in Hollywood, playing European characters of various national origins. Her first Hollywood role was in Dodsworth (1936), which brought her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. (Her onscreen appearance in that film was one of the briefest ever to garner a nomination.) She received a second Oscar nomination for her role in Love Affair (1939).

She portrayed Maleva, an old Gypsy fortuneteller in the horror films The Wolf Man (1941) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). Other films in which she appeared were: The Rains Came (1939), Waterloo Bridge (1940), Beyond Tomorrow (1940), Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), The Mortal Storm (1940), Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940), and Kings Row (1942).


Ouspenskaya died several days after suffering a stroke and receiving severe burns in a house fire, which was reportedly caused when she fell asleep while smoking a cigarette. She was buried in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

Famous quotes

In the film The Wolf Man, Maleva, The Gypsy Woman (played by Maria Ouspenskaya) utters her iconic quote as the Wolf Man is dying:

The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Now you will have peace for eternity.


Year Title Role
1936 Dodsworth Baroness Von Obersdorf
1937 Conquest Countess Pelagia Walewska
1939 Love Affair Grandmother
1939 The Rains Came Maharani
1939 Judge Hardy and Son Mrs. Judith Volduzzi
1940 Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet Franziska Speyer
1940 Beyond Tomorrow Madam Tanya
1940 Waterloo Bridge Madame Olga Kirowa
1940 The Mortal Storm Mrs. Breitner
1940 The Man I Married Frau Gerhardt
1940 Dance, Girl, Dance Madame Lydia Basilova
1941 The Wolf Man Maleva
1941 The Shanghai Gesture The Amah
1942 Kings Row Madame von Eln
1942 The Mystery of Marie Roget Mme. Cecile Roget
1943 Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man Maleva
1945 Tarzan and the Amazons Amazon Queen
1946 I've Always Loved You Madame Goronoff
1947 Wyoming Maria
1949 A Kiss in the Dark Mme. Karina
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