The name of Maria Uspenskaya, nicknamed Maruccia, does not mean anything to most of our contemporaries, and this is not surprising - after the Moscow Art Theater actress did not return from a tour in the USA in 1924, she was forgotten in the USSR for many decades. In America, they know much more about her merits than at home, because she was one of the first to teach acting according to the Stanislavsky system in the United States. On Broadway, Maruccia became famous in the lead role in the play "Monkey", and in Hollywood, where she began acting after 50 years, her first role brought her an Oscar nomination.
Little is known about her life before emigration. No one even knows the exact date of her birth: some sources indicate 1876, others - 1883, and on the tombstone is 1887. She was born in Tula in the family of a lawyer. She had good vocal abilities and to develop them she went to the Warsaw Conservatory. She did not have enough funds to complete the full course of study, and Maria continued her studies at Adashev's private school in Moscow, where she studied acting.
After completing her studies, Maria Uspenskaya became an actress at the Moscow Art Theater, becoming one of the 5 lucky people who were selected from 250 applicants. On the stage of this theater, she played more than 100 roles. She was not a beauty, but at the same time she had an undeniable talent and charisma. Her friend of those years, Sofya Giatsintova, wrote about Maria in her memoirs: "". Nemirovich-Danchenko told her: "". She was not very popular with men - they considered her “their boyfriend”. And her love for the handsome actor Vasily Katchalov remained unrequited. All that she got from her object of adoration is his photograph with the caption: "".
In the theater she was called Maruccia - they say that this nickname was born thanks to a visiting Italian, who, obviously, could not pronounce "Marusya". Young Moscow Artists often gathered in her apartment, and during one of these gatherings she stunned her friend with her dream: "". Toga, no one could have thought that soon this dream would become a reality.
In 1923-1924. the troupe of the Moscow Art Theater, together with Stanislavsky, went on tour to the United States. There, young actors talked with local colleagues and learned that they get much more for their work, even if they are involved in extras. And the actors rebelled, for which they were threatened with dismissal upon returning to Moscow. Maria Uspenskaya was among the "rebels", and she decided not to return from the United States. Even if she had been left in the troupe of the theater, she knew that she could only count on supporting roles, as in silent films, where she managed to make her debut before her departure.
In America, she continued her acting career and began performing on Broadway. Popularity came to her after the main role in the play "Monkey", where Ouspenskaya played an acrobat, "gutta-percha woman." Her incredible plasticity and richness of facial expressions were also noted in Moscow, and then her talent sparkled with new colors. Many after that called her "Monkey". Small, thin, agile, completely unlike the local beauties-actresses, she nevertheless knew how to charm the audience. And in adulthood, Maruccia remained in excellent physical shape, doing gymnastics. The famous American critic John Mason Brown said that Ouspenskaya is an actress to her fingertips - any episode can turn into a "full-length portrait": "".
In the late 1920s. her colleague, also a former Moscow Art Theater, Pole Richard Boleslavsky invited her to open an acting school. Together they began to promote the Stanislavsky method, which was gaining incredible popularity in the United States at that time, whose name was perceived as a "quality guarantee" in the training of actors. She was described as a strict, sometimes even ruthless, “quirky” teacher. She appeared in the studio with a monocle on a string around her neck, with a glass of gin in her hand (disguised as water), and declared: ""
Maruccia raised several generations of future stars, including the legendary Lee Strasberg. Subsequently, he continued the work of Ouspenskaya and opened one of the most famous and prestigious acting studios in America, among whose students were Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Robert de Niro and other stars. Lee Strasberg said about Maria Uspenskaya: "".
Soon she had her own estate near New York, which she once dreamed of. And about 50 years old, Maruccia began her career in Hollywood, which was an exception to all the rules - at this age, actresses usually already left the cinema. Her first role in the film "Dodsworth" brought her an Oscar nomination. Three years later, there was another nomination - for the film "Love Story" (both - in the category "Best Supporting Actress"). At the same time, she continued to teach, studying with the actors right on the set.
She was often invited to play the roles of European aristocrats, and in the film with Vivien Leigh "Waterloo Bridge" she played the director of the ballet school, Madame Kirov. The popularity of Maria Uspenskaya in the USA is evidenced by the phrase uttered by the heroine of Audrey Hepburn in the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's": "". In such a context, only a well-known name could be mentioned.
In 1949 Maria Uspenskaya passed away. The reason was a stroke, which occurred after serious burns received during a fire, which occurred due to the fact that the actress, a heavy smoker, fell asleep with an unextinguished cigarette in her hand. She had neither children nor inheritance.
Emigrants from Russia often conquered American audiences at the beginning of the 20th century: How Alla Nazimova became one of the brightest Hollywood stars.