• 29 August 1891
  •  St. Petersburg, Russian Empire [now Russia]

Michael Chekhov


Michael Chekhov was a Russian actor in the Moscow Art Theatre who emigrated to America and made a career in Hollywood, earning himself an Oscar nomination. He was born Mikhail Aleksandrovich Chekhov in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1891. His mother, Natalya Golden, was Jewish, and his father, Aleksandr Chekhov, was a brother of writer Anton Chekhov. Anton wrote of his four-year-old nephew in 1895, "I believe that he has a growing talent." From 1907-11 he studied classic drama and comedy at Suvorin Theater School in St. Petersburg, graduating with honors as actor. In St. Petersburg he met Konstantin Stanislavski who invited him to join the Moscow Art Theater. The two became good friends and partners in propelling the Moscow Art Theater to international fame. Later Stanislavsky wrote that Michael Chekhov was a genius. His film career began in 1913 with a role in 'Tryokhsotletie tsarstvovaniya doma Romanovykh (1913)' (aka Tercentenary of the Romanov Dynasty), followed by a few more roles in Russian silent films. It was during the Russian Revolution of 1917 that his beloved first wife, Olga Tschechowa, divorced him. He was devastated and suffered from depression and alcoholism for the rest of his life. Between 1922 and 1928 he led the second Moscow Art Theater, earning himself a reputation as teacher, actor and director who brought innovations experimenting with symbolism and acmeist poetry. Chekhov updated the Stanislavsky's acting method, by blending it with yoga, theosophy, psychology and physiology, and adding his own ideas of transformation of actor's consciousness through psychological gesture and movement techniques for entering a special state of subconscious creativity. His idea of using an actor's own intuition and creative imagination was a departure from the original method of his teacher, Stanislavsky. Chekhov ignored the communist regime and was attacked by the Soviets for joining the Anthroposophic Society. In 1928 he was fired from the Moscow Art Theatre and eventually left Russia. In Europe, he taught his acting method and also made a big success in German films, co-starring with his ex-wife Olga Tschechowa, who was then living in Germany with her second husband. In 1931 he founded the Chekhov Theatre, with support from Rachmaninov, Bohner and Morgenstern, and in 1935 he brought the Chekhov Theatre on tour to New York. He taught acting in France, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, and in England before WWII. In 1938 he moved to the United States, where he started his own school, and also successfully directed Dostoyevsky's "Demons" on Broadway. Then he was introduced to Hollywood by Sergei Rachmaninoff. In 1945 Chekhov played his best known film role, psychiatrist Brulov in Spellbound (1945). He received an Academy Award nomination for the role and became a member of the American Film Academy in 1946. At that time, he taught his acting method in Hollywood. In 1953 he published a book about his method, "To The Actor", with preface written by Yul Brynner. His students included Gregory Peck, Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Quinn, Jack Palance, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Elia Kazan, Clint Eastwood, Yul Brynner and many other Hollywood actors and directors. At the end of his life Chekhov reunited with his daughter Ada Tschechowa in California. He died in 1955 in Beverly Hills, and was laid to rest in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.


Movie Name Release Date
Νύχτα αγωνίας – Spellbound (1945) December 28, 1945