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Michael Chekhov 

Michael Chekhov                                  

Michael Chekhov (1891 - 1955)


Chekhov was considered the most original actor of his generation
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He wwas  the nephew of the playwright Anton Chekhov and was widely recognized as one of the greatest actors of the 20th century. He was considered by Stanislavsky to be his most brilliant student. Indeed, Stanislavsky once said that
"if anyone wanted to know what he was teaching, they should go and see what Michael Chekhov was doing." Chekhov had a great talent for characterization and was a keen observer of the creative process. At the Moscow Art Theatre, the collaboration between Stanislavsky, Vachtangov, Meyerhold and Michael Chekhov led to a theater that was bold, expressive and imaginative. In their work they searched for objective principles that would lead to inspired acting. This investigation led Michael Chekhov to develop his psycho - physical acting technique, incorporating imagination and body as well as intellect.

Chekhov was warned to leave Russia in 1928 at the height of his acting and directing career; his productions were too experimental for the Soviets and were labeled "alien and reactionary." He then spent eight years in Europe, acting, directing, and teaching, but was greatly handicapped by language, political factions, and the threat of war.                                      

 In 1936, Beatrice Straight invited him to establish the Chekhov Theatre Studio, a training program for a company of actors at Dartington Hall in England. In 1939, the threat of war with Germany caused the group to relocate to Ridgefield, Connecticut until it was forced to disband because it lost its male members to the draft. In 1942 he was invited to Hollywood, where he became an acting coach to the stars, acted in many films, published his book, "To the Actor," and taught a group called The Drama Society. 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".

Prominent actors in Hollywood who studied with him were: Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Mala Powers, Gregory Peck, Patricia Neal, Clint Eastwood, Anthony Quinn, Ingrid Bergman, Jack Palance, Lloyd Bridges, and Yul Brynner. Michael Chekhov was highly respected and admired by teachers and directors such as Stella Adler, Herbert Berghof, Morris Carnovsky, Harold Clurman, Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg.

Michael Chekhov died in Hollywood, in 1955, having spent his whole life creating a completely new and radical approach to acting. His acting techniques were one of the best kept secrets in the film and theatre business.

Quotes from Michael Chekhovs Students:

Yul Brynner  
"As an actor, you the artist have to perform on the most difficult instrument to master, that is your own self, your physical being and emotional being. That, I believe is where all the confusion of the different schools of acting stems from and that is why Michael Chekhov's 'To the Actor' manuscript, which I hold in front of me, is worth more than gold to every actor. In fact, I believe to every creative artist."
 
 
Gregory Peck 
 “Michael Chekhov brings to the actor a far greater insight into himself and his character. He enables the actor to approach any role with new skill and ease. ”

 Marilyn Monroe

“ As Michael's pupil, I learned more than acting... Every time he spoke, the world seemed to become bigger and more exciting. Acting became important an art that increased your life and mind. Acting became more than a profession to me. It became sort of a religion.”  

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