Russian actress Maria Ouspenskaya is beloved by generations of horror film fans for her role as the Gypsy woman in The Wolf Man (1941), but for two decades she was one of old Hollywood's most respected character actors.
Ouspenskaya was probably born on July 29, 1876, (there are some discrepancies about the year of her birth) in Tula, Russia, to a lawyer and his wife. Ouspenskaya, who had a beautiful soprano voice, originally wanted to be a singer, but her family could not afford the expensive lessons, so she switched to a career on the stage.
|Maria Ouspenskaya as the Gypsy woman, Maleva, in The Wolf Man (1941).|
Ouspenskaya led a hard life for many years, touring the Russian provinces with several different theatrical companies. Ouspenskaya always looked back on those times with fondness and she liked to say, "You never toured Russia in the old days," when anyone would complain about conditions on the set. In 1911, Ouspenskaya was accepted into the prestigious Moscow Art Theatre, which was co-founded by famed director Constantin Stanislavski. Ouspenskaya defected when the company toured America in 1924.
|Maria Ouspenskaya, Harry Carey (center), and C. Aubrey Smith in Beyond Tomorrow (1940).|
|Maria Ouspenskaya in Tarzan and the Amazons (1945).|
|H.B. Warner and Maria Ouspenskaya playing the Maharajah and the Maharani in The Rains Came (1939).|
Ouspenskaya made several more films, including reprising her role as Maleva in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), but she eventually retired to the Motion Picture Country Home in Hollywood. She died on Dec. 3, 1949, several days after suffering severe burns after she fell asleep while smoking in bed. Ouspenskaya is buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif.