Michael Chekhov the Hollywood actor

Authored by: Jacqueline Nacache

The Routledge Companion to Michael Chekhov

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415710183
eBook ISBN: 9781315716398
Adobe ISBN: 9781317506867


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It is no secret that Michael Chekhov had very little respect for Hollywood. He did, however, spend the last twelve years of his life in California, a period that contributed greatly to the prestigious image he currently enjoys in the United States. A large part of this reputation can be ascribed to his teaching and the “huge influence” 1 that he had over a large number of Hollywood actors and actresses; his work in his own right as a film actor during this period is less well known, nor is it the most scintillating. His screen career was brief; from his arrival in the United States to 1954, the date when he had to refuse a final engagement because of a second heart attack, Chekhov played in only ten feature movies. With the well-known exception of Spellbound (Hitchcock, 1945) these were low-budget productions, which, although they originated in big studios, had only limited distribution. All in all, as a filmography they constitute a mixed bag, essentially the result of having to take on acting assignments in order to pay the bills. They are, nevertheless, a precious resource, particularly because they give us a glimpse of Michael Chekhov in the only roles he played in English, far from the huge and eventually insuperable difficulties of King Lear. It is paradoxical then that thanks to the permanence of film, it is only those roles that interested him the least, created in the restrictive atmosphere of the Hollywood film set, which today give us reliable evidence of his work.

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