Leonidov, Leonid Mironovich
(pseudonym of L. M. Vol’fenzon). Born May 22 (June 3), 1873, in Odessa; died Aug. 6, 1941, in Moscow. Soviet Russian actor, director, and teacher. People’s Artist of the USSR (1936); doctor of art history (1939).
Leonidov studied at the Moscow Imperial Theatrical School (1895–96). He worked at the Solovtsov Theater and at the former Korsh Theater in Moscow, and in 1903 he was invited to join the Moscow Art Theater (making his debut as Vas’ka Pepel in Gorky’s Lower Depths). Many of his characterizations at the Moscow Art Theater constitute the highest achievements of the Russian school of acting and are a brilliant example of a creative application of the Stanislavsky system, of which Leonidov was a proponent.
In his comedy roles (Borkin in Chekhov’s Ivanov and Skalozub in Griboedov’s Woe From Wit), Leonidov skewed the humor to a monstrous and frightening angle and brought the sharpness of the characterizations to the limits of harshness. His portrayal of Pliushkin in Dead Souls (based on the Gogol novel) epitomized this approach.
Leonidov approached drama with philosophic understanding, often rising to tragic heights. His outstanding dramatic roles were Peer Gynt (Peer Gynt by Ibsen) Pugachev (Pugachev-shchina by Trenev), Egor Bulychov (Egor Bulychov and the Others by Gorky), and Professor Borodin (Fear by Afinogenov). The role of Dmitrii Karamazov was the pinnacle of Leonidov’s career (Brothers Karamazov, based on the Dostoevsky novel; 1910). In 1930, Leonidov played Othello in Shakespeare’s play.
During the period after the Revolution, Leonidov’s artistry acquired special depth and definition in its analysis of social events. The theme of uncompromising criticism of the old social order was central to his directorial work—for example, Earth by Virta (1937) and Dostigaev and the Others by Gorky (1938). Leonidov’s motion-picture roles included Ivan the Terrible in The Wings of a Serf (1926) and Gobseck in Gobseck (1937). He began teaching at the State Institute of Theater Art in 1935, where he was a dean and artistic director (1939–41). Leonidov was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.
WORKSVospominaniia, stat’i, besedy, zapisnye knizhki. Edited by V. Ia. Vilenkin. Moscow, 1960.
REFERENCEMarkov, P. A. Teatral’nye portrety. Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
E. D. SURKOV