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Lee Strasberg Edit Profile

also known as Israel Strasberg

actor , director

Lee Strasberg was a Polish-born American actor, director, and theatre practitioner. He was born in a part of Galicia, Austrian Poland, in what is now Ukraine. He co founded, with directors Harold Clurman and Cheryl Crawford, the Group Theatre in 1931, which was hailed as "America's first true theatrical collective".

Background

Lee Strasberg was born Israel Strassberg in Budzanów in Austrian Poland (part of Austria-Hungary, now in Ukraine), to Jewish parents, Baruch Meyer Strassberg and his wife, Ida (born Chaia), née Diner, and was the youngest of three sons. His father emigrated to New York while his family remained in their home village with an uncle, a rabbinical teacher. His father, who worked as a presser in the garment industry, sent first for his eldest son and his daughter. Finally, enough money was saved to bring over his wife and his two remaining sons. In 1909, the family was reunited on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where they lived until the early '20s. Young Strasberg took refuge in voracious reading and the companionship of his older brother, Zalmon, whose death in the 1918 influenza epidemic was so traumatic for the young Strasberg that, despite being a straight-A student, he dropped out of high school.

Education

A relative introduced him to the theater by giving him a small part in a Yiddish-language production being performed by the Progressive Drama Club. He later joined the Chrystie Street Settlement House's drama club. Philip Loeb, casting director of the Theater Guild, sensed that Strasberg could act, although he was not yet thinking of a full-time acting career, and was still working as a shipping clerk and bookkeeper for a wig company. When he was 23 years old, he enrolled in the Clare Tree Major School of the Theater. He became a naturalized United States citizen on January 16, 1939, in New York City at the New York Southern District Court.

Career

Strasberg had a life-changing experience in 1923, when he attended a performance directed by Constantin Stanislavski. The production was part of the Moscow Art Theatre's American tour, and Stanislavski's work influenced Strasberg's entire career path. Around this time, Strasberg began working with the Theatre Guild. He started out as an assistant stage manager and then moved into acting.

After retiring from the stage in 1929, Strasberg soon created his own dramatic organization. He formed the Group Theatre in 1931 with Cheryl Crawford and Harold Clurman. While with the Group Theatre, Strasberg directed numerous plays, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Men in White by Sidney Kingsley. The organization also produced several works by Clifford Odets.

In 1948, Strasberg joined the Actors Studio as a teacher. The studio had been founded the previous year by Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford and Robert Lewis. Its aim was to provide theatrical professionals—actors, directors and playwrights—with the opportunity for creative exploration and growth. Strasberg became famous for his approach to acting, which drew from Stanislavski's techniques.

Strasberg asked his students to engage in what is known as "method" acting—actors call upon their own emotions and experiences and incorporate them into their performances. "The real secret to method acting—which is as old as the theater itself—is creating reality," Strasberg once said, according to the Boston Globe. "That is tremendously difficult. Some actors think behaving casually is the same thing."

In the early 1950s, Strasberg became the artistic director of the Actors Studio. He spent more than 30 years leading this creative enterprise, working with such great talents as James Dean, Julie Harris, Jane Fonda and Joanne Woodward. In 1969, Strasberg established the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.

Strasberg returned to acting in the 1970s. In 1974, he played a Jewish crime figure in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather: Part II, and received an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in the film. Two years later, he appeared with Sophia Loren, Richard Harris and Martin Sheen in the thriller The Cassandra Crossing.

In 1979, Strasberg had one of his few leading film roles. He co-starred with George Burns and Art Carney in the crime caper comedy Going with Style. Even with these forays into film work, Strasberg remained committed to the Actors Studio. He served as the group's artistic director until his death in 1982. Strasberg died of an apparent attack on February 17 of that year. Thrice married, he was survived by his third wife Anna and his four children, Susan, John, Adam and David.

A few days after his death, Strasberg was remembered at a service at New York's Shubert Theater. Countless stars from the film and theatrical worlds filled the audience to say goodbye to the acting instructor who inspired and challenged them. Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Anthony Quinn, Shelley Winters and Ben Gazzara were among the mourners.

Connections

His first marriage was to Nora Krecaum on October 29, 1926, until her death three years later in 1929. In 1934, he married actress and drama coach Paula Miller (1909–1966) until her death from cancer in 1966. They were the parents of actress Susan Strasberg (1938–1999) and acting teacher John Strasberg (born 1941). His third wife was the former Anna Mizrahi (b. April 16, 1939) and the mother of his two youngest children, Adam Lee Strasberg (b. July 29, 1969) and David Lee Israel Strasberg (b. January 30, 1971).

father:
Baruch Meyer Strasberg

mother:
Ida (Diner) Strasberg

spouses:
Nora Z. Orecaun

Paula Miller

Anna Mizrahi

children:
Adam Strasberg

David Strasberg

Susan Strasberg
Susan Strasberg - child of Lee Strasberg

John Strasberg