Gregory Ratoff

Active - 1932 - 1961  |   Born - Apr 20, 1897   |   Died - Dec 14, 1960   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Musical, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Born in Russia during the last days of the Romanoffs, Gregory Ratoff studied law at the University of St. Petersburg and acting and directing at the St. Petersburg Dramatic School. After service in the Czar's army (if his "official" birthdate is to be believed, he must have been a teenager at the time), Ratoff performed with the Moscow Art Theatre. Fleeing his homeland during the Bolshevik revolution, Ratoff resettled in France. It was while he was performing in the 1922 Paris production Revue Russe that Ratoff was brought to the U.S. by Broadway impresario Lee Shubert. After nearly a decade in Shubert productions and Yiddish Theatre presentations, Ratoff made his talking picture bow in RKO's Symphony of Six Million (1932). Though occasionally seen as a villain, Ratoff's most frequent screen characterization was a stereotypical fractured-English theatrical or movie producer, spouting out expletives like "stupendous" and "colossal" in a Borscht-thick accent. While it was professionally expedient for Ratoff to perpetuate the myth that he habitually mangled the English language, the actor could be as articulate as the next fellow when he chose to be -- especially when directing films. Beginning with the 1936 potboiler Sins of the Man, Ratoff became one of Hollywood's busiest directors, tackling everything from delicate romances like Intermezzo (1939) to garish musicals like Carnival in Costa Rica (1947). Ratoff seemed to have lost his touch with his 1956 "vanity" production Abdullah's Harem, but he was back on target with his next (and last) directorial assignment, Oscar Wilde (1960). Gregory Ratoff was married to Stansilavskian actress Eugene Leontovich.

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