Lee Strasberg

Active - 1946 - 1988  |   Born - Nov 17, 1901   |   Died - Jan 17, 1982   |   Genres - Crime, Drama, Theater

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Biography by Hal Erickson

European-born Lee Strasberg moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was seven. Born into an artistic family, Strasberg began his acting training at age nine; he studied at the Actors Laboratory Theater under such heavyweights as Richard Boleslawsky and Maria Ouspenskaya. A professional actor from 1925 onward, Strasberg was a member for many years of the Theater Guild. Together with fellow "Guild"-ers Harold Clurman and Cheryl Crawford, Strasberg broke away to form the Group Theater in 1931, where he would direct such stars-to-be as John Garfield and Luther Adler. In 1949, Strasberg established the Actors Studio in New York, where he became the foremost proponent of "the Method," an introspective, sensory-recall acting technique founded in part on the teachings of Stanislavsky (the most famous disciple of the Method was, of course, Marlon Brando). Though extremely influential in the film, TV, and theatrical world of the 1960s, Strasberg was not always the favorite of his contemporaries. One of his severest critics was acting teacher Stella Adler, who on the occasion of Strasberg's death, asked her class for a respectful moment of silence, then lambasted Strasberg as the man who nearly "destroyed" the acting profession. In 1969, Strasberg set up a new school, the Lee Strasberg Institute of the Theater, with headquarters in both New York and Los Angeles. Five years later, director Francis Ford Coppola coaxed Strasberg into making his film debut as gangster Hyman Roth in The Godfather II. It was the first of five movie appearances for Strasberg, the last (and best) of which was in Going in Style (1979). Lee Strasberg was the father of actress Susan Strasberg.

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