LEONIDOV (VOLFENSON), LEONID MIRONOVICH (1873–1941), Russian actor. He was born into a Jewish merchant family and began his career by appearing in amateur theatricals in Odessa. In 1895–96 he studied at the Moscow Imperial Theater School. He acted in the theaters of Solovtsov (1896–1901, in Kiev and Odessa) and Korsh (1901–1903, in Moscow). In 1903 he began appearing with the Moscow Art Theater where he made his debut in the role of Vaska Pepel in Gorky's Lower Depths. He also played comic roles to which he often lent a sharply grotesque touch, as for example in his portrayal of Plyushchkin in Gogol's Dead Souls (1932). Many of the characters he created belong to the great accomplishments of the Russian stage, e.g., Dmitri Karamazov in a dramatization of Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov (1910) and Peer Gynt in Ibsen's play of that name (1912).
In 1918 he also began acting in films in roles such as Ivan the Terrible in Kryl'ya kholopa ("Wings of the Serf," 1925), Governor von Wahl and the Rabbi in Ego prevoskhoditel'stvo ("Your Excellency," 1928), the Puppeteer in Marionetki ("Marionettes," 1936), and Gobsek in the film of the same name (1937).
From 1935 he taught at the State Institute of Theatrical Art (from 1939 as professor and then dean; and from 1939 to 1941 as artistic director). In 1936 he was awarded the title of People's Artist of the U.S.S.R.
[The Shorter Jewish Encyclopaedia in Russian]
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.