- Birth name:
- Jiri Wachsmann
- Date of Birth:
- 1 July 1905 Sázava, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (now Czech R
Distinguished Czech actor/producer/director/author George Voskovec was born JiÅi Wachsmann on June 19, 1905, the son of Václav Wachsmann and his wife Georgette (Pinkas). Prior to George's birth, the spelling of the family name was Vaksman (Russian). By the time he was born, which was shortly after their return to Bohemia, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it had been changed to Wachsmann. In 1920 the family again changed the name from Wachsmann to Voskovec, a Czech translation.George received his education at Lycée Carnot in Dijon and Charles University (School of Law) in Prague. He made his stage debut in Prague in 1927 in "Vest Pocket Revue" and subsequently formed a solid partnership with fellow actor/lyricist Jan Werich. For the next eleven years they wrote, produced and performed 26 productions for the avantgarde Liberated Theatre of Prague. He also established himself in Czech comedy films as both performer and writer in tandem with Werich. In the late 1930s he fled his native homeland following the German invasion and emigrated to America. Rebuilding his status as a performer/writer/director, he debuted at the Cleveland Playhouse in 1940 in "Heavy Barbara" and "The Ass and the Shadow," again in collaboration with Werich. During the war years he and Werich wrote and broadcasted a host of radio programmes for the "Voice of America." He also made his Broadway debut in "The Tempest" in 1945.He returned to Prague after the war in 1946 and worked for a time in the theater before traveling to Paris where he founded the American Theatre of Paris in 1949 and served as producer/director. Upon his return to America, Voskovec appeared in New York with "The Love of Four Colonels," which he later toured. He went on to accumulate a formidable list of theatre credits including "The Seagull," "Festival" and, notably, "Uncle Vanya" for which he won an Obie award in the title role. He made his London stage debut as Otto Frank in "The Diary of Anne Frank" in 1956, and was a continued presence on the 60s Shakespearean stage with "Caesar and Cleopatra" (as Caesar) and John Gielgud's production of "Hamlet" as the Player King, the latter play was filmed.On the film front, he played supporting roles in the U.S. from 1952. Affair in Trinidad (1952), The Iron Mistress (1952), The 27th Day (1957), The Bravados (1958), BUtterfield 8 (1960), _Spy Who Came In from the Cold, The (1965)_ and The Boston Strangler (1968) all benefited from his imposing presence and professional stature. He also played one of the jurors in the classic drama 12 Angry Men (1957) alongside Lee J. Cobb and Henry Fonda. Voskovec was indeed a vital ethnic presence during the "Golden Age of Television" during the 1950s and in episodic 60s TV. The lyricist of some 300 popular songs over his career, he continued to thrive in all three mediums throughout the 1970s practically until his death in 1981 at age 76. One of his final theatrical highlights was in Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days" in which he shared the stage with Irene Worth. This was followed by regular TV stints on "Skag" (1980) and "Nero Wolfe" (1981). Divorced from his first wife and the widower of his second, Broadway stage actress Anne Gerlette, George later married poet/journalist Christianne McKeown. At the time of his death, he was survived by his third wife and two daughters from his second marriage, Victorie (born in 1954) and Georgeanne (adopted, born in 1956).