Blanche Yurka
Date of Birth
Jun 18, 1887
Birth Place:
St. Paul, MN

Biography

Born to Bohemian parents, American actress Blanche Yurka was awarded a scholarship to a school sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera when she was only 15. Appropriately enough, her singing debut was in Balfe's English-language opera Bohemian Girl, performed in Czech. Wearing herself out from studying music and dance, Blanche opted for the less strenuous (but no less demanding) world of acting. She attained star status with a 1929 New York production of The Wild Duck, but didn't consider film acting until she saw, and was impressed by, John Ford's The Informer (1935). Yurka's film debut was, so far as she was concerned, the pinnacle of her film career: As the vengeful Madame de Farge in A Tale of Two Cities (1935), the actress virtually seared the screen and left even jaded big city audiences emotionally drained. Ironically, she was (by her own admission) the 67th actress to be tested for the role. Nothing Yurka ever did on film afterward would come close to her triumph as DeFarge, though she worked in Hollywood until 1953. Good roles in such A-films as Bridge of San Luis Rey (1944) and The Song of Bernadette (1944) aside, she was usually mired in such parts as her "road-company Ouspenskaya" gypsy woman in Columbia's B-melodrama Cry of the Werewolf (1944). That Yurka and Hollywood saw very little in each other was evidenced by 20th Century Fox's 13 Rue Madeline (1945), in which her sizeable and wryly performed role as a French aristocrat went uncredited thanks to Fox's haphazard billing policy. After Thunder in the Sun (1953), Blanche Yurka went back to her first love, the theater, where she scored a personal triumph in the 1970 London production of Madwoman of Chaillot. College drama students are most familiar with Blanche Yurka via her instructional and entertaining book on acting technique, Dear Audience. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Provided by Rovi