Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Born Today April 12: Aleksandr Ostrovskiy


Russian writer Aleksandr (Alexander) Nikolayevich Ostrovsky was born on this day in Moscow to a prominent lawyer.  The ethnicity of the family has been a topic of debate for years: whether the family was indeed Russian or from Polish and Belorussian ancestry cannot be settled since the records that would answer that question were destroyed in a fire.  After his mother died in his childhood, his father remarried a Baroness of Russian and Swedish ancestry; among other household changes that she made, she charged herself to see that her step children got first rate educations.  In 1840 Ostrovskiy graduated from the private school (Gymnasium) in Moscow and enrolled in the University of Moscow with the intent to study the law.  He a several prominent tutors there.  When the family moved into a riverside country house, Ostrovskiy began to write poetry.  He quickly moved on to writing sketches and plays.  He soon found himself a huge theater enthusiast--spending more and more time at the Moscow Petrovsky Theater; it became such a passion that it caused him to fail his Roman Law exams (the equivalent of the Bar exam her in the U.S.)--as a result, he left the university and accepted a clerks job in the Court of Consciousness.  He bounced around the courts system for several years; the experience provided subject matter for his first big plays.  In 1851, he decided to devote his life completely to a writing career.  He had already had a staged debut of one of his works in 1847.  From this time forward he found great success as a playwright and would go on to influence the next generation of Russian writers, amongst them Turgenev.  Several of his works were even adapted into opera--a high-brow form of musical. Many films have been made using his plays as source material, most them either Russian or German; but only two of them came in the silent era.  The first was Na boykom meste (1911); and the second was The Busy Inn (1916), based on the same work.  The first sound film made from his work came in 1934 with the Soviet made Thunderstorm.  The most recent film of his work was released in 2014 with the French made La forét.  Ostrovskiy died at the age of 63 on the 14th of June in Schelykovo, Russia.  He had been buried there in a private cemetery near his mansion, his remains were subsequently moved to a more public location.

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