|Birth Day:||June 19, 1887|
|Death Date:||June 6, 1974 (aged 86)
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Birth Place:||St. Paul, Minnesota, United States|
As per our current Database, Blanche Yurka died on June 6, 1974 (aged 86)
New York City, New York, U.S..
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Born Blanch Jurka, apparently in St. Paul, Minnesota, she was the fourth of five children of Karolína and Antonín Jurka, ethnic Hungarian Roman Catholic emigrants from Bohemia. Her father was a teacher and librarian. She inherited her father's artistic and scholarly interests, including a love of music and acting. She finished grade school before her father lost his job teaching Czech language at the Jefferson School in St. Paul. He found a new position with the Czech Benevolent Society in New York and moved the family to the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 1900.
Beginning with The Warrens of Virginia (1907), Blanche spent the next decade alternating between stock and touring productions. In 1909, she had a small part in Leo Ditrichstein's Is Matrimony a Failure? at the Belasco Theater. There, she met actress Jane Cowl, who was starring in the production as Fanny Perry. Yurka had minor roles in several plays, including An Old New Yorker (1911), The House of Bondage (1914) Our American Cousin (1915) and a pair of plays by Jane Cowl, Daybreak (1917) and Information Please (1918).
Prior to Hamlet, she appeared in The Law Breaker, where she met a charming young character actor named Ian Keith (née Keith Ross), who was 12 years her junior. They married in September 1922, her first marriage and his second. Her growing stature as an actress - combined with his jealousy - eventually came between them; they separated in 1925 and divorced in 1926. Yurka never remarried and had no children. Building on her repertoire of classic characters, Yurka starred in a quartet of Ibsen plays, directing three of them: The Wild Duck (1928, as Gina Ekdal), Hedda Gabler (1929, title role) and The Vikings (1930, as Hjordis); she also had the title role of Ellida in The Lady from the Sea (1929).
In the last 15 years of her life, few stage or film roles came her way. She appeared sporadically in television shows in the '50s, notably, Lux Video Theater, The Philip Morris Playhouse and Ponds Theater. She was shocked at being offered the brief role of Mrs. Wendell the cook in the cancelled MGM remake of Dinner at Eight (1969) – the role played by May Robson in the 1933 film. She concluded her career on a note of personal triumph with her critically acclaimed London performance as The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969). When the play traveled to off-Broadway in 1970, the New York critics' reception was lukewarm, and Yurka retired from acting soon after the show closed.
In the year 1932 alone, she played the title role in Sophocles' Electra, was Helen of Troy in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, directed Carry Nation starring Esther Dale (a production that featured the Broadway debuts of Mildred Natwick and James Stewart) and appeared in Katharine Cornell's production of Lucrece by Deems Taylor and Thornton Wilder. She won critical acclaim in 1935 when she replaced Edith Evans as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet opposite Cornell's Juliet.
She sought to play O-Lan in the 1937 film The Good Earth but lost out to Luise Rainer, who won an Academy Award for her performance. She also lost the role of Pilar in For Whom the Bell Tolls to Greek actress Katina Paxinou, who went on to win an Oscar for best supporting actress.
Yurka never left the theater, but as her Hollywood roles became less satisfying after the war, the pace of both her film and stage roles fell off. During World War II, she contributed her time and talent to the war effort as a theater performer. She toured with theater troupes in Europe both before and after the war. In December, 1945, she appeared at the Majestic Theatre for two readings of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex with classics scholar Eugene O'Neill, Jr.
On occasion, she could be critical of Broadway for production values which did not live up to the highest standards. In a letter to the New York Times, published November 6, 1955, she reproached the theater community's "passion for ugliness that seems so much a part of our theater today." Before the year was over, she announced her retirement from the stage – a short-lived retirement that would find her back onstage exactly a year later in the Phoenix Theatre's Diary of a Scoundrel. In 1957, she visited Athens under the aegis of the United States International Exchange of Artists to open the Greek Drama Festival. There, she appeared in a reading of Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound in the translation by Edith Hamilton. In 1958, she appeared at the Belasco Theater in Huntington Hartford's Jane Eyre.
Currently, Blanche Yurka is 134 years, 1 months and 5 days old. Blanche Yurka will celebrate 135th birthday on a Sunday 19th of June 2022.
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