Stella Adler (February 10, 1901* – December 21, 1992) was an American actress.
Born in New York City
, Adler was a member of the Jewish-American Adler acting dynasty, the daughter of Sara
and Jacob P. Adler
, the sister of Luther
and Jay Adler
, and half-sister of Charles Adler
. Jacob and Sara Adler
were two of the finest actors of the American Yiddish theatre
. They were a significant part of a vital ethnic theatrical scene that thrived in New York
from the late nineteenth century well into the 1950s. Stella was destined to become the most famous and influential member of the family. She began her acting career at the age of four and concluded it fifty-five years later, in 1961. During that time, and for years after, Stella Adler taught. With the full force of her formidable energy, she dedicated herself to transmitting to others, the craft that served her so well.
Stanislavski and The Method
She was the only American
actor to be instructed in the art of acting by Constantin Stanislavski
. She was a prominent member of the Group Theatre
, but differences of opinion with Lee Strasberg
over the correct teaching of Stanislavki's System
(later developed by Strasberg into Method acting
) contributed to the ultimate break-up of the group.
Adler's biggest issue with Strasberg concerned whether an actor should use the technique of substitution, recalling personal experience for a believable result, or living in the moment, using your partner to create a believable result. It's been said that after Strasberg died, Adler asked for a moment of silence in her class for the famous actor. Afterwards she allegedly claimed that it will take a hundred years to repair what Strasberg did to acting.
The fundamental difference between Strasberg and Adler is in how each approaches the problem of accessing emotion. Strasberg was always a strong advocate of emotional memory, i.e. using the five senses to evoke a past private emotion, whereas Adler thought that if you studied the text and truly believed in the imaginary circumstances all the emotions in the script would surface organically.
Stella Adler was much more than a teacher of acting. Through her work she imparts the most valuable kind of information - how to discover the nature of our own emotional mechanics and therefore those of others. She never lent herself to vulgar exploitations, as some other well-known so-called "methods" of acting have done. As a result, her contributions to the theatrical culture have remained largely unknown, unrecognized, and unappreciated.
- -Marlon Brando
Adler was Marlon Brando's first professional acting teacher. Brando met her through his sister, Jocelyn, who was studying drama with Adler, and he decided to take drama as well. Brando had been considered unsuitable for the army and had been expelled from the military school that his father had sent him to. Adler believed when she met Brando that he would be the best American actor in theater before the end of the year.
From 1926 until 1952 Adler appeared regularly on Broadway. She appeared in only three films, Love on Toast (1937), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), and My Girl Tisa (1948).
She was three times married, first to Horace Eliascheff, the father of her only child, Ellen, then to Harold Clurman
, the famous director and critic, and one of the founders of the legendary Group Theater
, and last to Mitchell A. Wilson
, the physicist and novelist who died in 1973.
She died in Los Angeles, California, from heart failure at the age of 91* in 1992, and was interred in the Mount Carmel Cemetery, Glendale, New York.
- Rumor has it that Miss Adler was actually born in either 1898 or 1899, but while in Hollywood in the 1930s, was encouraged to change the year to 1901 as a pre-1900 birth was undesirable for actresses.
Stella Adler Studio
The acting studios Adler founded still operate in New York City and Los Angeles today. Her method, based on use of the actor's imagination, has been studied by many renowned actors, such as Robert De Niro
, Martin Sheen
, Roy Scheider
, Vincent D'Onofrio
, Mark Ruffalo
, Warren Beatty
, Michael Imperioli
and Benicio del Toro
, in addition to Marlon Brando
, who served as the studio's Honorary Chairman until his death. Adler's legacy continues with the work of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting
Career on Broadway
All works are the original Broadway productions unless otherwise noted.
- The Straw Hat (1926)
- Big Lake (1927)
- The House of Connelly (1931)
- 1931 (1931)
- Night Over Taos (1932)
- Success Story (1932)
- Big Night (1933)
- Hilda Cassidy (1933)
- Gentlewoman (1934)
- Gold Eagle Guy (1934)
- Awake and Sing! (1935)
- Paradise Lost (1935)
- Sons and Soldiers (1943)
- Pretty Little Parlor (1944)
- He Who Gets Slapped — revival (1946)
- Manhattan Nocturne (1943)
- Sunday Breakfast (1952)