Uta Thyra Hagen was a German/American actress and theatre practioner. She was famous for depicting the classical role of Martha in Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which was staged in Broadway premiere in 1962. She also played Ophelia in Hamlet (1937) and starred as Nina in the Broadway production of Chekhov’s The Seagull.
Uta Hagen’s net worth is estimated to be $5 million. Hagen was considered one of the most iconic and wealthiest actresses from Germany at her time.
She was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award as an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her performance on the television Soap Opera One Life to Live, and was designated to the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981. In 1999, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award for the role of Martha in her earlier stage work, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
The legendary actress is no more with us. She died at the age of 84 due to a deadly stroke. She is still remembered as a lost asset to the theatre industry. We highlight below some aspects of her life worth noting as a movie/theatre fan. Stick around to learn about them.
Uta Hagen was born on June 12, 1919 in Gottingen, Germany. Her mother, Thyra was a trained Opera singer and her father, Oskar Hagen was a musician and art historian. The family moved to America in 1924. Oskar Hagen joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison as head of the history department.
Uta grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. Acting was in her blood. She did her high schooling from Wisconsin High School and appeared in some of the productions of the University of Wisconsin High School and Summer Stock productions of Wisconsin Players. In 1936, she studied acting for one semester at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and moved to New York in 1937.
Hagen played her first professional role in 1936. She was cast as Ophelia alongside lead actress Eva Le Gallienne in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Dennis Massachusetts. At the age of 18, she grabbed the role of Nina in The Seagull of Broadway productions. The role was marked as an ineradicable experience of her life.
The era 1938 to 1947 was the transitional period of Hagen’s life and career. She lost her passion for acting, but she overcame that phase and pursued theatre again. In 1947, she had a chance to work with Clurman and found it the best experience of her life to the extent that in her book, Respect for Acting (on Amazon), she dedicated her achievements to him.
Her Professional Works
In 1951, Hagen appeared in Saint Joan, a play by George Bernard Shaw on Broadway alongside Paul Robeson. After that, she played the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. In the same year, Hagen portrayed a selfless wife, Georgie in The County Girl by Clifford Odets and earned her first Tony Award for her brilliant performance from it. Her second win happened in 1963, for playing Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Hagen was offered a limited role in the plays because her name was in the Hollywood blacklist owing to her involvement with Paul Leroy (more on this later). She appeared in the television Soap Opera One Life to Live for which she earned Daytime Emmy Award nomination in 1968. In 1957, she co-founded the famous acting school of New York, HB Studios with Herbert Berghof, started teaching there, and made her screen debut in 1972.
By 1985, Hagen returned to stage and played the main roles in Collected Stories and Warren’s Profession. After the death of Berghof in 1990, she became the C.E.O. of HB Studio.
Hagen worked over the decades, and played Edith in The Happiest Days (1939). In 1942, she appeared in powerful drama Key Largo, at Ethel Barrymore Theatre, and did a comedy drama Vickie later. Other notable plays of her career are, The Whole World Over (1847), In Any Language (1952), The Magic and the Loss (1954), Island of Goats (1955), You Can Never Tell (1986), The Cherry Orchard (1986), Charlotte (1980), Mrs. Klein (1995), Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks (2001).
Hagen appeared in several TV Projects like The Other(1972), The Boys from Brazil (1978), and Reversal of Fortune (1990). She played small roles in movies such as, A Month in the Country (1959), The Day before Sunday (1970), A Doctor’s Story (1984), The Twilight Zone (1986), Seasonal Differences (1987), The Sunset Gang (1991), King of the Hill (1999), and Oz (1999).
Uta Thyra Hagen net worth stands at $5 million. She earned most of her income through her profession as a stage actress. She died of a stroke in 2004. No additional information is available at the moment as regards her house, cars, and other assets that she left behind.
Uta Hagen Books
Uta Hagen had a knack for writing and she authored four famous books about acting and cooking. Her fascinating and detailed piece of writing, Respect for Acting was published in 1973. Three years later, she published her second book by the title, Love for Cooking in 1976. Her next book took five years to publish – Sources was published in 1983. The last book by Hagen, A Challenge for the Actor was published in 1991.
In 2001, Hagen approved to be recorded giving master classes in NYC, LA, Toronto, and Chicago by Karen Ludwig and Pennie du Pont, who released the video with the title, Uta Hagen’s Acting Class, a two-part set that captures her masterclasses. The video has been meticulously studied and is now taught in many acting classes. They are considered some of her most outstanding contributions to theatre.
In 2004, Famous American actor, Harvey Korman shared his thoughts about his experience of studying in her class in an interview with Archive America. The famous actors who had studied under her include, Robert DeNiro, Tony Goldwyn, Laura Esterman, Sandy Dennis, Charles Nelson Reilly, Rita Gardner, Charles Gordin, Corey Parker, Jason Robards, Barbara Feldon Griffin Dune, Kevin Sussman, and many more.
Uta Hagen married Jose Ferrer in 1938. Their marriage was blessed with one child – a daughter named Leticia, born on October 15, 1940. Their marriage lasted for ten years and they divorced in 1948.
At a point, Hagen had an affair with Paul Leroy Robeson, her former co-star. Paul was a concert artist and film and stage performer who was considered notorious for his political involvement and cultural activities. He was involved in anti-imperialist movement and support for the Loyalist cause during the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. It was that time when world War II ended and the fears of the Soviet Union and Communism were at its peak.
At the time, Hagen was called to Washington D.C to answer questions about her political beliefs and connection with Paul. She denied any association with him. However, she was blacklisted from television and Hollywood because of her connection with Paul Leroy which they could prove.
On 25 January 1957, Hagen married Herbert Berghof. The marriage lasted for 33 years until Berghof’s death in 1990. After many years of successful acting career and meritorious contributions to the theatrical art, Hagen finally kicked the bucket in 2004 at the age of 84 in Greenwich Village after having a stroke.
Hagen may have gone, but her legacy lives on in our theatres till present. She was a force to reckon with in theatre arts. Her contributions were some of the most outstanding, and she will forever be remembered in generations to come for them.
Related Amazon Products
|A Challenge For The Actor – Uta Hagen|
|Respect for Acting (2nd Edition)|
|Love for cooking|
|Sources: A Memoir (PAJ Books) by Professor Uta Hagen (1991-09-01)|
|Historic Images 1985 Press Photo Former Actress Uta Hagen – mjp20709|