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Bel Geddes, Barbara (31 October 1922–08 August 2005), actress, children's book author-illustrator, and painter, was born in New York City, the daughter of Norman Bel Geddes, a noted architect and stage designer, and Helen Belle Sneider, an English teacher. Educated at a series of private schools in and around New England, she also spent time in the company of her illustrious father, who was involved in hundreds of theater productions in many capacities. Once after a school play, the drama teacher at the Putney School in Vermont regretfully informed her father that Barbara had “no talent” (...

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Mostel, Zero (28 February 1915–08 September 1977), actor and painter, was born Samuel Joel Mostel in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Israel Mostel and Celia (originally Zina) Druchs, Orthodox Jewish immigrants who ran a kosher vineyard and slaughterhouse. Although Mostel was raised in a religious household and later displayed a special affinity for Jewish characters, his father was not a rabbi as has often been reported; Mostel’s penchant for improvisation extended to his autobiography, and he creatively refashioned his past in interviews throughout his life. Most notably, he sometimes attributed his numeric nickname to his “financial standing in the community” (as he testified to the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1955), but he more regularly credited the label to his supposedly undistinguished schoolwork. Despite these suggested derivations, his stage name may simply have been the innovation of an early publicist. In 1939 he married Clara Sverd; they were divorced in 1941....

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Tchelitchew, Pavel (21 September 1898–31 July 1957), painter and stage designer, was born in Kaluga, Russia, near Moscow, the son of Fedor Chelishchev and Nadezhda Permyakov, progressive aristocrats who implemented Tolstoian ideals in caring for the peasants on their vast estates. He received private tutoring and began drawing at an early age, inspired by the illustrations of Gustave Doré. He attended Moscow University from 1916 until 1918 and studied art at Moscow’s Academy. The family fled to Kiev following the Russian Revolution of 1918. Tchelitchew studied at the Kiev Academy under Alexandra Exter, who applied the principles of Russian constructivism to theatrical design. He designed posters and collaborated on a series of music hall productions with Isaac Rabinovitch, an important Soviet stage designer. Around 1919 Tchelitchew’s style began to evolve away from cubist abstraction, employing curving lines and some representational elements....

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Urban, Joseph (26 May 1872–10 July 1933), architect, scenic designer, and illustrator, was born Josef Karl Maria Georg Urban in Vienna, Austria, the son of Josef Urban, an official in the Viennese school system, and Helen Weber. Although his family hoped he would become a lawyer, in 1890 Urban enrolled at the Polytechnicum in Vienna for courses in architectural engineering and at the Imperial and Royal Academy, where he studied architectural design and aesthetics under the architect Karl von Hasenauer....