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You almost can’t find this guy under his real name – Yury Blagoi. Even on most Russian sites he is listed as George. And even when you do find information about Yury/George Blagoi, it is of the skimpiest kind, often just a name in long lists of actors who performed in some film, appeared at some party, or were part of some Hollywood hotshot’s entourage.
I tracked Mr. Blagoi down at plot 119 in the Chandler Garden of the Hollywood Forever cemetery at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. The birth-death dates there are almost correct. That is, his birth date of August 27, 1895, in Moscow is true if you consider that it is in the so-called Old Style. This was still 20-some years before Russia joined the rest of the world by jettisoning the Julian calendar and embracing the more accurate Gregorian calendar. So on the day that Blagoi was born it was actually September 8 in most of the world. The gravestone indicates that the date listed is by Old Style, but does not offer the true contemporary date. Virtually all internet sources pick up the date off of the gravestone, therefore providing for posterity an incorrect date of birth for this Russian emigre actor. His death date of June 24, 1971 in Los Angeles is not in dispute.
It is interesting that this man, who appeared in close to four dozen films over the span of his career, chose to identify himself in death as a military Major and a Prince with the full last name of Blagoi-Obolensky, a member of the Imperial Army and Navy before the Revolution, and a descendant of the noble Smolensky and Zabolotsky families. At least by the end of his life, these aspects of his biography clearly had become the most important.
For those interested in the full scoop in regards to what is written on Blagoi’s grave marker – the phrase at the top is a quote from John 11:25: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
One of the longest descriptions I found about Blagoi’s biography is a single sentence in a Russian Wikipedia article about his older brother Dmitry, who was a well-known literary scholar and specialist in the works of Alexander Pushkin. Here it is: Dmitry’s “brother Yury Dmitrievich Blagoi, a participant in the Civil War, abandoned Russia with the Whites, and lived in Hollywood where he performed in the cinema as George Blagoi and Lieutenant Blagoi.”
It’s not much to go on, but it’s something.
It’s no easy task even coming up with a good list of the films Blagoi acted in, although the always-reliable imdb.com site is the best. This listing suggests Blagoi was in at least 31 feature films and at least 14 television programs or serials. Over the years he worked with some major directors, including John Ford and Josef von Sternberg. With the exception of his very first film, Into Her Kingdom (1926), where he was credited as Lieutenant Blagoi, virtually every other one of his roles was uncredited. Could this be why we have such a difficult time scaring up information about this actor? On the other hand, he was there hands-on at the making of many of American TV’s best early serials. Get a load of this, he appeared (again, uncredited) in I Love Lucy (1956, where he played a passenger on a ship), Perry Mason (1957), The Untouchables (1959-60, three episodes – one credited!), The Twilight Zone (1961), The Andy Griffith Show (1963), Dr. Kildare (1963), Rawhide (1963), The Fugitive (1964), Bonanza (1965) The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1967) and It Takes a Thief (1968). I and a couple of generations grew up watching every single one of those shows.
A Russian site suggests that he worked on the 1959 feature film The Buccaneer where he was a stand-in for Yul Brynner. He was an extra in Around the World in 80 Days (1956). The kind of roles he played can pretty much be summed up as follows: bar/cafe patron, clerk, officer/sailor/soldier, party guest, judge on a panel, juror, courtroom spectator, medicine show spectator, barn fight spectator, mourner at wake, dinner patron, club patron, customs man and the like. It’s a great working man’s resume! That made me particularly curious when I ran across a site that promised to tell me George Blagoi’s net worth – just to see what a small-time working man in Hollywood made back in the day. I clicked on the bait and found that “George Blagoi’s net worth is under review.”
Blagoi was married to Tina Blagoi, apparently born as Valentina Ivanova (imdb.com writes “Ivanovna” but that is a patronymic, not a last name), also in Moscow, in 1900. She died in 1986. She had a short career in film, too, with at least seven credits. She too was uncredited in all her roles.
And on that note, ladies and gentlemen, I have exhausted what I have to say about Major Prince Yury Dmitrievich Blagoi-Obolensky, a man who appeared to live a life as unusual and unexpected as any in Tinsel Town. That’s an achievement and I take my hat off to him. If you think I’m being facetious, you don’t know me.