|born: 23 February 1915
|died: 02 October 1997
New York City,
United States of America
The usually credited VICTOR KENDALL (b.1903) in "A Chump at Oxford" is the wrong guy.
His Mother was MARIA KURENKO (1891-1980), "THE RUSSIAN NIGHTINGALE", a world famous opera singer who came to the USA from France in 1929 with her husband FEODOR GONTZOFF (1885-1973) also a famous opera singer and more famously, a voice coach in Hollywood (he coached "Our Little Margie", GALE STORM, who is said to have been an excellent singer.) MARIA made several musical shorts at the Vitaphone Studio in Brooklyn, NY.
Young VADIM stayed in Paris and attended Ille de France College. He came here some time between 1931 and 1935 and attended Columbia University in NYC. He graduated with a BA in 1938. He was also a baritone singer of operatic quality and is on one classical recording of RACHMANINOFF songs with his Mom.
After graduating, (I assume) he went to his Dad's in Hollywood and that's how he got connected with ROACH who was filming "A Chump at Oxford" in June of 1939. Afterwards, KENDALL (according to Imdb) appeared in 8 more movies. In his last two he played Nazis (released in 1943) and sort disappears.
On 30 Dec.1942 (in Hollywood), VADIM GONTZOFF (age 28) signs up for the US Army and is eventually sent to the Army Military Intelligence Training Center at Ft.Ritchie MD.(for both officers and enlisted men) to become a military translator/interrogator. In his class as a student (Venona Project" 26 May 1943) was a Russian KGB spy, code named SLAVA,who was also the spy "handler" of BORIS MORROS, code named FROST. SLAVA was to report to Moscow, via coded cables, on the structure and activities of the "school" and search for potential "recruits".
SLAVA reported: "In the Russian section 3 members graduated: 1. Vadim GONTsOV---age 28 years"
(then there is an undecodeable part and 3 other names and more undecodable parts).
At the end of each cable, the US Code-breakers would footnote each of the coded and non-coded names if known.
Footnote " GONTsOV: Vadim Feodor GONTZOFF, stage name Victor KENDALL, naturalized at Hagerstown, Md. 19 May 1943."
Upon graduation, he was made an officer (2nd Lt.).
Since GONTZOFF / KENDALL does NOT have a code name anywhere in the Venona Papers, he was more likely a hero rather than a spy. He received an HONORABLE DISCHARGE from the Army in 1946. The "Current Biography Yearbook 1945" has an entry for MARIA KURENKO GONTZOFF which says:
"MARRIED to Fedor Gontzoff; their son Vadim, who is now in the United States Army, is a Columbia University graduate and a former motion-picture actor, known in Hollywood as Victor Kendall. Like most opera stars, Mme. Kurenko is ....."
GONTZOFF went to work for Radio Liberty / Voice of America and NBC TV as a producer in Hollywood until 1961. He acted a major part in the Armstrong Circle Theatre (TV) production as "The Spy Next Door"(Feb 1961). Ironically, as far as I can find, he played a Nazi soldier in his las 2 Hollywood movies and a Russian "spy next door" in his final acting job!
In Nov 1961, he went to work in NYC at classical radio station, WTFM, as a "disk jockey" for classical European music.
The Manhattan Phone Books at ancestry.com in the 1990's have VICTOR KENDALL and VADIM GONTZOFF listed at the same address and phone number.
Ancestry.com has his Mom, MARIA KURENKO's Citizenship Application (1931 & 1936) with her photo and 1891 birth date and much family information.
VADIM traveled overseas after WWII (a US Citizen) so he must have had a Passport Application.
Born: Vadim Feodor Gontzoff.