Nicholas Saunders, 92; TV and Stage Actor, Translated Plays From Russian Into English

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Nicholas Saunders, 92, a TV and stage actor who also worked as a producer in radio and theater and capped his career by translating plays from Russian into English, died of lung cancer Aug. 16 at his home in Los Angeles.

Born Nikita Soussanin in 1914 in Kiev, in what is now Ukraine, Saunders was reared in Hollywood. His father was the actor Nicholas Soussanin and his stepmother the actress Olga Baclonova.

Saunders acted in such Broadway productions as “The Magnificent Yankee” and “Lady in the Dark” in the 1940s, but was probably best known for his role as Capt. Barker on “The Phil Silvers Show” on television in the 1950s.

He also worked for Voice of America, starting in 1947, as a Russian-language announcer and later for Radio Liberty as a producer.


Since the 1980s, Saunders and his writing partner Frank Dwyer had translated dozens of plays by Anton Chekhov and others from Russian into English. Their translation of “The Wood Demon,” with Saunders in the role of Godfather Orlovsky, was staged at the Mark Taper Forum at the Los Angeles Music Center in 1994. The Antaeus Company’s production of “Chekhov x 4,” translated by Saunders and Dwyer, won an L.A. Drama Critics Award in 2005.