After Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin's "cult of personality" at the 20th party congress in February 1956, political and cultural life in the Soviet Union underwent many changes. One of the first films to benefit from "the thaw" was Eldar Ryazanov's musical-comedy Carnival Night (1956), starring Lyudmila Gurchenko, who has died of cardiac arrest aged 75.
The 21-year-old Gurchenko herself attracted a cult of personality with her sparkling performance as an enthusiastic member of a Soviet youth group (Komsomol) who is planning a fun-filled New Year's Eve celebration at the "house of culture". She is pitted against a pompous middle-aged bureaucrat who wants to make the occasion serious and educational by inserting communist slogans into the show. Tired of socialist realist films, which were required to glorify the revolution and the power of the collective, audiences