Grigori Aleksandrov was a Soviet-Russian filmmaker best known as director of Volga - Volga, Tsirk, and October (Ten Days that Shook the World), as well as co-star in Battleship Potemkin by director Sergei M. Eisenstein.
He was born Grigori Vasilyevich Mormonenko on January 23, 1903 in Ekaterinburg, Russia. His father, Vasili Mormonenko, was a worker. Young Aleksandrov was obsessed with acting and movies. At the age of 9 he was hired as a delivery boy at the Ekaterinburg Opera; there he eventually worked as an assistant dresser, electrician, decorator, and assistant director. He studied violin and piano at the Ekaterinburg School of Music, graduating in 1917. During the Russian Civil War of 1917-1920, he was road manager with the Theatre of Eastern Front of the Red Army. After the Civil War he graduated from the Directors Courses for Proletariat Theatre in Ekaterinburg, and was appointed Inspector of Arts at the Ekaterinburg Regional Administration. His job was to supervise theaters and to select films in compliance with the new ideology.
Aleksandrov met Eisenstein in 1921. They worked together on several stage productions in 1921-24. In 1923 Aleksandrov appeared as Glumov in a stage production of A. Ostrovsky's play at the Moscow Proletkult Theatre, directed by Eisenstein. They worked together on the scenario of their first films: 'Stachka' (1924) and 'Bronenosets Potemkin' (1925). They wrote and directed 'Oktyabr' (1927), a historical film made to look like a documentary about the Russian revolution. In 1929-1933 both Aleksandrov and Eisenstein were sent to study and work in Hollywood. Back in the Soviet Union Aleksandrov made a short documentary film titled 'International' (1932).
In 1933 Aleksandrov had a meeting with Joseph Stalin and Maxim Gorky at the Gorky's State Dacha near Moscow. Stalin offered the oportunity to Aleksandrov to make a musical comedy for the Soviet people. 'Veselye Rebyata' (aka.. Jolly fellows) was completed in 1934, starring Leonid Utyosov and Lyubov Orlova. 'Veselye Rebyata' became the #1 box office hit in Russia and was awarded at the Venice Film Festival. Leonid Utyosov and Lyubov Orlova became instant celebrities, and songs by composer Isaak Dunayevsky became popular hits in the Soviet Union.
Aleksandrov directed and edited the documentary of Stalin's speech about the Soviet constitution, titled 'Doklad tov. Stalina o proekte Konstitutsii SSSR na VIII Chresvychaynom S'ezde Sovetov' (1937). After that Aleksandrov returned to making comedies. Aleksandrov's wife, Lyubov Orlova, starred in almost all of his feature films, such as 'Tsirk' (1936), 'Volga-Volga' (1938), 'Svetly Put' (1940), 'Vesna' (1947) among his other films. His 1930s comedies remained rather popular among several generations of viewers in the Soviet Union, as well as internationally. In 1942 Joseph Stalin sent a copy of Volga - Volga to American president Franklin D. Roosevelt.
However, Aleksandrov's success came at a painful price, as he suffered from many attacks by some less fortunate and envious filmmakers, as well as from blackmailing by invisible and anonymous enemy. In 1938 Aleksandrov's colleagues, cinematographer Vladimir Nilsen, and producer Boris Shumyatskiy, were executed by the firing squad for anti-government activities. At the same time both Aleksandrov and Orlova were falsely accused of spying for the Nazi Germany, but were cleared of all charges.
During the 1950s he taught directing at State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). His last films had little success, and some, like 'Skvorets i lira' (1973) were not even released in theaters. Aleksandrov also made a few documentaries, including one about Lenin, and one about his wife, star actress Lyubov Orlova.
Grigori Aleksandrov received the Stalin's Prize twice (1941, 1950), the Order of Lenin twice (1939, 1950), the Order of Red Star (1938), and the Order of the Red Banner twice (1963, 1967). He was designated People's Actor of the USSR. Grigori Aleksandrov died of kidney infection on December 16, 1983, at the Kremlin Hospital in Moscow, and was laid to rest next to his wife, Lyubov Orlova in Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow, Russia.
Anatoly Dmitrievich Papanov was born on October 31, 1922, in Vyasma, Smolensk region, USSR. His father, named Dmitri Filippovich Papanov, was a Russian industrial worker. His mother, named Elena Bronislavovna Roskovskaya, was of Polish ancestry. Young Papanov moved to Moscow with his parents in 1929. After graduation from a secondary school in 1939, he worked as a metal worker at the 2nd Moscow Ball-bearing Factory. There Papanov was an amateur actor at the Worker's Club Theatre-studio named "Kauchuk".
In 1941 Papanov was drafted in the Red Army and served as an Artillery Sergeant. He was severely wounded in his legs in 1942, and spent six months in hospitals. At age 21, he became permanently disabled and used a cane for the rest of his life. Papanov was admitted to the acting class of the Moscow Theatre Institute (GITIS), from which he graduated in 1946. While a student, Papanov married his classmate actress Nadezhda Karataeva. From 1946-1948 he worked on stage at the Klaipeda Drama Theatre in Latvia. In 1948 Papanov was invited to the Moscow Theatre of Satire by director Andrei Goncharov. He became permanent member of the troupe and worked on stage for almost 40 years. His regular stage partners were Andrey Mironov, Tatyana Pelttser, Spartak Mishulin, Aleksandr Shirvindt, Mikhail Derzhavin, Vladimir Kozel, Olga Aroseva, Georgi Menglet, and other renown Russian actors.
Papanov made his film debut as an extra in 'Lenin v Oktyabre' (1937) by director Mikhail Romm. He played supporting roles in comedies by director Eldar Ryazanov - 'Chelovek niotkuda' (1961), where his partner was Sergey Yurskiy, and in 'Beregis avtomobilya' (1966), where his partners were Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy, Oleg Efremov, Andrey Mironov, Georgi Zhzhyonov, Donatas Banionis, Evgeniy Evstigneev, and others. Papanov became really famous after his impressive work in the role of General Sepilin in 'Zhivye i myortvye' (1963), for which he was awarded the Brothers Vasilyev State Prize in 1966.
Anatoli Papanov is best known for his roles in the comedies of director Leonid Gayday. His satirical character - a gangster chief Lyolik in 'Brilliantovaya ruka' (The Diamond Arm, 1968) became one of the most popular characters in the Russian cinema. Papanov made an excellent acting ensemble with his film partners Andrey Mironov, Yuriy Nikulin, Nonna Mordyukova, Nina Grebeshkova, Svetlana Svetlichnaya, Leonid Kanevskiy, and other remarkable actors. 'Brilliantovaya ruka' was the all-time box-office leader with over 76,000,000 admissions in theaters of the Soviet Union. In a 1995 national poll in Russia, 'Brilliantovaya ruka' was voted the best Russian comedy ever.
Anatoli Papanov was awarded the Russian State Prize of Brothers Vasilyev (1966). He was designated People's Actor of the USSR (1973) and was awarded the USSR State Prize (1989, posthumously). Papanov died of a heart attack on August 7, 1987, at his Moscow apartment, a few days before the tragic collapse of his friend and partner Andrey Mironov. Anatoli Papanov's death caused a considerable mourning among his fans in the Soviet Union, he was laid to rest in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, Russia.
Vasili Aksyonov was a medical doctor turned writer during the dramatic changes and transformations of Russia and Russian society under the Soviet-communist regime.
He was born Vasili Pavlovich Aksyonov on August 20, 1932 in Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia; where his father lived before his imprisonment. Aksyonov's parents spent many years in prisons and exile under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. Aksyonov spent part of his childhood in Siberian exile in Magadan with his mother Yevgeniya Ginsburg, an exiled dissident. Aksyonov spent several years of his boyhood in a state home. He graduated from the 1st Leningrad Medical Institute in 1956 and worked as a doctor in residency at the Quarantine Station of Leningrad Sea Port. From 1957-1958 he worked as a Medical Doctor in the village of Voznesenie, Onega, Northern Russia. From 1958-1960 he worked as a Medical Doctor in Moscow.
The "Thaw", that was initiated by Nikita Khrushchev, allowed Aksyonov to have his first short stories published in the magazine 'Yunost' (Youth) in 1956, under then editor-in-chief Valentin Kataev. His 'Kollegi' (Colleagues 1960) and 'Zvezdny Bilet' (Star Ticket 1961) became extremely popular and were made into eponymous films. 'Pora, moy drug, pora' (It's Time, My Friend, It's Time 1963), 'Apelsiny is Marokko' (Oranges from Marocco 1964), and 'Zatovarennaya Bochkotara' (Surplussed Barrelware 1965) became part of the language of youth. Aksyonov's generation was labeled by Soviet propaganda as "Stilyagi" (Fashionable ones) for their festive and stylish way of life; the opposite of the officially controlled Soviet gloom. Literary critic Stanislav Rassadin coined the term "Shestidesyatniki" (People of the 1960's) which embraced such writers as Bella Akhmadulina, Joseph Brodsky, Evgeniy Evtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky, Bulat Okudzhava, and others, who emerged during the "Thaw" of 1956-1964.
The dismissal of Nikita Khrushchev was followed by restrictions in all aspects of Soviet life, where KGB, censorship, and official critics were acting as one. Aksyonov fell under suspicion and surveillance by the KGB. His last official publication was 'V Poiskah Zhanra' (In Search of a Genre 1972). His novels 'Ozhog' (The Burn 1976) and 'Ostrov Krym' (The Island of Crimea 1979) were banned. Aksyonov received a personal warning in a face-to-face meeting with two secret service agents. In 1979 Aksyonov organized and published an almanac of prose and poetry titled 'Metropol' which was immediately banned. 'Metropol' included works by Bella Akhmadulina, Fazil Iskander, and other dissident writers of the 60's generation. Official repressions and threats against Aksyonov forced his expatriation in 1980.
During 80s, 90s, and 2000s, Aksyonov continued writing and his works were published in both English and Russian in the USA. He also was a professor of literature in Washington D.C. for 24 years until his retirement. His script about Soviet life under Joseph Stalin was made into a TV series Moscovskaya saga (2004 TV). He was awarded the Open Russia Booker Prize for 2004. His new novel 'Moskva-kva-kva' (2006) was published in the Moscow magazine 'Oktyabr'.
Outside of his writing profession Aksyonov was a co-founder of jazz festivals in Moscow, Russia and in Kazan, Tatarstan. He returned to Russia in the 1990s, and was living in his Moscow apartment with his wife, Maya Zmeul, and had a second home in Biarritz, France. He died of a heart failure on 6 July 2009, in Moscow, Russia.