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Overview (4)

Born in Khanzhonkovka, Yekaterinoslav Governorate, Russian Empire [now Khanzhonkovo, Makiivka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine]
Died in Yalta, Crimean ASSR, Russian SFSR, USSR [now Crimea, Ukraine]
Birth NameAleksandr Alekseevich Khanzhonkov
Nickname Sasha

Mini Bio (1)

Aleksandr Khanzhonkov was the world's first maker of a cartoon film, the first maker of a full-time feature film in Russia and the founder of the first Russian film studio.

He was born Aleksandr Alekseevich Khanzhonkov on August 8, 1877, in the village of Khanzhonkovo, Donetsk province, Russian Empire (now Donetsk, Ukraine). His father, Aleksei Khanzhonkov, was a landlord of Don Cossack ancestry. In 1896 Aleksandr graduated from Novocherkassk Cossack Cadet School, then was promoted to junior officer in the privileged Don Cossack unit in Moscow. Khanzhonkov fought in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and was decorated for bravery. In 1905 he received an honorable discharge and a veteran officer's package of 5,000 rubles.

In 1905 he bought the film production company Gomon i Siversen in Moscow. He also brought new equipment from Pathe and started his own filmmaking business. In 1905-06 he shot his first documentaries. By the beginning of 1906 he invested all of his money in his filmmaking business, and obtained registration for filmmaking in Moscow. In the spring of 1906 he showed imported French films, as well as his own documentaries from his company, now named A. Khanzhonkov & Co., which initially was registered as a trade business. In 1907 Khanzhonkov produced his first film, "Palochkin i Galochkin", but it was not completed and he decided not to release it.

In 1908 Khanzhonkov released his first feature film, Drama v tabore podmoskovnykh tsygan (1908). At that time he hired actors and directors from the Vvedensky Narodny Dom Theatre Company, including such actors as Aleksandra Goncharova, Andrei Gromov, Pyotr Chardynin and Ivan Mozzhukhin. Between 1909 and 1919 he produced about 100 films. He was the biggest film producer in Russia, and made more films than all other Russian film studios combined. He produced 12 films in 1912 and 20 in 1913 alone. By 1914 his net annual profit surpassed 150,000 rubles, which in 2012 would be comparable to $50 million.

In 1911 Khanzhonkov produced the first full-length feature film in Russia, Oborona Sevastopolya (1911), about the siege of the city of Sebastopol during the Crimean War of 1854-55. The production was sponsored by Tsar Nicholas II. Khanzhonkov made a painstaking effort and produced a really advanced period film epic. He found many surviving veterans of the Crimean war, and used the same locations where the historic battle took place. The Tsar issued orders that Khanzhonkov was given temporary right to command and direct the movements of several regiments of the Imperial Army and Navy that were used in the massive battle scenes. Khanzhonkov became the first director in the world to use two cameras. The premiere of the 100-minute film took place at the Livadia palace in Yalta, before the the tsar and his court, and with the cast and crew of more than 100 in attendance. Khanzhonkov was awarded and decorated for the film. He was also commissioned by the tsar to make several documentaries and feature films about various official events in Russia, such as Votsareniye doma Romanovykh (1913).

During the early years of Russian cinema, Khanzhonkov collaborated with theatrical directors, such as Vasili Goncharov and Yevgeni Bauer. His works with Bauer were considered among the highest achievements of the silent film era in Russia. Khanzhonkov also played an important role in the formation of the Russian film industry during the 1910s. In 1910 he started the first Russian film magazine, "Vestnik cinematografii", a comprehensive quarterly publication about emerging film culture and film business. In 1912 he produced the world's first cartoon, _Prekrasnaya Lukanida, ili Voina usachei s rogachami (1912)_, directed by Wladyslaw Starewicz.

In 1916 Khanzhonkov bought land on the Black Sea coast in Yalta, Crimea, and built the new Khanzhonkovs Studio there. In the spring of 1917 he moved his Moscow studio, with actors and staff, to the new location in Yalta. There, from 1917-20, he produced about 15 films. In 1920, after the defeat of the Russian White army of Gen. Vrangel in Crimea, Khanzhonkov's studio and his land were nationalized by the Communist government. At the same time Khanzhonkov's Film Factory in Zamoskvotrechye in Moscow was also confiscated and nationalized by the Communist government, then renamed Goskino (the first location of Goskino was on Zhitnaya St.). Khanzhonkov left the country, together with his best actors, directors and cinematographers. In 1922 he started a film studio in Baden, Austria.

In 1923 Khanzhonkov was invited to come back to Russia by the newly founded "Rusfilm" company. The invitation was sponsored by Soviet Culture Commissar Anatoli Lunacharsky, who sent an official welcome telegram to Khanzhonkov. In 1923 Khanzhonkov returned to Russia, but the "Rusfilm" company suddenly folded. He was hired by Goskino as production consultant, then worked for Proletkino Studios. In 1926 he was falsely accused of embezzlement and arrested. Although he was later cleared of all charges, he was left penniless. His health declined and he moved from Moscow to Yalta and never worked again.

By 1934, Khanzhonkov, aged 56, was disabled and jobless. He wrote a passionate letter to the government which took all his wealth and made him poor, and he was eventually granted a pension from the Russian government. In 1937 he published a book of memoirs titled "Pervye gody Russkoi kinematografii" ("The First Years of Russian Cinema"). By that time he was living in the glorious past. His first wife, writer Antonina Khanzhonkova, died in emigration and the couple's two children were grown up. Back in Russia Khanzhonkov married his assistant, Vera Dmitrievna Popova-Khanzhonkova, who cared for him for the rest of his life while he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and was using a wheelchair due to his disability. He survived the Nazi occupation of Yalta during World War II. He died on September 26, 1945, in Yalta, Crimea, Soviet Union (now Ukraine).

Khanzhonkov's films were edited to remove any pro-monarchist elements during the regime of Joseph Stalin. In 1956 the cultural "thaw" was initiated by Nikita Khrushchev, the ban on Khanzhonkov's films was ended and many of his movies were shown on public television as well as in theaters.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Spouse (2)

Vera Dmitrievna Popova-Khanzhonkova (? - 26 September 1945) (his death)
Antonina Khanzhonkova (? - ?) (her death)

Trivia (2)

Owner of Goman i Siversen, a Russian production company formed in 1905.
Owner of A. Khanzhonkov & Co., a Russian production company active from 1906-1917.

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