Marshal of Soviet Cinema

Marshal of Soviet Cinema


On November 20, the 95th anniversary of the birth of Mikhail Ulyanov, theater and movie actor and art director of the Vakhtangov Theater (1987-2007) was marked.

Mikhail Ulyanov was born in the village of Bergamak in the Omsk Region in 1927 He spent his childhood in the nearby township of Tara.

During the Second World War, in 1942, artists of the Lvov Theater were evacuated in this city. Its director opened a theater studio, where young Ulianov enrolled. He was so enchanted and carried away by the theatrical stage, all that creative fuss, fellowship with like-minded people and changes in the roles he played, that he left for Omsk, where he began to study acting in the studio of the local theater.

And this spell was not broken. After the war, 18-year-old Mikhail Ulyanov went to conquer Moscow, where he soon met by chance his Omsk friend, who advised him to apply to the Shchukin School at the Vakhtangov Theater. Mikhail Ulyanov did so. He submitted documents and was accepted.

Mikhail Ulyanov, People's Artist of the USSR, remained loyal to the Vakhtangov Theater until the end of his life. There he met his future wife actress Alla Parfanyak, with whom they lived for half a century.

Initially Ulyanov was not very lucky with major roles in the theater, and the boy from the Siberian countryside, mostly played some kind of countryside chic characters, but then he began to be offered film roles. For the first time Ulyanov saw himself on the screen in the movie They Were the First (1956).

It is noteworthy that after viewing he was clearly upset. He did not like himself in this film and seemed kind of clumsy and theatrical.

However, the next year he took part in the movie ‘The House I Live In’ (1957), which later became a Soviet film classic. A young but solid Ulianov looked absolutely sure of himself and his role. After that he starred in a great number of movies: Volunteers (1958), Simple Story (1960), Baltic Sky (1960,) etc. In 1964, based on a script Yuri Nagibin, the remarkable film Chairman came out. It became a milestone in the history of Soviet cinema. Mikhail Ulyanov found the role in this film “most interesting” and received the Lenin Prize for it. It was after Chairman that Mikhail Ulyanov became one of the best actors of the Soviet Union.

Later, he had many interesting works, such as the role of Dmitri in the film The Brothers Karamazov (1969), General Chernota in the film Running (1970), Kim Esenin in Gleb Panfilov’s film Theme (1979), Abrikosov in Private Life (1982), a veteran of World War II Ivan Afonin in the film Voroshilovsky Shooter (1999).

It is noteworthy that he played the role of Marshal Zhukov in 17 films, and made his debut in the film epic Liberation, and Georgy Zhukov himself approved of the actor as a performer. Marshal Zhukov became Ulyanov’s signature role. He later recalled that “the movie hammered into the head of the audience this image as my essence.” No wonder that after this film Ulyanov began to be called the Marshal of Soviet cinema.

“He, unfortunately, did not have time for himself, or his family, or for life, or the joys of life in general,” said the daughter of the actor Yelena Ulyanov. He was an actor, deputy, chairman of the Union of Theater Workers, teacher, art director of the Vakhtangov Theater…

Ulyanov had been living and not just acting on stage for over half a century. He had played dozens of roles, from Dostoevsky and Bulgakov to Shakespeare and Shukshin. He began to manage his native theater in 1987 and for 20 years he was in charge of its repertoire, searching for directors and performers for certain roles.

It is noteworthy that his office was near the stage, where he could watch all performances. This box is still called Ulyanov’s.

As the head of the theater Ulyanov always found strength, opportunities and time to help his colleagues. There was a tablet in his office, where urgent matters were written down, and until he crossed them out, the matter was considered undone. Thus, thanks to him, for example, a new stage was built in the theater.

It was under Ulyanov as head of the theater that the continuity of Vakhtangov's traditions was established. He could not live any other way. Mikhail Ulyanov was a genuine, convincing, talented and powerful Russian actor, always faithful to his role and with a fine sense of the era. Whoever he was playing, you believe him from the first seconds. All Vakhtangovites know that Mikhail Ulyanov was truly a favorite of the Union, and it's hard not to agree with it.

Mikhail Ulyanov died on March 26, 2007 and was buried at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

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