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Lubov Orlova: Virtual Museum

Shining Path

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Starring Orlova as Lire

Life, and love, and tears ...

The last two ideological assertions are particularly significant given the reality of the day, and the fact that many international sympathizers who came to the Soviet Union around that time perished in camps or were exiled to remote areas like Siberia and Central Asia . It is beyond my historical competence to judge to what extent Orlova and Aleksandrov might have been familiar with the real situation of foreigners (or blacks) in their homeland. If they knew of the treatment these people were given, Circus should be regarded as a reprehensible example of monstrous propaganda. My contention is that most likely they were not aware of the full extent of these repressions.

This conveniently oblivious attitude toward Stalinist terror, however, could no longer be maintained by the time of the next musical extravaganza Volga-Volga, which starred Orlova as a provincial mail woman rising to stardom. The film was made at the height of Stalinist repression; some of the people who worked on it were purged, their contribution never credited. At the same time, Volga-Volga is believed to have been Iosif Stalin's favorite film (reportedly, Stalin had even made some recommendations during filming). Like TheJolly Fellows, Volga-Volga is also a rags-to-riches story, with Orlova cast as the cheerleading letter carrier 'Strelka' Petrova, an amateur performer from the small town of Melkoretchensk . 'Strelka' ('Arrow') undertakes the great journey up the Volga and, on the way, overcomes various obstacles to finally reach the capital and successfully confront, challenge and overtake the high-brow bureaucrats who are trying to suffocate the popular amateur theatrical movement that she is part of. Here buoyant Orlova plays alongside Soviet star Igor Ilinskiy, a veteran from Meyerhold's theatre (who had also appeared as Goga, the Russian man kissed by Mary Pickford in the 1927 Potselui Meri Pikforda/Mary Pickford's Kiss, an early Soviet blockbuster with American involvement). A prime example of exhilarating Soviet propaganda, Volga-Volga has been under extensive critical scrutiny for its exaggerated and idealized representation of Soviet provincial life.

The last in the cycle of Alexandrov/Orlova musicals, Shining Path, is seen by specialists as the epitome of Stalinist glorification. It is yet another socialist Cinderella-type plot: Tanya Morozova (Orlova) is a simple weaver in a textile factory located near Moscow; she becomes a shock worker and ends up in Kremlin where she is awarded the highest Soviet medal, the Order of Lenin; she is then sent by the comrades to train as an engineer; at the top of her ascent she is elected a member of the Supreme Soviet.

Filmography of Lyubov Orlova (1960-1975 )

 

1960 «Russian Souvenir», director Grigori Alexandrov, the part of Barbara Komarova, a female engineer, working in the Kremlin.

1974 «Starling and Lire», director Grigori Alexandrov, the part of a Soviet intelligence officer Lyudmila Grekova.

 

"Jolly Fellows" (or "The World is Laughing" as the title on the movie declares) is the first musical comedy directed by Grigori Alexndrov. The plot is basically a rags-to-riches tale of Kostya Potekhin (Leonid Utyosov), a shepherd who ends up the conductor of a jazz orchestra. This is because flirty Yelena (Mariya Strelkova) mistakes the shepherd for a famous conductor. Invited to a swank party, the shepherd plays his pan flute for the enraptured audience, only to discover that all of the animals from his farm have followed the sound of his music to the dining room and destroyed the carefully prepared feast.
The musical comedy in this film actually involve comic music: in one sequence the shepherd ends up at the concert hall and is again mistaken for the conductor; while trying to attract Yelena's attention he leads the orchestra in Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. Later his jazz orchestra ends up with their instruments full of water and end up having to make music with their mouths (think of Spike Lee crossed with Bobby McFerrin).

The romantic subplot, which never seems to occupy as much of the storyline as your would think, involves Anuta (Lyubov Orlova), a servant to Yelena who falls for Kostya, but has trouble getting him to notice. I understand Orlova became the first recognized star of Soviet cinema, which is certainly no surprise. She has a wonderful singing voice, much better than what we hear in Jeanette McDonald films (although perhaps this is because of technological problems with old films transferred to videotape). However, Utyosov is clearly no Nelson Eddy, and Orlova has to reign it in big time during their duets. But whenever Orlova begins singing, she lights up the screen.

The film begins with caricatures of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton; at which point we are informed they are NOT in this film. Once you get past the oxymoronic notion of a Soviet Musical Comedy (from the heyday of Stalin no less), this is a film with some enjoyable moments and not just a historical oddity. Alexandrov has several interesting tracking shots throughout the film, especially the one of the bathers along the sea shore. This was the first Soviet film in which entire sequences were shot to pre-recorded musical accompaniment and there are several nice comic bits involving sound and music. First released as "The Shepherd of Abrau," this film is apparently also known as "Jazz Comedy" and "Moscow Laughs." This film is the first in a series of films directed by Alexandrov and starring Orlova, which includes "Circus" and "Volga Volga," produced by the joint effort of Polart Distribution and Facets Multi-Media

 

Sometimes seeing a foreign movie is like stepping into an alternate universe, and you can't get much more alternate than 1930s Russia . I was surprised how well this stacked up to its Hollywood contemporaries and how similar it was in tone. If you enjoy musical comedies from the 1930s, don't hesitate to get this wonderful film. The story and direction were full of energy and wit. Lyubov Orlova would certainly have been a star in America . While comparisons to Jeanette MacDonald aren't off the mark, Orlova also was a terrific comic actress. The supporting actors are also wonderful. So don't be put off by the fact it was made in Stalin's USSR , the communist quotient is really low.

The video lost a star because the songs aren't always subtitled (I suspect some of the communist flavor was hidden within in them), also because of the aspect ratio, certain elements are cut off. If you need more convincing to order this, see "East Side Story," a documentary about Soviet era musicals.

"Volga, Volga" was apparently as popular and familiar to Russian audiences as "Gone with the Wind" is to American audiences. Starring the great Soviet comedience and musical star Lyubov Orlova as "Strelka" Petrova, " Volga , Volga " is set on a giant steamboat making tis way up the Volga River (makes sense). On board are a motley collection of amateur singers and dancers who are travelling to Moscow to compete in a giant musical contest. The film is pretty much non-stop singing from start to finish. The sub-plot is simply whether Strelka will find love before the boat docks and the movie does not go too far with giving Orlova something to sing. This is important, because she has more talent and charisma than the rest of the cast put together (and she sounds better than Jeanette MacDonald does in her old films). This 1937 film runs 90 minutes and has Russian dialogue with English subtitles. "Volga Volga" is one of several films starring Orlova and directed by Grigori Alexandrov available from Polart/Facets Video (although this is clearly the least political of the films I have seen to date). This film features Andrei Tutyshkin as Alyosha Tutishkin, Igor Ilyinsky as Byvalov, Andrei Dolinin as the Militia Man, Sergei Antimonov as the Steamboat Captain, and Anatoli Shalayev as the scene-stealing Boy Musical Prodigy

Stalin wasn't necessarily a fun guy, but Volga , Volga , his favorite film, proves he knew a good laugh when he saw it. With its absurdly exaggerated acting style, flat sets, and catchy tunes, this is one of the funniest, camp musicals ever. But there's more to it than just laughing at those wacky Slavs---there's a real good humor here, not to mention a lot of beautiful shots, and the cast seems 100% aware of how overblown their performances are, which makes it that much more fun. Ah, for the days when film could unapologetically wallow in artifice! A great party movie---the erratic subtitles only add to the fun

 

Lyubov Orlova Collection includes three musical comedies from the Soviet Union, made in the 1930's. Directed by Grigori Alexandrov, they star Lyubov Orlova, the first recognized star of Soviet cinema. Orlova is a gifted singer, whose vocal talent has certainly been preserved better on film than that of Jeannette McDonald and her Hollywood efforts. The three films included in this collection are: (1) "Jolly Fellows," a 1934 film, tells the triumphant rags-to-riches story of a shepherd (Leonid Uytosov), who becomes the conductor of a jazz orchestra through a series of comedic errors. Orlova is the servant girl who ends up happily ever after in his arms. This was the first Soviet film to have entire sequences shot to pre-recorded musical accompaniment. (2) "Circus," made in 1936, has Orlova playing an American circus artist who has a black baby. Naturally, the only place on earth she can find happiness is among the people of the Soviet Union . Director Alexandrov conceived of this film "as an eccentric comedy...a real side splitter." This is Orlova's best performance of the trio. (3) "Volga Volga" was apparently the most successful Soviet film of its day and certainly this last film is the best of this set. On a giant steamboat making its way up the Volga River , Orlova is part of a motley crew of amateur singers and dancers traveling to Moscow to compete in a musical contest. All of these films have Russian dialogue with English subtitles. Once you are captivated by these American musical comedies done Soviet style, you might check out "East Side Story," a documentary about this fascinating sub-genre of Soviet cinema.

 

Russian Souvenir

Rus_Souvenir

 

Starling and Lire

Starling_Lire

Russian Souvenir

Rus_Souvenir

Rus_Souvenir

 

Russian Souvenir

Rus_Souvenir

Rus_Souvenir

The last casting for the film "The Curious Savage"

Savage

Savage

The last casting for the film "The Curious Savage"

Savage

Savage