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Post: Funny and painful: Why was Gaidai banned from doing comedy and who helped him?

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MOSCOW, January 30 – RIA Novosti, Pavel Surkov. He strictly adhered to the laws of comedy, but spoke in his own unique artistic language. He created bright popular characters and revealed the satirical talent of many famous actors. Today is Leonid Gaidai’s centennial, and his film work is not outdated at all. How the legendary trio appeared – Coward, Dunce and Experienced, why Mikhalkov did not play Ostap Bender, and why Mila Jovovich did not please the director – in the material of RIA Novosti.

fighter medal

As a child, Gaidai constantly went to the Irkutsk Drama Theater. And then he got a job as a stage worker. More than once I watched all the performances of the Moscow Theater of Satire, circulating around the city. I immediately understood: this is where you should strive for sharp, accusatory and incredibly funny art.

Leonid Iovich Gaidai
Director Leonid Gaidai and cameraman Sergei Poluyanov are in St.  Petersburg during the filming of Incognito
Productions directed by Leonid Gaidai
Sergey Migitsko, who played the director Leonid Gaidai and Khlestakov, was born at the Mosfilm studio in St.  Petersburg on the set of the movie Incognito

But war intervened. Leonid Iovich served in the infantry. He miraculously survived when an enemy threw a grenade at the firing point. He went exploring, he took the language. He received the legendary “warrior medal” “For Military Merit” – an award for ordinary soldiers who showed real heroism on the battlefield.

The war ended for him in 1943. He was blown up by an anti-personnel mine: a serious wound, shrapnel in his leg tormented him for the rest of his life. Then they were assigned.

After the victory, she graduated from the theater studio at the Irkutsk Drama Theater. Then he entered the directing department of VGIK in the capital.

Coward, Stupid and Experienced

One of his first paintings, “The Groom from the Other World,” was brutally cut off by censorship. The satirical comedy turned into a short film. And the Ministry of Culture suspended the novice director from work for several years.

However, Gaidai was favored by one of the best Soviet directors, Ivan Pyryev. He invited her to shoot another short film – for the youth film almanac “Pretty Serious”. And Leonid Iovich decided to make a stunt tape in the best traditions of early cinema. I found the topic in Stepan Oleinik’s feuilleton about unlucky poachers who go fishing with dynamite.

Taken from the movie Operation Y and Shurik's other adventures
Taken from the movie Operation Y or Shurik's other adventures

This is how the famous trio came about: Coward, Stupid and Experienced. Three different characters with incredible charm, clear images. They returned to the screens of Chaplin’s enthusiasm, Buster Keaton, the folly of Harold Lloyd’s tricks and current satire.

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Gaidai guessed 100% correct on the artist selection. As a result, Yuri Nikulin, Georgy Vitsin and Evgeny Morgunov became the heroes of the jokes, the public identified them with their screen characters. This was especially frustrating for Vitsin, a master with a brilliant dramatic talent who was seriously interested in yoga and philosophy. He never drank alcohol, and fans kept calling him “skip a hundred grams.”

People's Artist of the USSR Yuri Nikulin as Dunce, Veteran artist Yevgeny Morgunov and People's Artist of the RSFSR Georgy Vitsin in the role of Coward in the movie Moonshiners - RIA Novosti, 1920, 27.01.2023
In the movie “Moonshiners” People’s Artist of the USSR Yuri Nikulin as Dunce, artist Yevgeny Morgunov Veteran and People’s Artist of the RSFSR Georgy Vitsin as Coward

The jolly trio appeared in all the classic Gaidai comedies of the 1960s (except The Diamond Hand). They were also filmed by other directors (for example, Eldar Ryazanov in the movie “Give me a sad book!”). They even got into the cartoon “Bremen Town Musicians”.

On the set, Gaidai held a contest for the actors: a bottle of champagne for a joke. In the Caucasian Prisoner, Nikulin won 24 bottles, Morgunov – 18, and the teetotaler Vitsin – only one. I bought it as a souvenir.

This movie was the last of Gaidai’s trio. Standing out with a difficult character, Yevgeny Morgunov quarreled with the director, and Leonid Iovich filmed him more.

Vitsin, Nikulin and Morgunov in the movie Prisoner of the Caucasus
Nikulin, Varley and Vitsin in the movie Prisoner of the Caucasus
Natalya Varley as Nina and Alexander Demyanenko as Shurik in The Caucasian Prisoner
A still from the movie Prisoner of the Caucasus

best movie adaptations

Frame from the feature film 12 chairs
The feature film 12 chairs directed by Leonid Gaidai
Frame from the movie 12 chairs
A still from the movie Twelve Chairs

Gaidai strictly adhered to the laws of comedy, which have not changed since the 1920s and 30s. And at the same time, he carefully quoted Western films that were unavailable to a wide audience. For example, the phrase “Train oncats” was moved from one of the Bond series, “Goldfinger”. Most of the scenes in The Diamond Arm are also from Italian cinema.

Many consider Gaidai’s “12 Chairs” to be the best adaptation of Ilf and Petrov’s novel. For the role of Ostap, the actor was looking for a long time. Vladimir Vysotsky also tried. Nikita Mikhalkov made an excellent test. But he was already thinking of directing and he can’t get along in two months. Leonid Iovich could not stand it when someone on the site argued with him even over small things. The choice fell on the bright and charming Archil Gomiashvili.

Gaidai could have originally translated the plot of a semi-prohibited text in the country. He made one of the most beloved folk comedies from a play by Bulgakov, which was almost never broadcast in the USSR. “Ivan Vasilyevich Changes His Profession” is close to the original source, but the director modernized the literary source, adding the scientific romance of the 1970s.

    Shot from the movie, Ivan Vasilievich changes his profession
Shot from the movie, Ivan Vasilievich changes his profession
Shot from the movie, Ivan Vasilievich changes his profession
Mikhail Pugovkin and Natalya Selezneva on the set of Ivan Vasilyevich Changes Profession

without Mila

“I can’t be!” According to Zoshchenko, Gaidai revealed the comedic talent of screen beauties Yevgeny Zharikov and Oleg Dal. And, of course, he had his own team – artists who wandered from film to film: Leonid Kuravlev, Mikhail Kokshenov, Georgy Vitsin. One of them, shot at sunset of the work of Leonid Iovich, was Dmitry Kharatyan. The director became close friends with him.

Still from the movie It's Good Weather on Deribasovskaya or It's Raining Again on Brighton Beach
Shot from the movie “The weather is fine on Deribasovskaya, or it’s raining again on Brighton Beach”

In the last picture “It’s nice on Deribasovskaya or it’s raining again on Brighton Beach” Gaidai decided to look for an American actress for the main female role. There was a candidate for the young Mila Jovovich – she has Russian roots, she knows the language very well. But it did not suit the master. He laughed: “What’s his name? Jovovich? Jovovich? Iovich? Two Jovichs on one site will be too many.”

A still from the movie Diamond Arm
Yuri Nikulin (center), Andrey Mironov, Victoria Ostrovskaya.
Actor Anatoly Papanov on the set of The Diamond Hand
Andrey Mironov and Anatoly Papanov in the movie Diamond Arm

He died in 1993. A new cinema has arrived, seeking its own artistic language. It seems that Soviet films are forever in the past. But time has set everything in place: when “Shurik”, “The Diamond Arm” or “Moonshiners” is shown on television for the thousandth time, we rush to the screen.

Source: Ria

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