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People’s Artist of the RSFSR passed away on January 30, 2022 at the age of 85. We recall the main milestones of his film career.

Leonid Kuravlev was born in 1936 in the family of Vyacheslav Yakovlevich, a mechanic at the Salyut Moscow plant, and Valentina Dmitrievna, a hairdresser. The future artist did not dream of acting in films or playing in the theater and was looking for a profession on the contrary – at school he did not care about the exact sciences, so he chose a higher educational institution that did not require taking either physics or chemistry.

Once, in a conversation with a cousin, the abbreviation VGIK sounded – and the decision was made. The prestigious university did not give up immediately: the first attempt, made in 1953, failed. The applicant went to gain life experience, working in the Moscow artel “Optic”. Kuravlev was enrolled in the acting department the second time, in 1955.

At VGIK, he studied with Boris Bibikov. At first, not very well: in the first year they even wanted to expel him. However, over time, Kuravlev was among the best students of the course. And a little later he became one of the most beloved actors of the Soviet and Russian audience.

Movie roles: simple guys, businessmen, thieves and caring citizens

The debut of Leonid Kuravlev in the cinema took place during the years of study – in 1958 he played the role of a soldier in the film “Today there will be no dismissal …”. A short adventure drama based on Arkady Sakhnin’s essay “Echo of War” became a term paper for Alexander Gordon and Andrei Tarkovsky, who at that time studied at the directing department of VGIK.

In 1960, another short film was shot with the participation of a young actor – the social drama “They Report From Lebyazhy”, a term paper and the first independent director’s work by Vasily Shukshin, at that time also a student at VGIK. Leonid Kuravlev played Senya Gromov, a stuttering mechanic in the film, who is concerned about the lack of crankshafts. In the same year, the whole country saw him on the screen – he reincarnated as fireman Pyotr Kamushkin in Mikhail Schweitzer’s film Midshipman Panin, dedicated to the revolutionary activities of the Baltic Fleet sailors on the eve of the First World War.

After graduating from VGIK in 1960, Leonid Vyacheslavovich began to work actively in the cinema. Among the roles he played in the 1960s are Lenya in Lev Kulidzhanov’s drama When the Trees Were Big (1961), foreman Korneev in Mikhail Schweitzer and Sofia Milkina’s film Time, Forward! (1965), Commissar Serdyuk in Alexander Mitta’s tragicomedy Burn, Burn, My Star (1969).

At the same time, he played the main roles in two films by Vasily Shukshin – the melodrama “Such a Guy Lives” (1964) and the film story “Your Son and Brother” (1966). In the first, Kuravlyov plays a rustic and dreamy driver Pashka, nicknamed Pyramidon, a completely unheroic person, who, however, in a critical situation, without hesitation, performs a feat. The film was awarded the “Lion of St. Mark” prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1964 and was awarded the prize of the first All-Union Film Festival as the best comedy. In the film “Your Son and Brother”, the hero of Kuravlev is a simple village boy Stepan, who went to prison for participating in a fight. Unable to overcome the longing for his home, he runs away shortly before the end of his term. The escape turns into new troubles: a policeman comes for Stepan, it becomes clear that the term can be extended.

Kuravlev is often remembered as a characteristic comic actor. However, already in the first years of his film career, he demonstrated a wide palette of his talent. Leonid Vyacheslavovich made the audience laugh at the phrases of his hero Shura Balaganov in Mikhail Schweitzer’s comedy “The Golden Calf” (1968), go cold with horror, like Khoma Brut in the thriller “Wii” by Konstantin Ershov and Georgy Kropachev (1967). And in 1966, the film by Gergiy Natanson “The Elder Sister” was released, in which Kuravlev played Volodya, a fan of Jerome Salinger, whom her enterprising uncle is trying to marry the main character (Tatiana Doronina). This is a very small role, but the actor managed to make it memorable – his Volodya is very touching, modest and obviously a good person.

In 1970, Gleb Panfilov’s tragicomedy “The Beginning” was released about the painful path of the provincial amateur actress Pasha (Inna Churikova) to the film role of Joan of Arc. Kuravlev played the role of Arkady, the beloved of the main character. One of the first scenes of the film is their awkward acquaintance on the dance floor: he invites her, a handbag falls out of the girl’s hands, both bend over and immediately collide with their foreheads (“Does it hurt you? — That you, on the contrary, are even pleased! : you know how it rings!”).

The leader of the box office in 1973 was Leonid Gaidai’s comedy “Ivan Vasilyevich Changes His Profession” based on the play by Mikhail Bulgakov. Kuravlev played in it the role of the charming thief Georges Miloslavsky. His phrase “Keep the money in the savings bank!”, Turned from the screen to the audience, became winged, as did “I entered it successfully!”, Not to mention the song “Suddenly, like in a fairy tale, the door creaked”, which he performs together with court musicians of Ivan the Terrible. Today it is difficult to imagine another Miloslavsky, but Andrei Mironov was initially approved for this role. The actor did not have a duet with Yuri Yakovlev (the house manager of Bunsh and Ivan the Terrible), and Gaidai began searching for a new Georges.

In the same 1973, Tatyana Lioznova’s famous series Seventeen Moments of Spring was released on television, in which Kuravlev played the Gestapo operative Kurt Weissman.

Among the roles of Kuravlev in the cinema of the 1970s are the protagonist of The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1972) by Stanislav Govorukhin, the thief Valka Smoked in the legendary serial film The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed (1979), an employee of the thrift store Venya Guryanov in Vladimir’s comedy Basov “Nylon 100%”. In the comedy You for Me, I for You (1977), Aleksandra Sery Kuravlev played two heroes at once: the tenacious and resourceful Moscow bath attendant Kashkin, whose life principle is given in the title of the film, and his twin brother, a modest and very honest provincial inspector of Rybnadzor . The latter, having fallen ill, asks his brother to replace him at work, which triggers a series of comic situations.

Perhaps the main film of the decade with Leonid Kuravlev was released in 1975 – it was the tragicomedy of George Danelia “Afonya”. Kuravlyov’s character, locksmith Afonya, in less than an hour and a half of screen time goes from a carefree life with drinking, parties and hacks to a serious existential crisis.

In 1981, Tatyana Lioznova’s production drama “We, the Undersigned” was released, in which Kuravlev played Leonid Shindin, the chief dispatcher of the construction and installation department, who did not complete the bakery. Almost the entire action of the two-part film takes place on the train, where Shindin, pursuing personal goals, is trying to convince the members of the commission to accept the object after all. The hero’s wife was played by Irina Muravyova – together with her a little later, Kuravlev appeared in Gerald Bezhanov’s comedy The Most Charming and Attractive (1985). His hero – a resilient optimist, wit and father of a large family Misha Dyatlov – works with the heroine Muravyova in the design bureau of the research institute.

The first premiere of 1983 in the USSR was Alla Surikova’s detective comedy “Look for a Woman” – the film was shown on television on January 1. The audience loved him very much, and in the future the picture was repeated many times. Leonid Kuravlev played in the film an angry (because of a bad cold) Inspector Henri Grandin, who was forced to investigate a mysterious murder, instead of being calmly treated at home. Kuravlev’s partner on the set was Sofiko Chiaureli. Her heroine was familiar with Grandin in her distant youth, and now fate again pushed them together. For Kuravlev and Chiaureli, by the way, this meeting also became a kind of reminder of their youth: the actors studied together at VGIK.

Among the film roles of Leonid Kuravlev, which he played in the 1990s and 2000s, are the US Ambassador in the comedy Shirley Myrli (1995), Sergeant Major Bukin in the drama The Barber of Siberia (1998), conductor Nikolai Petrovich in the melodrama Railway Romance (2002), major in the military detective story Turkish Gambit (2005), gentleman in the fairy tale film The Book of Masters (2009).

Voice acting: Uncle Einar and cartoons

From 1960 to 1992, Leonid Kuravlev worked at the Film Actor’s Studio Theater (now the Center for Theater and Cinema under the direction of Nikita Mikhalkov). Theater actors have always taken part in the dubbing of foreign films and dubbed animated films. Among the films in which you can hear the voice of Kuravlev is the children’s film The Adventures of Kalle the Detective (1976) by Arunas Zhebrunus based on the book The Adventures of Kalle Blumkvist by Astrid Lindgren. In it, the artist voiced Uncle Einar (Gedimanas Girdvainis), who turned out to be a criminal relative of the girlfriends of the title character.

Also, Leonid Kuravlev gave his voice to the cartoon characters “Aibolit and Barmaley” (1973), “Rain” (1978), “Martynko” (1987), “Karpusha” (1988), “Chicken” (1990), “Chuffyk” (1993 ), “The Night Before Christmas” (1997).

Awards and titles

In 1965, Leonid Kuravlev received the title of Honored Artist of the RSFSR – with the wording “for merits in the field of Soviet cinema.” In 1977, with a similar wording, he was awarded the title of People’s Artist of the RSFSR.

Also among the awards of the actor is the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, IV degree. Leonid Vyacheslavovich received it on December 29, 2012 for his great contribution to the development of national culture and art, many years of fruitful activity.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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