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 Zinovy Gerdt

Born:   September 21, 1916
Deceased:   November 18, 1996

Outstanding Soviet film actor, Peoples Artiste of the USSR


Zinovy Efimovich Gerdt was born on September 21, 1916 in the Pskov Region. His real name was Zalman Efroimovich Khrapinovich. The young man graduated from a factory school of the Moscow Electroplant, and at the age of 15 started working as a mechanic-eletrician and took part in Metrostroi.  It was in the factory club, where Zinovy Gerdt started playing his first roles. The Theater of Young Workers (TRAM) unfolded the talent of the young actor, and the following milestone of his life wass work in the Puppet Theater at the Moscow Pioneers House.  Zinovy Gerdt’s theatrical activity was interrupted by World War II. 

Zinovy Gerdt volunteered to the front, where he became a commander of a field company.  In February, 1943 the senior lieutenant was badly wounded and brought to a hospital. He had to sustain 11 most complicated surgeries and as a result his leg was rescued but became forever 8 centimeters shorter than the healthy one. Since then Zinovy Gerdt always limped – it is interesting that this lameness became an integral part of his characters.  Lots of viewers thought that he was limping on purpose, because the role demanded it. 

After the war Zinovy Gerdt continued his work in the puppet theater and then became a dubbing actor and an off-camera spokesman in cinema. For a long time he was off-screen in filming. He appeared on screen a bit player. However, directors of the films The Conjurer (1967) and The Little Golden Calf (1968), where Gerdt was invited to play in episodes, discerned the actor’s original talent. Gerdt also helped them to do it: he did not merely copy the script, but imparted his personality to every role. As a result instead of episodic roles there were appeared magnificent portrayals of the conjurer Cuckoo and the swindler Panikovsky. 

Zinovy Gerdt was finally noticed and started being invited to act in movies. He mostly acted as a comedy and a character actor. Comic and humorous play was emphasized by his lyricism and soft sadness. For some time Zinovy Gerdt worked on television and hosted Kinopanorama in the 1960s and Tea Club in the 1990s. The actor died on November 18, 1996.  A monument to Panikovsky set up in Kiev was based on the prototype of Zinovy Gerdt.

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