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 Valentina Karavayeva

Born:   21 May 1921
Deceased:   25 December 1997

Soviet film and theatre actress


Valentina (Alla) Ivanovna Karavayeva (married name Chapman) was born on May, 21st, 1921 in Vyshny Volochek of the Kalinin Region (now the Tver Region).

In 1940 Valentina Karavayeva finished actor's school at the Mosfilm Studio, where she had studied under Yuli Raizman.

The feature Mashenka about love of a post woman and a driver was filmed when the country was going through really hard times - the Great Patriotic War. Naturally, the film director Yuli Raizman wanted the leading actress to be able to inspire soldiers, imbue them with the belief in victory, and make them remember that somewhere their women were waiting for them. Even taking a screening test on a par with well-known actresses was a great gift for Valentina Karavayeva, then a student yet. However, Yuli Raizman did not like any of the aspirants. He even wanted to postpone the shootings, but the indomitable student asked to give her one more chance. This time she played so well that the film director at once decided to give her the role. After the release of the film in 1943 the entire film crew received the Stalin’s Award of the second degree, and the 23-year-old Valentina Karavayeva became its youngest winner.

In 1944 on the way to shootings of Yuli Raizman’s new film Moscow Skies Karavayeva got into an accident — the car crashed into a tram. The driver died, and Valentina Karavayeva got a wound on her face that left an awful scar reaching from her ear to chin. Thus her face was marred forever, robbing her of the opportunity to be in filming, but for one small role and two episodic roles.

From 1944 to 1945 the actress played on stage of the Mossovet Theater.

Having married the English attaché George Chapman, she lived in Great Britain and Switzerland. The actress even organized a theater at the Russian community in Geneva, where she played and staged performances in 1945—1950.

In 1950-1951 after an unsuccessful plastic surgery in Switzerland she divorced her husband and returned to the USSR. She worked as an actress of a drama theater in her hometown Vyshny Volochyok.

From 1951 to 1953 she played on stage of Moscow A.S.Pushkin Theater. In 1954 - 1957 she was an actress of the Theatre-Studio of Film Actor.

In 1957 she was employed at the M.Gorky Film Studio, where she played an episodic role in the screen versions of Nikolai Atarov’s Story of the First Love directed by Vasili Levin; her name was not even mentioned in the credits. Only six years later, in 1964, Erast Garin invited Karavayeva to play in the screen version of Yevgeni Shvarts’ play Ordinary Wonder, in which the actress brilliantly performed the distinguishing role of Emilia. The actress’ last appearance on screen took place in 1968, in a tiny episode of Mikhail Kalik’s drama To Love.

From 1969 she was into film dubbing. The last years of her life were needy and miserable. Sometimes she managed to work in dubbing, and got a small salary from the Theatre of Film Actor. Film directors did not invite her to act in films – and so she started her own film-making. For more than twenty years Karavayeva acted in front of an amateur camera, and recorded the sound on an antiquated bobbin tape recorder. For the role of Nina Zarechnaya in Chekhov’s play The Seagull she made a seagull of wire, paper and feathers. She played the same roles over and over again for twenty years. In 2000 director Georgi Paradzhanov shot the 36-minute documentary “I am a Seagull. Secret of Life of Actress Karavayeva, where he used those films and tapes.

The exact date of her death remains unknown. Her neighbors got alarmed only when after a pipe break in the house nobody came out from Valentina Karavayeva’s apartment – she was already dead.

Valentina Karavayeva was laid to rest at Khovanskoye Cemetery in Moscow.

Tags: Russian Cinema Russian Actresses    

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