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 Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev

Born:   October 9, 1926
Deceased:   March 5, 1992

great Russian actor



Yevgeni Yevstigneyev was the actor of a wide range of roles, but the most successful were his salient parts. His unshowy appearance — a round-shouldered figure, the head with a big bald spot, a long snub nose and outstanding ears — was compensated by his great virtuosity, tenacious observation and enormous charm. Yevstigneyev reached such skill in acting that almost instantly he guessed and shaped the character, improvising out the things that the film director needed.

Yevstigneyev splendidly fitted into any actors’ ensemble, was absolutely convincing and organic in any role, even in episodes. Very quickly he earned himself high professional reputation, since his participation in a film or a stage play guaranteed sensational success.

Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev was born on October, 9th 1926 in Nizhny Novgorod . A graduate of Gorki Theatrical School (1951) he was an actor of the Vladimir Regional Drama Theatre from 1951 to 1954. In 1956 he graduated the Nemirovich-Danchenko School-Studio at MKhAT. From 1957 to 1970 he was an actor of Sovremennik Theatre and from 1970 he acted on stage of the famous MKhAT.

Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev was among the originators of Sovremennik Theatre, and became one of the key figures in the developing troupe of Yefremov’s MKhAT. He was engaged in all the major stage plays. Yevstigneyev’s first stage role was that of Chernov in the performance Eternally Alive which «Sovremennik» opened with in 1956.

Yevstigneyev managed to play entire destiny of a man even in episodic roles. Thus, appearing on stage only for two times in the role of an elderly engineer in Five Evenings he unfolded before spectators a life not warmed with anybody, and behind a kind and asking smile of the hotel owner in The Fifth Column one could see poverty, disorder, and anxiety of seemingly decent existence, in fact demolished by war.

In 1959 he played an outstanding role of Glukhar in Oleg Yefremov’s drama Two Colours. In 1960 Yevstigneyev appeared on stage as the Naked King in the same name play. He played the king who is bored and is trying to popjoy as best as he can. But Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev took the age off his character: his king is as young and simple as a child. But he is naked, always and everywhere and so all his bad character traits are in view, covered by nothing. This role marked a milestone in his acting career.

In the play Appointment (by A. Volodin, 1963) Yevstigneyev appeared in two roles at once – those of twins, both social climbers. The difference between the two characters was that one of them, who already gained his aim, was quiet and smooth, while the other one was still fussing and bustling on the approach to his desired post. One was statics and the other one was dynamic. Nevertheless it was one, though double portrait.

Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev considered it was a must for a stage actor to be into filming also. His splendid Dynin, the head of the pioneers’ camp in the cult children’s comedy ( Welcome, or No Trespassing (Dobro pozhalovat, ili postoronnim vkhod vospreshchyon) by Elem Klimov (1964) is passionately silly, and his dumbness is active and strong-willed, it’s in full swing. Quite a different task had Yevstigneyev in the film Nevermore (Nikogda) (1962): his character, the director of a shipbuilding factory is a clever, but completely non-charming person who just does not wish to be nice. Yevstigneyev endued him with lordly habits and cold confidence in his rightness.

The year 1968 saw the premiere of The Lower Depths (after Maxim Gorky), where Yevstigneyev played Satin. Having discarded the heroic cliché and refused to substitute Satin’s voice with that of Gorky, he made spectators hear dramatic nature of special "twisted" intonations in which drunk melancholy and fiorituras of the pub’s Cicero and pain of derisive mind were inseparable from each other.

The Zigzag of Success (Zigzag udachi), where Y. Yevstigneyev played the role of motor depot director, was released the same year. Behind his platitudinous and rude manner of behaviour there was hiding sincere and heartfelt melancholy. Ridiculous bride-show suddenly turned into beginning of amusing, "comic", but love, capable to ennoble both the groom and the bride.

1970 was the year of Yefremov’s development of Chekhovian plays. In Sovremennik’s The Seagull Yevstigneyev played the role of Dorn. His Dorn did not let anybody into his private world. Passions flashed and subdued, bulked up and blew up behind his back, while he steadfastly peered into darkness, into uncertainty… He was keeping painful knowledge inside. His egocentrism was only salutary: he did not deprive anybody of hope, leaving others ignorant.

In 1977 in Kh already Yevstigneyev appeared as Chebutykina in Three Sisters, Serebryakov in Uncle Vanya (1985), and as Firs in (The Cherry Orchard in Chekhov's Theatre in 1990. Together with Yevstigneyev in Uncle Vanya there played Vyacheslav Nevinnyy (as Vaflya), Anastasiya Vertinskaya (as Elena Andreyevna), and Andrey Myagkov (as Vojnitsky). Serebryakov-Yevstigneyev was not a villain eating other peoples’ lives. He was just ordinary, pompous, pseudo-important drabness. He was comely and silly. He had that kind of simplicity which is worse than larceny. Without realising what he was doing he despoiled Uncle Vanya both in literal and figurative meaning.

Remarkable is the film Running (Beg) (1970) after the same name play by Mikhail Bulgakov (directed by A.Alov, V.Naumov). Yevstigneyev’s character Korzukhin has hauteur and hypertrophied self-confidence. But when the action is transferred to Paris, to his private mansion, this coolness vanishes. We see a nervous gambler, who loses reason and control, goes crazy for thirst of risk and gambling and bursts into tears after the loss.

In 1988, the beginning of Perestroika, Bulgakov is topical again: this time it is Heart of a Dog (Sobachye serdtse). The comicality of Schwonder portrayed by Roman Kartsev is accentuated with the tragedy of the Russian intelligentsia (represented by Preobrazhensky-Yevstigneyev), refusing to accept the Soviet power. In the cult series Seventeen Moments of Spring (Semnadtsat mgnoveniy vesny) (1973) Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev played the role of Pleischner, a person internally and spiritually very strong, but outwardly defenseless as a child. His charm, however, was not ostentatious: in difficult, extreme situations he found the strength to take critical decisions.

Yermak (1996) the shooting of which took 7 years was the last work of Y. Yevstigneyev who acted as Ivan the Terrible there.

Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev died on March, 4th 1992 in a London clinic just a few minutes prior to his heart surgery. The great actor was laid to rest at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

Tags: Russian theatre Russian cinema Russian actors   

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