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 Yevgeni Morgunov

Born:   April 27, 1927
Deceased:   June 25, 1999

actor, comedian



Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Morgunov was born on 27 April 1927 in Moscow. During the war, as a 14-year old boy he lathed blanks for bombshells at a Moscow plant.

In 1943 Yevgeny wrote a letter to Stalin, asking him for help: “Dear Josef Vissarionovich, admit me to the art. I am a worker at Sokolniki Car-Repair Plant, a bombshell turner; I want to be in art, I partook in amateur performances and in crowed scenes at Mosfilm Studio. Yet, the director of our plant hinders this aspiration. I want to be like Stanislavski, like Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko”.

An incredible thing happened. In fifteen days the plant’s General Director got an official message from the Kremlin: “Commission Comrade Morgunov to join the Tairov Theatre as a supporting actor. Stalin”.


This is how Zhenya Morgunov came to study under the famous stage director Alexander Tairov in the Chamber Theatre.

However, the young talent did not stay in the theatre for a long time. In the end of 1944 Zhenya shifted to the Actors’ Faculty of VGIK (All-Union State Institute of Cinematography), where he studied under Sergei Gerasimov. In the same year with him there was Vyacheslav Tikhonov, Sergei Bondarchuk, Nonna Mordyukova and Sergei Gurzo.

When a student yet Yevgeny made his debut in Aleksandr Stolper’s film Days and Nights (Dni i nochi) (1945). However, that role was unofficial. As for his first big and official role, it was traitor Pocheptsov in The Young Guard (Molodaya gvardiya) directed by his teacher Sergei Gerasimov in 1948.

Morgunov graduated from the workshop of S.Gerasimov and T.Makarova in 1948 and was admitted to the Film Actor’s Studio Theatre, where he played till 1953. At the same time, from 1951 to 1953 he was an actor of Maly Academic Theatre.

A turning point in Yevgeny Morgunov’s career is closely connected with Leonid Gaidai and his brilliant comedy (Dog Barboss and Unusual Race) (Pyos Barbos i neobychajnij kross) (1961).


Two of the “friends-drunkards” were easily cast - Gaidai’s favourite actor Georgi Vitsin agreed to play Trus (Coward) and there were no problems in finding Balbes (Booby): someone advised Gaidai to go to the circus and look at the funny clown Yuri Nikulin. But with Byvaly (Stager) it was bad luck. The well-known comic Ivan Lyubeznov rejected the role and the famous Mikhail Zharov also refused to play such a small role in a 9-minure short-length movie.

All of a sudden there was a call from a secretary of the mighty Mosfilm director Ivan Pyryev: “You should not waste time and money on looking for anybody else. Pyryev himself casts the role of Byvaly to Yevgeny Morgunov”. It turned out that the director had come across the actor in a studio and at once had had an eye on him.

The venerable film director Gaidai never stopped at the success of Unusual Race. It was soon followed by another short-length comedy Bootleggers (Samogonshchiki) (1961) featuring the same popular mask-characters. Then in 1964 Eldar Ryazanov invited the increasingly favoured trio to his comedy Give Me a Complaints Book (Dayte zhalobnuyu knigu).

Yet, these were the comedies Kidnapping Caucasian Style (Kavkazskaya plennitsa) (1966) and Operation Y (Operatsiya Y) (1965) that turned real triumph for Gaidai’s trio.

Gaidai’s comedies brought a thrilling avalanche of fame on the actors’ trio “Nikulin-Vitsyn-Morgunov”. Yevgeny Morgunov along with the other two became somewhat of a national hero.


However, after his triumphant role of Byvaly Morgunov was not much into filming. His best works included those in films Three Fat Men (Tri tolstyaka) (1966), Ilf and Petrov Went by Tram (Ekhali v tramvaye Ilf i Petrov) (1972). There were also other, less noteworthy roles. Morgunov also tried his wings as a film director. As early as 1962 he directed the comedy When the Cossacks Weep (Kogda Kazaki plachut) under the patronage of the illustrious writer Mikhail Sholokhov. Yet the film remained his only director’s work.

Morgunov earned his living by touring with concerts. It was a real trial for him, since from early childhood he suffered from diabetes, which was aggravating from year to year.

In 1998 a sorrow befell the Morgunovs’ family: their younger son perished in a car accident. In spite of his deep grievance Yevgeny Aleksandrovich went on working till the end of his life and never refused people who asked him to take a picture with them - specially for this he went out to foyer during intervals.

The Honoured Artist of the Russian Federation Yevgeny Morgunov died of apoplexy, aged 72, in the Central clinical hospital of Moscow on 25 June 1999. The actor was laid to rest at Kuntsevskoe Cemetery.


Tags: Russian cinema Russian sctors Yevgeni Morgunov   

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