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 Georgi Vitsin

Born:   23 April, 1917
Deceased:   22 October, 2001



Throughout all his life Georgi Vitsin impersonated cowardly milksops, the characters which he surely was not in reality. What he really was it is one of the most brilliant and unique comedy actors of Russia.

Georgi Mikhailovich Vitsin was born in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), or according to unofficial data, in Zelenogorsk (formerly town Terijoki of Finland) on 23 April 1917, just in between the two revolutions. In a childrens play he so emotionally and passionately was performing the dance of shaman that teachers advised him to go in for ballet in a serious way. Yet after finishing school Vitsin decided to go in for theatre in a serious way and entered Maly Theatre School. Soon, however, he was expelled reportedly for careless attitude to classes. Next autumn Vitsin decided to try his wings again and passed exams in three theatre studios at once. He chose to study in Theatre School of Vakhtangov Studio, MXAT-2 and was trained there from 1934 to 1935.

In 1936 Georgi Vitsin was admitted to the company of theatre studio under direction of the great actor Nikolai Khmelev. The studio was soon renamed into Yermolova Theatre, whereas Vitsin achieved an outstanding position in the troupe. Not infrequently theatre-goers inquired in the ticket office about who was playing on that day and if it was not Vitsin they could just turn around and go away. Critics loved writing about him, and one could hardly imagine that an actor of such brilliant onstage career could forever leave the theatre for the sake of cinematography.

For the first time he appeared on screen as a railroader in Sergei Yutkevich film Zdravstvuy, Moskva! (Hello Moscow!) (1945).

Georgi Vitsin started with films of various genres and gained fame as boxer Vasya in the film Zapasnoy igrok (The Reserve) (1954). Before playing in the film Vitsin had to work out for a whole month. Finally, when rehearsing a boxing combat he let himself go and attacked his partner in a real way. Pavel Kadochnikov, being a professional boxer reacted automatically; as a result Vitsin came to himself with a fracture in his rib, and yet the actor went on acting, his chest tightened with a towel.

The Reserve (1954)
The viewers liked the character created by Vitsin a shy but enthusiastic person who is involved in the success of his cause and capable of a noble deed. Hot on the heels of the first success and after the same pattern there was produced the film Ona vas lyubit (She Loves You) (1956), tackling on the theme of genuine and not showy heroism, and emotional exactingness that was capable of withstanding insolent pushiness.

In this film there was a hard trick scene on water skis. A stuntman was supposed to perform it, but the film director decided to embolden Vitsin to do it himself. Together with the scriptwriter they fabricated a letter as if from a certain admirer Klava informing that she would be watching him, the bravest actor, flying on water skis. In the end the letter was giving a hint at a possibility of close personal acquaintance. Vitsin read the letter and agreed to perform the stunt; he played the scene in a brilliant way but after it he said to the happy film director: You could have invented a more interesting name for the girl.

Operation Y (1965)
Modest and sympathetic characters played by Vitsin evoked kindly feelings of viewers. At the same time the actor played in detective, historical and lyrical feature films. Film director Kozintsev was going to make of him a positive film hero with a touch of slight irony.

But there came about the second period of Vitsins acting the epoch of Troos (translated as Coward). His frail and slender figure appeared side by side with Byvaly (Experienced) played by Morgunov and Balbes (Booby) played by Nikulin, the satirical trio ridiculing vices of society. Each of these characters was a personification and generalization.

Vitsins Coward in the comedies Pyos Barbos i neobychainy kross (Dog Barbos and the Unusual Race) (1961), Samogonshchiki (Bootleggers) (1961), Operatsiya Y i drugiye priklyucheniya Shurika (Operation Y and Other Shurik's Adventures) (1965),

Kidnapping Caucassian Style (1966)
Kavkazskaya plennitsa, ili Novye priklyucheniya Shurika (Kidnapping Caucassian Style, or Shurik's New Adventures) (1966), Sem starikov i odna devushka (Seven Old Men and a Girl) (1968) was poetical, amative and hypochondriac, such an intellectual from a communal flat. All his later characters had the same features and were wearing the same mask, with his habitual sighs, distinctive gait and a stock of accessories, such as a briefcase, a tie, a bowler hat, and glasses.

Unexpectedly the actor appeared in the tragicomic role of a desperate criminal in the brilliant comedy Dzhentlmeny udachi (Gentlemen of Fortune) (1971). The sinister man with a barking voice and sentimental memories who attempts to hang himself in this image Vitsin managed not only to tackle modern issues but also to find new colours for developing his mask line.

Unfortunately he was not offered many roles with explosive background, like that of the father from the popular comedy Ne mozhet byt! (Impossible!) (1975). The master of eccentricity, grotesque, and sidesplitting transformation, Vitsin was used purely as a comic actor, though in this aspect he was also underestimated. Though this habitual mask hampered Vitsins creative quest, viewers remember numerous works of the talented comedy actor who created portraits of his indecisive characters with subtle irony and grotesque.

Balzaminov's Marriage (1965)
More than a hundred films featuring him are still watched and enjoyed by viewers. His unsurpassed characters go on making us laugh; among them is Balzaminov in Zhenitba Balzaminova (Balzaminov's Marriage) (1965) Tebenjkov in Opekun (Guardian) (1970), Khmyr/Sad Sack in Dzhentlmeny udachi (Gentlemen of Fortune) (1971), Tyutyurin in Neispravimyy lgun (Incorrigible Liar) (1973), Sir Andrew in Dvenadtsataya noch (Twelfth Night) (1955), Sam in Delovye lyudi (Business People) (1962) and certainly Coward in the perennial comedies by Leonid Gaidai.

Georgi Vitsin was a master of transformation. At the age of 48 he played the twenty-year old Misha Balzaminov, at 37 - the eighteen-year old Vasya Veshushkin in Zapasnoy igrok (The Reserve) (1954) and when he was only 36 he portrayed the old man Musij in Maksim Perepelitsa (1955).

For the Matches (1980)
For the last time Vitsin put on the mask of Coward in Yuri Kushneryovs film Komediya davno minuvshikh dney (Comedy of Bygone Days) (1980). The film director ventured to revive the legendary trio by uniting it with the no less famous Gaidais duet of Ostap Bender (Archil Gomiashvili) and Kisa Vorobyaninov (Sergei Filippov) from Twelve Chairs. Yet the result was rather poor: Nikulin at once rejected to partake in the project and the remaining splendid four though straining every nerve, did not contrive to do something out of nothing.

Georgi Vitsin played his last roles in 1994 in several films.

Apart from cinema, Georgi Vitsin was very much into dubbing animated cartoon films. Considering this aspect of creativity no less serious and important he approached his animated characters with Stanislavsky system.

Strange as it may seem, Vitsin who often played drunkards, was a total abstainer in real life. He did not smoke and practiced yoga all his life through. In those years hardly anyone in the USSR had clear understanding of what yoga was, while Vitsin practiced it on a regular and systematic basis.

In spite of the plenty of his characters Vitsins talent deserved something greater and he never played the major role of his life. Vitsin is awfully gifted and both of us together are not worth his finger, his partners Nikulin and Morgunov said about him.

During the last seven years of his life Georgi Vitsin did not act in films and appeared only in comic concerts of Theatre of Film Actor.

On 22 October 2001 the Peoples Artist of the Soviet Union passed away. Georgy Vitsin was laid to rest at Vagankovskoe Cemetery, Moscow.

In one of his last interviews Georgi Vitsin said: Do not fuss, people. Life takes so much time!

A monument to Georgi Vitsin was set up in Zelenogorsk in 2008 marking the towns 460th jubilee and the 90th anniversary since the actors birthday.

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