Mikheil Gelovani

Mikheil Gelovani

Birth
Russia
Death 21 Dec 1956 (aged 64)
Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia
Burial Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia
Plot Section 3, Row 58
Memorial ID 65481618 · View Source
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Actor. A respected performer in his native Russian Georgia, he became an unlikely Soviet movie star portraying Josef Stalin in propaganda epics of the 1940s and early 1950s. Mikheil Georgievich Gelovani was born in the Kutaisi Province, a hereditary Georgian prince of the ancient Gelovani family. In 1913 he made his debut with a local theatre troupe and after World War I was based in the capital city of Tbilisi, appearing onstage and (after 1924) in films for regional audiences. He directed four of the latter, including "The Power of Evil" (1928). A versatile thespian with a fine baritone voice, his repertory ranged from the literary classics to musical comedy. In 1937, Gelovani travelled to Moscow to appear as Stalin in Nikolai Pogodin's new play "The Man with a Gun" at the Vakhtangov Theatre. It was a risky assigment to say the least. No Soviet actor had attempted to impersonate the dictator before, and Stalin was reputed to have had several painters shot for portraits he felt were unflattering. The play was a hit and Gelovani reprised the role in its 1939 film adaptation, as well as in the film "They Wanted Peace" (1938). Stalin was so pleased with these portrayals he ordered that Gelovani was to play no one but him onscreen. It's easy to see why: the actor was tall, magnetic, and exuded command and charm, attributes the USSR leader notably lacked. Gelovani wisely made no attempt to copy his subject from life - his Stalin was idealized, all-knowing and quietly, almost mystically benevolent. His performances were key to perpetuating Stalin's personality cult for the Soviet public and the idolatry reached crazed lengths in such tendentious films as "The Fall of Berlin" (1949) and "The Unforgettable Year 1919" (1950). Among his 10 other credits in the role were "The Vyborg Side" (1939), "Lenin in 1918" (1939), "Wings of Victory" (1941), "The Defense of Tsaritsyn" (1942), "The Oath" (1946), and "The Fires of Baku" (1950). As long as he had the gig Gelovani enjoyed prestige and privilege. He received four Stalin Prizes between 1941 and 1949 and was named People's Artist of the USSR in 1950. A place was even found for him in the exclusive company of the Moscow Art Theatre (1942 to 1948), where he won note as Vaska in Gorky's drama "The Lower Depths". But when Stalin died in March 1953, Gelovani's career went with him. He was never allowed to work in cinema again, and with Khrushchev's de-Stalinization drives of the mid-1950s all the actor's scenes as Stalin were deleted from his films. He died in obscurity in Moscow, ironically on Stalin's birthday. In the early 2000s Russian film historians began restoring Gelovani's long-unavailable work.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 10 Feb 2011
  • Find a Grave Memorial 65481618
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Mikheil Gelovani (6 Jan 1892–21 Dec 1956), Find a Grave Memorial no. 65481618, citing Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia ; Maintained by Find A Grave .