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Lyubov Orlova, a national favorite
19.02.2015 12:26

Fyodor Shalyapin was the first who became admiring Lyubov Orlova. It happened during a New-Year’s children ball arranged by this great singer in his private house on Novinsky boulevard in Moscow in 1908. In the crowd of children, he rapturously noticed a little charming girl with big forehead, long blond curls, vivid eyes and delightedly lifted her in his arms. Lyubov was six years old. And after she played the role of Redka in a home musical comedy called Mushroom Turmoil, he shed laughing tears and became the very first who predicted her the fame of an actress. Shalyapin became so attached to little Lyubov and made friends with her that wrote poems and presented his self-portrait to her. There were a very few people who were so nicely treated by this great hot-tempered actor.

Stalin was the second person among the great ones of the earth who became admiring her after he saw comedy Jolly Fellows, where Lyubov Orlova played dairy woman and housemaid Anuta. It occurred in the Kremlin in 1934. Before this triumph, the actress had played only two bit parts and had been virtually unknown. Stalin foresightedly felt that she would become a cult figure for the multimillion country!

It is true that he had unerring taste to appreciate Pasternak or Bulgakov, patronize Eisenstein or alternatively reveal a danger from individualist Platonov. It was necessary to know the art to understand it… Two weeks later, after the first performance of the comedy in January 1935, the USSR celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Soviet cinematography. By signing a decree to award highest national decorations to movie celebrities S. Eisenstein, S. Yutkevich, L. Kouleshov..., Stalin firmly wrote Lyubov Orlova, who was actually a debutant, in this brilliant line.

However, the main hero of that legendary comedy Leonid Utesov, for whom personally this movie was made, received nothing but a photo camera.

And it turned out that the leader was right. A hundred years passed from her birthday, which is January 29 (February 11), 1902 and still nobody could have obscured Lyubov Orlova’s fame whereas this movie star was phenomenally popular while alive.

Only she would become a symbol of the maiden victory over the life in the country of hopes. Dairy woman Anuta or village letter carrier Dounya or housemaid Tanka becomes a Russian show star, or US circus star Marion Dixon or a wellknown weaver and a prominent physical scientist on the screen. Lyubov Orlova with such charming fervor of a singing movie star cinematically realized a Soviet fairy tale about Cinderella who became a princess in the world of labor and companions.

She was the first who cheerfully and ardently sang from the screen: Hello, country of heroes, country of dreamers, country of scientists.

It was her who perfectly implemented the party course: Those who were nothing will become everything.

Few people know that famous movie draggle-tail Cinderella, dairy woman, weaver, housemaid, or illiterate country girl actually came from the Orlovs, a legendary noble family. The very same Orlovs that were represented by Grigory Orlov, the famous favorite of Catherine the Great and the killer of two Russian Emperors Peter III and Paul II, and that she was a descendant of Vladimir the Great, saint baptizer of Kievan Rus and that her mother’ ancestry originates from Genghis Khan.

Lyubov Orlova got wonderful home education; she could fluently speak three languages, danced, played piano, and rode horses even in her childhood. A famous count and writer, as well as an intimate friend of their family presented to his distant female relative a book signed “To Lyubochka. L. Tolstoy”.

She had a beautiful character; governesses worshipped her. She intended to enter the conservatory but the 1917 revolution fiercely crossed out the destiny of this young countess. She had to start everything again.

However, this immediately impoverished noblewoman fearlessly started a battle for a new life... Voskresenk located near Moscow, her aunt’s house in the village of Svatovo (ex-estate of her mother), a milk cow being the only provider and Lyubov herself in the role of a real dairy woman. Milking in the cowshed and manure removal every evening, and shifting heavy milk cans with her bare hands, she tackled up and delivered milk to a Moscow market every morning.

By the way, her mother thought that everything was OK with them, i.e. no counts should be there and simple people should have all the power. It can be supposed that Lyubov Orlova inwardly felt the same way otherwise she would never become a favorite of the Soviet people. Meanwhile, this young girl wilfully pursued the goal set by her before the revolution; she wanted to live with the art only. After all, she entered the conservatory; however, she did not graduated from it; well, she passed exams in the choreography department of a theatrical college; concurrently, she took lessons of stagecraft, and started earning money not by selling milk but using her talent to play piano. She became a piano player in Moscow movie theaters showing silent movies to the accompaniment of light music.

In the decisive 1926, she was 24 and Orlova’s spirit got strengthened; her soul tempered and she blossomed with singular beauty of a young noble woman captured by new living circumstances. She acquired charm and style. Soon, the first man in her life appeared in her life. It was Andrey Berzin, Deputy People’s Commissar of Agriculture, a perspective functionary being a member of a small circle of party and state elite. However, years intimacy to supreme authorities was a risky profession those years; as early as three years after, her successful husband was arrested in the matter of the Labor Peasant Party and Lyubov Orlova suddenly became a free woman again. That year, she was an actress in the choir and corps de ballet of the Musical Studio, Moscow Art Theater, headed by Nemirovich-Danchenko. Her husband’s arrest did not break the spirit of this beauty with big forehead. She promptly found a new protector. It was some Franz, an Austrian businessman, the most mysterious figure in her life. The open marriage of this actress was ready to take its official form but a meeting with Grigory Alexandrov, the main person in her destiny, changed all the plans.

In those days, Alexandrov, movie director and follower of Eisenstein, with whom he worked in America when shooting the movie Long Live Mexico! came back to Russia and looked for the lead character in the comedy Jolly Fellows. He had been looking for a long time and unsuccessfully so far. Alexandrov tried to find not only an actress and Leonid Utesov’ partner but a Soviet Holywood-type movie star similar to Lillian Gish or Mary Pickford. A talent, beauty, and figure were not enough; he was looking for a charismatic actress. And finally he found!

A tip was given by painter Peter Williams, who recommended debutant Lyubov Orlova cheerfully playing her first lead role - Pericola in the same-name operetta by Jacques Offenbach. Alexandrov yielded to the advice. It was a marvelous spring evening; the theater was full; nothing predicted a complete turn of the tide, and blond Anyuta suddenly appeared on the stage. His dream from an unmade movie.

It was love at first sight.

The married couple worshipped each other till their end.

How this beginning actress conquered the public, Moscow, Stalin, and finally the entire nation? It seems that she succeeded in forming an image of the Soviet country like her competitress Marlene Dietrich succeeded in forming an image of the German Reich. The foundation of the USSR and the emergence of new Germany in the 1930ies predicted no threat. Alternatively, these two states were full of social optimism, a spirit of revenge, and these two great temperamental blondes came to the captain’s bridges of two dawning empires. It was the key word– dawn! Lyubov Orlova was a muse of blossom, faith in the fortunate future that was near at hand. She played on the screen with the same energy as a sports banner waved in the wind and shined by the sunlight.

Thousands of Soviet people living arduous life full of labor and misery saw the main feature in her. It turned out that national interests could become the objective of every person. Jolly Fellows, Circus, Volga-Volga, Shining Path, Springtime, Meeting on Elba…

This is the star way of her glory, gold classics of the Soviet cinematic art, and hits of the times.

However, repressions and war eventually damaged her bright path to the future. The life turned out to be more terrible than it could be expected.

Though the screen still showed optimistic pictures of grain flows and Dnieper Hydroelectric Station’s waterfalla, the actress remained alone with her screen fortune and was very nearly in the background of the cinematic art in the early 1960ies. The bitterest failure met Director Alexandrov and actress Orlova, husband and wife in the movie Russian Souvenir. She played Barbara (Varya Komarova), played in external formal parties, and the movie itself turned out to be so stilted, outdated and empty… these impressions were suddenly supplemented by the following fact: Orlova stopped getting old; she looked unnaturally young and it was a paradox that such youthfulness did not suit her at all. The actress made enormous efforts to fight her age. It was a new experience for our country since nearly thirty years were to pass before the cult of fitness and biologically active supplements.

Orlova looked much younger in her next movie, Starling and Lyre (club showcase)… The movie never appeared on the screen.

Her glory remained phenomenal. Millions of photos with her beautiful smile decorated poor apartments. The movie star continued irradiating optimism and mutely sang those resonant beamy words: “We are always right in our ventures …” Laureate of the Stalin awards. People’s artist of the USSR One Order of Lenin, two Orders of the Red Banner of Labor. Even a Medal for the Defense of Caucasus … Husband and wife spent their last days in a close atmosphere, alone with each other. Orlova, like Marlene Dietrich, tried to conceal her old age in public. Alexandrov outlived Lyubov Orlova (1902-1975); the director dedicated his last movie Lyubov Orlova, which he finished shortly before his death in 1983, to the star and his friend. Well, draggle-tail Cinderella, showed her iron nature multiplied by the fortunate destiny of Orlovs and succeeded in becoming a beloved princess of the entire USSR. Were you nothing? You will become everything! And the Goddess of Success became a piano player in her life.

The movie star still had her face young but she always hided her hands, hands of a pianist mutilated by milk cans. It was a secret condition for all filming processes – nobody should see her hands in close-up views on the screen.

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Comments(20)

01.04.18 13:19
Lyubov Orlova wasn't descended from the ledendary Orlov favorites, nor had she anything to do with Rurik!

Lyubov Orlova didn't belong to neither Russian aristocracy, not Russian gentry. Her family can be by modern terms classified as 'middle-class', or maybe 'upper-middle class'. She was the second generation 'noble' in her family. It was her father who was first ennobled via the civil service. Her ancestry were clergy turned medical professionals. And it's for her mother, who was the daughter of a general, who provided any economic stability. She never had much trouble with her background for the reason that her background was actually quite moderate and average, similar to, say, Lenin. The only Soviet actor who had real trouble making it in the Soviet society because of his background was Petr Velyaminov - the only descendant of actual Russian aristocracy amongst Soviet actors. But he spent 9 years in labor camps before his acting career.
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