- 23 January 1903
- Yekaterinburg, Russian Empire [now Russia]
Grigori Aleksandrov was a Soviet-Russian filmmaker best known as director of Volga Volga (1938), Tsirk (1936), and October (Ten Days that Shook the World) (1928), as well as co-star in Battleship Potemkin (1925) by director Sergei M. Eisenstein. He was born Grigori Vasilyevich Mormonenko on January 23, 1903 in Ekaterinburg, Russia. His father, Vasili Mormonenko, was a worker. Young Aleksandrov was obsessed with acting and movies. At the age of 9 he was hired as a delivery boy at the Ekaterinburg Opera; there he eventually worked as an assistant dresser, electrician, decorator, and assistant director. He studied violin and piano at the Ekaterinburg School of Music, graduating in 1917. During the Russian Civil War of 1917-1920, he was road manager with the Theatre of Eastern Front of the Red Army. After the Civil War he graduated from the Directors Courses for Proletariat Theatre in Ekaterinburg, and was appointed Inspector of Arts at the Ekaterinburg Regional Administration. His job was to supervise theaters and to select films in compliance with the new ideology. Aleksandrov met Eisenstein in 1921. They worked together on several stage productions in 1921-24. In 1923 Aleksandrov appeared as Glumov in a stage production of A. Ostrovsky's play at the Moscow Proletkult Theatre, directed by Eisenstein. They worked together on the scenario of their first films: 'Stachka' (1924) and 'Bronenosets Potemkin' (1925). They wrote and directed 'Oktyabr' (1927), a historical film made to look like a documentary about the Russian revolution. In 1929-1933 both Aleksandrov and Eisenstein were sent to study and work in Hollywood. Back in the Soviet Union Aleksandrov made a short documentary film titled 'International' (1932). In 1933 Aleksandrov had a meeting with Joseph Stalin and Maxim Gorky at the Gorky's State Dacha near Moscow. Stalin offered the oportunity to Aleksandrov to make a musical comedy for the Soviet people. 'Veselye Rebyata' (aka.. Jolly fellows) was completed in 1934, starring Leonid Utyosov and Lyubov Orlova. 'Veselye Rebyata' became the #1 box office hit in Russia and was awarded at the Venice Film Festival. Leonid Utyosov and Lyubov Orlova became instant celebrities, and songs by composer Isaak Dunayevsky became popular hits in the Soviet Union. Aleksandrov directed and edited the documentary of Stalin's speech about the Soviet constitution, titled 'Doklad tov. Stalina o proekte Konstitutsii SSSR na VIII Chresvychaynom S'ezde Sovetov' (1937). After that Aleksandrov returned to making comedies. Aleksandrov's wife, Lyubov Orlova, starred in almost all of his feature films, such as 'Tsirk' (1936), 'Volga-Volga' (1938), 'Svetly Put' (1940), 'Vesna' (1947) among his other films. His 1930s comedies remained rather popular among several generations of viewers in the Soviet Union, as well as internationally. In 1942 Joseph Stalin sent a copy of Volga Volga (1938) to American president Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, Aleksandrov's success came at a painful price, as he suffered from many attacks by some less fortunate and envious filmmakers, as well as from blackmailing by invisible and anonymous enemy. In 1938 Aleksandrov's colleagues, cinematographer Vladimir Nilsen, and producer Boris Shumyatskiy, were executed by the firing squad for anti-government activities. At the same time both Aleksandrov and Orlova were falsely accused of spying for the Nazi Germany, but were cleared of all charges. During the 1950s he taught directing at State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). His last films had little success, and some, like 'Skvorets i lira' (1973) were not even released in theaters. Aleksandrov also made a few documentaries, including one about Lenin, and one about his wife, star actress Lyubov Orlova. Grigori Aleksandrov received the Stalin's Prize twice (1941, 1950), the Order of Lenin twice (1939, 1950), the Order of Red Star (1938), and the Order of the Red Banner twice (1963, 1967). He was designated People's Actor of the USSR. Grigori Aleksandrov died of kidney infection on December 16, 1983, at the Kremlin Hospital in Moscow, and was laid to rest next to his wife, Lyubov Orlova in Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow, Russia.