• 27 October 1899
  •  Moscow, Russian Empire [now Russia]

Mikhail Zharov


Mikhail Zharov was a popular Russian actor who starred in silent films, and enjoyed a stellar career, until he fell under suspicion during the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. He was born Mikhail Ivanovich Zharov on October 27, 1899, in Moscow, Russian Empire. His father was a printing press worker. Young Zharov was fond of theatre. In 1915, at the age of 16, Zharov was caught backstage while he was copying facial expressions and movements of the famous Russian opera actor Feodor Chaliapin Sr.. The administration could end Zharov's acting career, but Feodor Chaliapin Sr. himself asked Zharov to show what he was doing backstage, and was impressed with his acting skills, and encouraged young Zharov by presenting him with a signed photograph. From 1921-1925 he was a permanent member at the Theatre of Vsevolod Meyerhold. During the 1920s Zharov was also touring Russia with various troupes. From 1931-1938 he was a permanent member at Moscow Chamber Theatre of Aleksandr Tairov. In 1915, Zharov made his film debut in the silent film 'Ivan the Terrible' (1915). He played bit parts in several silent films during the 1920's. Zharov shot to fame after his role as gangster Zhigan in Road to Life (1931). Zharov's popularity grew with his work for directors Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg in the Maksim trilogy. In 1941, Zharov was awarded the Stalin's Prize for the supporting role as Menshikov in 'Conquests of Peter the Great. Parts One and Two'. He was awarded the second Stalin's Prize for his brilliant portrayal of the Russian historic figure Maluta Skuratov in Ivan the Terrible, Part I (1945), in which Zharov co-starred opposite Nikolay Cherkasov. From 1938-1981 Mikhail Zharov was a permanent member of the legendary troupe at Maly Academic Theatre in Moscow. There he worked on stage with such actors as Yelena Gogoleva, A. Yablochkina, Varvara Massalitinova, Varvara Ryzhova, Yevdokiya Turchaninova, Vera Pashennaya, Varvara Obukhova, Yelena Shatrova, Elina Bystritskaya, Rufina Nifontova, Tatyana Yeremeyeva, Aleksandr Yuzhin, Aleksandr Ostuzhev, Vladimir Davydov, Sergei Aidarov, Stepan Kuznetsov, Prov Sadovsky, Boris Ravenskikh, Boris Babochkin, Nikolai Annenkov, Mikhail Tsaryov, Igor Ilyinsky, Pavel Olenev, Mikhail Sadovsky, Konstantin Zubov, Viktor Khokhryakov, Vsevolod Aksyonov, Nikolai Ryzhov, Evgeniy Vesnik, Viktor Korshunov, Evgeniy Samoylov, Yuriy Solomin, and many other notable Russian actors. Zharov's stage performances were admired by such contemporaries as Vsevolod Meyerhold, Konstantin Stanislavsky, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, and Aleksandr Tairov, among many others. In 1952 Zharov's father-in-law was arrested on false accusations of a treason to kill Joseph Stalin. That plot was known as the "Doctors Affair" and was in fact designed by Joseph Stalin to intimidate the leading intellectuals of Russia. Mikhail Zharov's acting career was severely affected by the arrest of his father-in-law. Film directors were afraid to cast Zharov for several years after that. Theatre administration did not give him any new stage work. Zharov was made an outcast in the atmosphere of suspiciousness and political repressions during the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. 15 years after the death of Stalin, Zharov made a successful comeback. He starred as Aniskin in the popular film-trilogy which he also directed. Mikhail Zharov was designated People's Actor of the USSR and Russia. He starred in more than 20 films and played over 100 stage roles. He passed away on December 15, 1981, and was laid to rest in Novodevichy Convent Cemetery in Moscow, Russia.