Obituary: Innokenti Smoktunovsky

Innokenti Mikhailovich Smoktunovsky, actor: born Tatianovka, Tomsk Oblast, Siberia 28 March 1925; married (one son, one daughter); died Moscow 3 August 1994.

INNOKENTI Smoktunovsky was a great actor, both on stage and in the cinema; he was a national figure in Russia and the former Soviet Union for the past 30 years and won an international reputation for his unforgettable performance in the title-role of Grigory Kozintsev's film version of Hamlet (1964).

Smoktunovsky was born the son of a worker in the tiny village of Tatianovka, in Tomsk Oblast, Siberia. He grew up in the industrial city of Krasnoyarsk. At the age of 17, he was mobilised into the army, and sent to the front straight from the infantry school in Kiev. It was 1943, and the Germans were being driven back towards the borders of the Soviet Union. Smoktunovksy was taken prisoner but escaped and joined a local partisan group with which he ended the war in Berlin.

For one year Smoktunovsky worked in Yenisei, the river port for Krasnoyarsk, while studying acting at the studio attached to the Pushkin theatre in Krasnoyarsk. He then performed in various theatres in the far north, including Norilsk, the coldest city in the world and capital of the Gulag empire of Soviet prison camps in the 1930s and post-war years. He worked all over the country from Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, to Moscow, and from 1957 to 1960 appeared at the Gorky Drama Bolshoi Theatre in Leningrad. He won initial celebrity for his performance in the role of Prince Myshkin in a production of The Idiot, after Dostoevsky.

At this point Smoktunovsky was discovered by the Russian film industry. He achieved a breakthrough in 1960, when he appeared opposite the great star Tatiana Samoilova in The Unposted Letter, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. It was a sensational film because of the remarkable photography of the celebrated cameraman Sergei Urusevsky. The following year he appeared in Nine Days in One Year, directed by Mikhail Romm, a fresh modern film about the relationship between a man and a woman, which was liked by both the critics and the public.

The film - whose production was made possible so soon after Stalin's death, and after a long period of stagnation in Russian films, because it coincided with Nikita Khrushchev's so-called 'thaw' - attracted large audiences to Moscow cinemas and sparked heated discussion in the Soviet press. Over the succeeding 30 years Smoktunovsky played in 80 feature and television films.

Shortly after the Russian release of Hamlet, Kozintsev, accompanied by Smoktunovsky, showed the film at the British Film Institute, in London, during a well-received season of Soviet films, and in 1965 it received the Lenin Prize. Smoktunovsky made two highly successful film appearances in 1970 - as Porfiri Petrovich in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, directed by Lev Kulidzhanov, and in the name part of Igor Talankin's Tchaikovsky. His partner in the latter was the prima ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, who played Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky's correspondent and patroness. The score was provided by Plisetskaya's composer husband Roman Shchedrin. Tchaikovsky was shown at the San Sebastian Film Festival in the same year and received a prize.

Smoktunovsky played the title- role in the film Uncle Vanya (1971), directed by Andron Mikhalkov- Konchalovsky, and worked with Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky again in 1975 in A Lovers' Romance. But he never left the theatre. His most successful part was that of Tsar Fedor in the 1973 production of Tsar Fedor Ioannovich at the Maly Theatre, Moscow. From 1976 Smoktunovsky worked at MKHAT - the Moscow Art Theatre, the best theatre in the


Several books on Smoktunovsky have been published, in Russia, in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. In 1973 the actor- director Sergei Bondarchuk wrote a substantial article in the important monthly magazine Isskustvo Kino about filming on location and playing Doctor Astrov opposite Smoktunovsky in Uncle Vanya; the article was later republished as a small book.

In the 1970s and 1980s Smoktunovsky appeared frequently on television, often relating stories of how, in the years after the Second World War, he was turned down by virtually every theatre he approached for work because of his 'lack of talent'.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas