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)

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

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little