LYUDMILA Tselikovskaya made an unforgettable impression as Tsarina Anastasia in Ivan the Terrible (1945), the classic film made by the giant of Russian cinema Sergei Eisenstein. But she also attracted crowds to screen comedies during the gloomy years of the Second World War.
Tselikovskaya graduated from the Boris Shchiukin Theatre School in June 1941, three weeks before the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Almost at once, her striking appearence attracted several directors, including Eisenstein. Although she had taken small parts while still a student her real screen debut came in Alexander Ivanovsky's Anton Ivanovich is Getting Angry (1941). She scored an instant and huge success. By word of mouth - Stalin's Moscow administration had disconnected all private telephones - it became known that here was a new and extremely pretty actress. Under heavy German bombardment, hungry and frozen people - that winter in Moscow the temperature reached -33C - massive crowds went to see the film.
But Tselikovskaya really made her name after the war, in the autumn of 1945, with the release of the comedy Four Hearts, directed by Konstantin Yudin. The film had been finished by the end of 1941 but, with German troops just 20 kilometres from the Kremlin, all cinemas were closed down and nearly the whole of the film industry was evacuated to Kazakhstan and part of it to the Urals. The first screening was delayed until 1945, and Four Hearts continued to be a huge box-office success for the next three years and is now regarded as a Soviet classic.
Her appearance in Ivan the Terrible in the part of Ivan's favourite wife, Anastasia, proved that her talent was not limited to comedy. The premiere of the first part of the film was held while the war was still on, in January 1945. But the second part was banned in 1946 because Stalin did not like the negative portrayal of Ivan's secret police, driving Eisenstein to distraction. He died in 1948, aged 50, without seeing it screened. The second part was not shown in the Soviet Union until 1958, five years after Stalin's death in 1953.
After the war Tselikovskaya was invited to join the prestigious Yevgeny Vakhtangov Theatre, and appeared in many films, but it took her 10 years to make her next noted film, Poprygunya, based on a short story by Anton Chekhov, which marked the debut of the director Samson Samsonov. It received a prize at the 1955 Venice Film Festival.
Tselikovskaya's personal charm, vitality and beauty attracted many powerful men to her. Both Stalin and Khrushchev had all her films in their private collections and used them to entertain Western politicians and diplomats. She appeared occasionally in television films in the Brezhnev era, and established herself on the stage, but her film career was largely finished with Stalin.
She lived alone, completely forgotten and half-blind in her flat in Moscow and was rediscovered by the Russian press only after her death. Several film clubs are now preparing a festival of her films to be held at the end of this year.