In the duet, Shuidin played a cunning, and Nikulin played a simpleton who suffered from his tricks. Photo: Yuri SOMOV / RIA Novosti
The duet Yuri Nikulin – Mikhail Shuidin was one of the brightest in the USSR circus. Together they performed for more than 30 years. August 24 – exactly 40 years since the death of Mikhail Ivanovich.
Zoshchenko against the Nazis
Misha Shuydin was born in 1922 in the Tula region in the family of a shepherd. Since childhood, the boy was fascinated by the circus: he dreamed of becoming a gymnast and studied at a circus school. But his plans, like those of millions of other Soviets, were thrown into confusion by the war. Shuidin went to the army. He graduated from a tank school with the rank of lieutenant and went to the front, where he was entrusted with command of a company.
The artist recalled one case: somehow he and his comrades held a bridgehead near the Belarusian city of Smorgon. Help did not have time to arrive, and the enemy was concentrating forces to attack under cover of darkness. But time passed and there was still no attack. And there help arrived in time for ours. Why didn’t the Germans attack because the forces were unequal? The answer was given by one of the prisoners. It turns out that the Germans listened to the negotiations of our tankers all night, and there Shuydin read Zoshchenko’s stories by heart. The soldiers laughed at every sentence. Hearing this joyous laughter, the Germans did not dare to attack; they thought the Russians were strong enough to counterattack…
Among the artist’s awards are two front-line orders: the Red Banner and the Red Star. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Thirteen times Shuiding burned in the tank! Burns remained forever on the face and hands, the fingers lost their mobility. But Shuidin did not give up: he began to develop stiff joints and managed to eliminate the disability.
For his exploits, Mikhail was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Documents collected for the award. But one of the higher ranks engulfed them: he decided that the soldier and the Order of the Red Banner would be enough.
The former tanker had to give up his career as a gymnast: injuries did not allow him to perform complex acrobatic elements. But Shuidin was not going to give up the circus dream. He decided to become a clown. He later explained: “During the war years, people saw a lot of pain, I wanted to bring them joy.”
After the war, Mikhail took part in circuses. He performed in hastily assembled art brigades, read humorous stories, and then, quickly putting on make-up, clowned around. Fortunately, he quickly realized that such a trick would kill the artist in him and decided to enter the studio of the famous clown Pencil (Mikhail Rumyantsev).
A wonderful clown lived a rich, but not too long life – 60 years. Photo: Valentin CHERDANTSEV/TASS
In the circus studio, Shuidin met Nikulin. The pencil matched them.
With Rumyantsev, the clowns traveled throughout the USSR and gained experience. Mikhail’s pencil praised: “And Shuidin is well done, juicy!” Or he commented: “Here is Shuidin, a serious man. He really feels the circus.”
But one day Shuidin decided to leave the star mentor: it was not easy to work with him, he was burdened with material difficulties (he did not increase his stake in any way) and did not want to go to the eternal disciples. After Shuidin, Nikulin also left. Soon their famous duet was born, in which Shuidin acted as some kind of cunning, provocative clown, and Nikulin as a simpleton who was caught for all this …
Mikhail and Yuri came up with all the repetitions together. But when Nikulin began to act in films, he quickly became popular. The audience flocked to the circus “to the movie star” and received his appearance in the arena with a standing ovation. After the performances, enthusiastic spectators poured into the dressing room, which the artists shared for two, and showered Nikulin with praise. He immediately introduced his couple to the guests, but the attention was clearly not evenly distributed.
Nikulin’s salary was higher, in 1963 he was awarded the title of Honored Artist. Shuidin – only in 1969, thanks to the efforts of a partner. Of course, such uneven fame couldn’t hurt.
In 1981, Yuri Nikulin left the arena. He believed that a clown cannot be pathetic and that an old man in an arena is a pathetic sight. Having celebrated his 60th birthday, he ended his career as an artist, but became a circus manager and then a director. Mikhail Ivanovich could not afford to leave the arena so easily, even though he was only a year younger than Nikulin. He continued to enter the arena without a famous partner: he was replaced by Shuidin’s son Vyacheslav. True, the new duet did not perform in Moscow, perhaps to avoid comparisons.
Shuidin found it more and more difficult to act, in addition to age, lung disease made itself felt. Cancer developed. In the summer of 1983, Mikhail Shuidin entered the arena for the last time, and a few days later he died. Not a single newspaper wrote about the death of a clown…
Yuri Nikulin – a front-line soldier is his
– I met Misha in 1949, – said Yuri Nikulin in one of the documentaries. – When we met, they were not even boys. It seems to me that I was 23 years old then, I had already finished my studies, I went through the war, visited the hospital. He approached and asked: “Listen, here you are in the Pencil group, I am going to give you an exam. How is he? Do you recommend going to him? I say: you will be fine, thank God. It will be bad, you say, Nikulin advised. He had a special relationship with Michael. He also fought, like me, against a front line soldier. In the early years, it seemed like he was there. I trusted him a lot and I was not wrong. We worked with him for a long time in the arena. When I left, he was sad. He already worked with his children, he passed on his experience to them, he dreamed of freeing the boys in all his splendor. But he didn’t measure up…
AND THERE WAS A CASE
“Whoever touches his nose, I’ll kill you!”
Once, while on tour in Saratov, Shuidin decided to find out which clown nose would suit him best. He blinded several different noses at once. He made them with gauze, moistening it until it formed a paste. He set the finished noses to dry on the radiator in his dressing room.
At the end of the night, the noses… disappeared. They suspected that the cleaner suddenly threw it away? When it turned out that she was not involved, Mikhail became suspicious of his colleagues. But they swore they didn’t touch their noses. On the second day, Shuidin reshaped several noses and let them dry. The noses disappeared again. Shuidin began to suspect a conspiracy. On the third day he blinded him again, put him out to dry and threatened: “I’m going to see who touches their noses, I’ll kill them!”
When, during the rehearsal, he ran to the dressing room for props, he saw how the dog Karandash Klyaks gnawed his last nose with appetite …
The constant companion of the clown Pencil was a dog – a Scottish terrier named Klyaksa. Photo: Yuri SOMOV / RIA Novosti
Everyone laughed at this story for a long time, and especially the Pencil.
– You probably had good noses, Shuidin, since Blot liked them.
Teresa Durova, People’s Artist of the Russian Federation, director, artistic director of the Teresa Durova Theater:
Envy is not about him!
– My parents were friends with Mikhail Ivanovich, and I, like a circus boy, witnessed this friendship. We also coincide with him in some programs of the tour.
In the minds of the people who came to the circus, Nikulin and Shuidin are inextricably linked, they were equal partners in the arena, a real duet.
Uncle Misha was a very calm, simple, kind, intelligent and gentle person. Shuydin received the share of success and fame from him. All this nonsense about envy has nothing to do with him at all. He went through the war, he is a fighter, he knows what is important in life and what is secondary.
He had hands of gold! Often he made the accessories himself.
– They say he drank?
– I know drunk artists, alcoholics. Trust me, Shuidin was never one of them. He could sit, drink for company, but drink? No!