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“It’s a pity that he is not an actor …”: how Vladimir Basov brought Oleg Yankovsky to the cinema

Date: June 5, 2023 Time: 02:41:18

55 years ago, the four-episode Soviet military historical film “Shield and Sword” was supposed to be released on the screens.

Photo: frame of the film.

The premiere was scheduled to date. In December 1967, the 50th anniversary of the USSR State Security agencies was celebrated. But the “Danish” picture about the exploits of Soviet intelligence officers during the Great Patriotic War could not be completed for the anniversary of the special services. The film was released only in August-September 1968. Because of this, the director Vladimir Basov was almost suspended from work, the tape was repeatedly promised to be discontinued, and the film crew was reprimanded.

Vladimir Basov was considered a “fast” director, but at that time he was in no hurry. He understood that the race to fulfill the plan is plagued by poor quality of the final result. It is necessary to shoot a film about the war carefully and thoroughly. He wanted to make not just an action-packed detective, but a psychological and analytical picture, and he did it.

When “Shield and Sword” was released, the film instantly won the hearts of the audience and entered the top ten in the history of Soviet film distribution. Although belatedly, the image was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the USSR KGB Foreign Intelligence Service. According to Stanislav Lyubshin, who played the main role, the film about intelligence officers impressed the then young Vladimir Putin and influenced his choice of profession.

Stanislav Lyubshin

Photo: frame of the film.

The prototype of the protagonist Johann Weiss (Alexander Belov), according to one version, was a veteran of Soviet intelligence Alexander Svyatogorov – “Zorich”. During the war years, he worked in the rear, was introduced to the German intelligence school, obtained information on Wehrmacht spies working in the Soviet Union. According to another version, the image of Alexander Belov was inspired by the story of the intelligence officer Rudolf Abel, whose fictitious surname is hinted at in the name: “A. Belov.

Vladimir Basov was looking for an actor who would not look like a scout. An inconspicuous, seemingly ordinary person. He wanted to avoid clichés, especially regarding the caricature of the enemy. Quickly, he made his choice – Stanislav Lyubshin. In his performance, Johann Weiss was not a superman or a poster hero, like, for example, Major Alexei Fedotov, alias Heinrich Eckert, played by Pavel Kadochnikov in The Explorer’s Feat. But it was precisely this routine that Lyubshin did not like Goskino – the actor seemed too mundane and unattractive. Basov then turned to intelligence veterans who were advisers on the film and convinced the film directors that an inconspicuous appearance, without any special signs, was exactly what was required.

Oleg Yankovsky

Photo: frame of the film.

The role of SS officer Heinrich Schwarzkopf was Oleg Yankovsky’s film debut. Basov accidentally saw the then “not fired” Yankovsky in Lvov, where the shooting took place. In the hotel cafeteria, he saw a young man sitting at a nearby table. He told the assistant, they say, such an expressive face, this would be perfect for Heinrich. Too bad he’s not an actor…

It turned out that a handsome young man is an artist of the Saratov theater who came to Lviv on tour. And his name is Oleg Yankovsky. “In his youthful habit, the charm of comfort conquered. Further biography of him showed that the choice was accurate, the Artist came, ”Basov will tell later. But at first, Yankovsky had theatrical clichés. He approached Basov: “Vladimir Pavlovich, what is my most important task here?” “Oleg,” Basov replied, “you play a piece. I myself will paste the most important task.

vladimir basov

Photo: frame of the film.

Filming took place in Latvia, the GDR and Poland, in the Mosfilm pavilions. Fortunately, in Berlin at that time there was a large-scale demolition of old buildings – the streets of the German capital turned into a realistic setting of the city destroyed by war. Filming on location took place in Kaliningrad (according to the script, Weiss is repatriated from Riga to Königsberg). Several iconic objects fell into the frame: the Kaliningrad South Station, the post office building, the ruins of the elevator, the ruins of the Reichsbank, the Unfried wing of the Koenigsberg castle.

The painting “Shield and Sword” is already 55 years old. Recently, Mosfilm specialists restored it. The new digitized image is sharper, sharper, free of streaks and clutter. You can only enjoy.

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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