On February 2, 1946, a banquet was held at Moscow’s House of Film, honoring Stalin Prize laureates. The preeminent Soviet film director, Sergei Eisenstein, who had just turned 48, was among the most feted artists in attendance. He had just completed (in December 1945) the long-awaited Part Two of his three-part epic film, Ivan the Terrible. It was for the enormously successful Part One of Ivan the Terrible that Eisenstein had been awarded his Stalin Prize.
It was a night of regalia for the energetic director, whose film triumphs stretched back twenty years to the Golden Age of early Soviet film — his 1925 film Battleship Potemkin is still widely regarded as one of the ten best films of all time. Eisenstein asked the famous actress Vera Maretskaya to dance, then collapsed on the dance floor from a severe heart attack.
Eisenstein’s heart had long been known to be weak. Two decades of Stalin’s manipulation of the arts had taken their toll. Nonetheless, Eisenstein survived the heart attack and undertook a long overdue period of recuperation (he would write in his memoirs that this period of forced rest allowed him, for the first time in his 48 years, to stop and take stock of his life, realizing that he had been so busy rushing to and fro, that he had not really fully tasted any of it).
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