Mikhail Romm is remembered by everyone who ever worked with him – actors, camera operators, screenwriters – with tenderness and affection. He mentored some marvelous actors and earned a place of honor in the history of Russian cinema. Yet when we look closely at the details of this remarkable director’s biography, it is hard not to wonder how differently his life and work might have turned out had it not been for the exigencies of Russian and Soviet history.
Romm was born in Irkutsk, Siberia in 1901. This first basic biographical fact is telling in and of itself: his parents, educated Jews, were exiled there after his father was arrested for disseminating illegal literature. Sixteen years after Mikhail was born, the regime his parents opposed fell. Given his family background, his attitude toward tsarism and the revolution was more or less predetermined.
As Mikhail would later relate, not only was his father a man who wouldn’t hurt a fly – he even liberated those unfortunate enough to land on the sticky tape commonly hung in apartments to trap these buzzing disease vectors. And not only did he liberate them, but he cleaned their tiny feet first.
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The poet Boris Slutsky generated debate with a 1959 tongue-in-cheek poem about the ascent of physicists over poets.
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