March 09, 2019

Vladimir Etush: On Stage for Seven Decades

Vladimir Etush: On Stage for Seven Decades

Vladimir Etush, whose career spanned from 1944 and ended only this year, passed away in Moscow on March 9. At 96, he was probably Russia's oldest working actor before the Vakhtangov Theater cancelled Benefis, the show where he played a central role (which included dressing up as a woman), due to the actor's health problems.

A decorated WWII veteran, Etush recalled how he was labelled the son of an "enemy of the people," following the arrest of his father when he was a teenager. Thankfully, his father was released after a year and a half in prison. Etush began working in the Vakhtangov Theatre in 1945, where he became known for his knack for tragicomedy and the grotesque.

The actor became nationally famous after the film Kidnapping, Caucasus-Style (Кавказская пленница), where he played Comrade Saakhov, a local communist functionary who wants to marry Nina, a young tourist in the Caucasus.

Famous scene where Etush, in the role of Saakhov, argues over dowry for Nina with Nina's uncle Dzhabrail played by Frunzik Mkrtchyan.

His role in the film Ivan Vassilyevich: Back to the Future (Иван Васильевич меняет профессию) also inspired dozens of one-liners in Soviet society. He played Anton Shpak, a dentist living next to a flat that has accidentally teleported Ivan the Terrible from the 16th century to the present day.

Etush in the role of Anton Shpak, who for the entire movie tries to seek justice after burglars clear out his apartment.

Etush played over 30 movie roles, also teaching at the Shchukin Theater Institute in Moscow. His achievement on the stage was honored in 2017 when he received a prestigious Golden Mask award for his lifelong input into the art. He also was given the highest state honors both in the Soviet Union and Russia.

Vladimir Etush in his last role in Benefis, in which a retired fireman suddenly finds himself on stage in the role of an elderly family matriarch. The theater decided to stage it in order to give Etush the opportunity to continue working.

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