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People’s Artist of the RSFSR passed away on December 12. He was 85 years old. We recall important milestones in the creative biography of Valentin Gaft.

Valentin Gaft was born in 1935 in Moscow. He decided to become an artist as a child and enjoyed playing in school plays. Parents – military lawyer Joseph Ruvimovich and housewife Gita Davidovna – dreamed of a different future for their son, but he decided everything himself. After graduating from school, the young man secretly submitted documents at once to two theatrical universities – the Moscow Art Theater School and the Shchukin School.

The first steps

Shortly before the start of the exams, the applicant met Sergei Stolyarov on the street – a real movie star of that time, whose image was immortalized by Vera Mukhina in the sculptural composition “Worker and Collective Farm Woman”. In the year when Gaft was born, Stolyarov starred in one of the main roles in Grigory Alexandrov’s “Circus”, and in 1952, when this meeting took place, he got the main role in the film “Sadko” Stolyarov’s work was noted by the jury of the Venice Film Festival). You can imagine how busy the actor was, but nevertheless he not only found a moment to talk to an unfamiliar boy who called out to him on the street, but also agreed to listen to him and give some advice on preparing for admission.

Stolyarov’s advice was not in vain – Valentin Iosifovich entered the Moscow Art Theater School on the first try, having brilliantly passed the entrance tests. After graduating in 1957, he joined the troupe of the Mossovet Theater, where he worked for a short time, playing small roles in the performances Lizzie McKay, Cornelia and The Profitable Bridegroom. Later he moved to the Moscow Drama Theater (now the Theater on Malaya Bronnaya), where he worked until the mid-1960s.

According to the actor himself, the real work for him began at the Lenin Komsomol Theater (now – “Lenkom” by Mark Zakharov) under the leadership of Anatoly Efros. In 1965, Gaft was involved in Efros’s play “104 Pages About Love” and played one of the main roles – the scientist Electron Evdokimov.

Main roles on stage

The main theater in Gaft’s life was Sovremennik, where he came in 1970. The last premiere with his participation took place there in 2013 – the artist played Weller Martin in Galina Volchek’s play “The Game of Gin” based on the work of Donald Lee Coburn.

Among the main roles of Valentin Gaft in Sovremennik are Gusev in Valentina and Valentina by Valery Fokin (1971), Glumov in Balalaikin and Co. by Georgy Tovstonogov (1973), Firs in The Cherry Orchard by Galina Volchek (1976), Ludovik XIV in Igor Kvasha’s Cabal of Saints (1981), mayor in Fokin’s The Inspector General (1983), Higgins in Pygmalion by Galina Volchek (1994). In 2009, Roman Viktyuk staged the play “Gaft’s Dream Retold by Viktyuk” at Sovremennik. It was based on the play by Valentin Gaft, and the author played one of the main roles.

Balalaikin and Co. How Georgy Tovstonogov staged a play in Moscow

In 2001, Valentin Gaft made his debut on the stage of Sovremennik as a director – together with Igor Kvasha, they recreated the production of Balalaikin and Co., which made a lot of noise in the early 1970s. In 2017, the premiere of his second play – “Who is Ezra Pound?” based on the play by Tanya Kotlyarevskaya.

However, he took an active part in staging performances earlier. In 1969 the premiere of one of the most famous performances of the Theater of Satire – “Crazy Day, or The Marriage of Figaro”, in which Valentin Gaft played one of the main roles, reincarnated as Count Almaviva, took place. Colleagues recalled that the actor was very keen on working on the play and shared ideas with director Valentin Pluchek. He created on stage an unusual image of a count, who is usually portrayed as an insidious seducer: his Almaviva was rude, evil and not very smart. When they appeared on stage in a duet with the cheerful Figaro (Andrei Mironov), the audience was delighted. But Pluchek was of a different opinion: he did not like this Almaviva, he called him an urkoy. As a result, Gaft left the Satire Theater, and later Alexander Shirvindt played Almaviva.

Background: The Marriage of Figaro. Remembering one of the best performances of the Theater of Satire

Main roles in cinema

Gaft began acting in films while studying at the Moscow Art Theater School. In 1956, Mikhail Romm’s drama Murder on Dante Street was released, in which Valentin Gaft made his debut in the small role of Marcel Rouge. A few years later, he had the opportunity to work with the legend of Russian cinema, Grigory Alexandrov – in one of his last films, the artist played a small role of the composer Claude Gerard.

He was often invited to films based on foreign works or about life abroad. Among the roles of foreigners played by Gaft – American pilot Ed Stewart in the film “Night on the 14th parallel” (1971), Gevernitz in “Seventeen Moments of Spring” (1973), butler Brasset in “Hello, I’m your aunt!” (1975), rogue Frank Goodwin in Kings and Cabbage (1978).

He also played a lot of criminal elements of various kinds. This is the recidivist Stranger in “Fight in a Blizzard” (1977), and the cracker Baton in “Vertical Race” (1983), and the authority Arthur in “Thieves in law” (1988), and the marriage swindler Skameikin in the tragicomedy “Aelita, not molest men ”(1988).

The popularly beloved images of Valentin Gaft created in the films of Eldar Ryazanov. The painting “Garage”, where he played the chairman of the garage cooperative Sidorin, is remembered mainly due to the phrases of his hero: “As a veterinarian, I promise you, my voracious, volvulus”, “My reasonable …”, “What other information, market you mine? “,” I envy how you and your husband live! Not life, but the name day of the heart! ” Also Valentin Gaft appeared in Ryazanov’s films “Promised Heaven” and “Say a Word about the Poor Hussar.”

On December 31, 1982, Konstantin Bromberg’s musical film “The Sorcerers”, based on the script by the Strugatsky brothers, was released on television. Valentin Gaft played in it the imposing and very insidious deputy director of the NUINU Institute Apollo Mitrofanovich Sataneev. Since then, the film has been regularly shown on television ahead of or shortly after New Years.

Valentin Gaft acted a lot in films in the 2000s and 2010s. Among the roles of recent decades – juror in the film “12” (2007), Pimen in “Burnt by the Sun – 2” (2010), Mendel Gersh in the television series “The Life and Adventures of Bear Yaponchik” (2011). Gaft’s last film work was the role of a shaman in Anna Mathison’s Milky Way (2016).

Not only an actor

In parallel with his work in theater and cinema, Valentin Gaft studied literature. He is known as the author of poignant epigrams, the victims of which were more than once his friends – colleagues in the acting workshop. He also did not spare himself in his short poems:

Gaft beat up so many

And in the epigrams he ate alive.

He filled his hand in this matter,

We’ll fill the rest.

His first book – “Verse and Epigram” – was published in 1989. Collections in which poems, lyrics and epigrams are interspersed with Gaft’s memories were published many times throughout the 1990s and 2000s. One of the latest editions is the collection Red Lanterns (2008).

And Valentin Gaft spoke in defense of our younger brothers. He has spoken out many times for the adoption of a law against cruelty to animals and for the introduction of the post of ombudsman for animal rights.

Awards

Valentin Gaft received the title of Honored Artist of the RSFSR in 1978, in 1984 he became People’s Artist of the RSFSR. Among his awards are the Order of Friendship (1995) and the Order of Merit to the Fatherland II, III and IV degrees (2010, 2005, 2016).

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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