How Lyubov Orlova received Tolstoy’s autograph and Chaliapin’s parting words

Komsomolskaya Pravda is sure: if Superman had been invented not in the States, but in the USSR, Lyubov Petrovna would have played him. Do you agree? Photo: Klod Mande


Lyubov Petrovna Orlova, who portrayed housekeepers and weavers on the screen, was from a noble family. On the paternal side, her ancestor was, for example, Mikhail Orlov – an acquaintance

Pushkin, adjutant wing of Emperor Alexander I, who communicated with Napoleon many times. And also belonged to this family, for example, Grigory Orlov – the legendary favorite of Catherine II.

It is clear that Orlova from childhood rotated in a circle of prominent people. Once she was impressed by the tales of Leo Tolstoy, wrote him a letter (her mother’s uncle, Mikhail Sukhotin, was married to the writer’s daughter) – and received in response the “Prisoner of the Caucasus” with a dedicatory inscription. She also talked with Chaliapin – starting from the age of five, when she performed at a children’s party in his house (according to legend, the impressed Chaliapin took her in his arms and exclaimed: “You, Lyubashka, will be a great actress!”)

Her father, Pyotr Fedorovich, managed to lose three of his estates at cards. However, he said: “It’s good that I lost them – now they would have taken them away anyway!” After the revolution, the life of a noble family changed dramatically. Now the Orlovs lived in a communal apartment, and Lyubochka gave dance lessons and worked as a pianist. And at the same time she studied: first at the conservatory, then she mastered acting. As if remembering the words of Chaliapin, she dreamed of becoming an artist, and in 1926 she was taken to the troupe of the Moscow Musical Theater.

Her first husband was Andrei Berzin, a high-ranking employee of the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture. In 1929, Berzin was arrested on trumped-up conspiracy charges. He was sentenced to only three years of exile, but he decided to leave his wife’s life. As expected, out of nobility – he understood what threatens her marriage with a political prisoner. Well, and also because Grigory Alexandrov appeared in her life.

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Orlova’s great-niece Nonna Golikova said: once Orlova was preparing for a concert, she ironed and straightened her dress on the couch, left the room, and when she returned, she found that a cat had roamed on this dress. Her friend comforted her: “This is a wonderful sign! Something extraordinary is waiting for you!” And indeed, a young director came to the concert, looking for an actress for his film “Jolly Fellows”. After his release, Orlova became one of the most famous women in the USSR – and Alexandrov’s wife.

This relationship has been much talked about. They couldn’t understand how spouses could call each other “you” for decades. But it was true love: people who knew them well believe that Alexandrov and Orlova literally idolized each other. He constantly wrote notes to her and sent telegrams – “I love like a man, I yearn like a dog”, “I started to get bored as soon as I returned home” …

Orlova and Alexandrov, even after many years of marriage, called each other on you.  Photo: Anatoly GARANIN / RIA Novosti

Orlova and Alexandrov, even after many years of marriage, called each other on you. Photo: Anatoly GARANIN / RIA Novosti


After “Merry Fellows” and the “Circus” and “Volga-Volga” that followed them, Joseph Stalin also experienced great love for the actress. Once at a reception, Orlova decided to say a few words, got up and moved towards the dictator. The guards immediately rushed towards her. Stalin stood up and said: “Comrade Orlova, speak as much as you like. Let’s all stand and listen.” Everyone stood up and listened.

The position of the leader’s favorite provided Orlova and Alexandrov with a very good life in the material sense. They became owners of a refrigerator (a huge rarity by the standards of that time) and a Mercedes. Then they built a luxurious house on a plot of a hectare of land in the suburbs – with a fireplace and a huge terrace … Both during the life of the leader and after his death, Orlova remained in the status of the queen of Soviet cinema. But Stalin’s love was not mutual. The same Nonna Golikova said in an interview with KP: “After Stalin’s death, I went to dinner with Orlova and Alexandrov, and they started talking about this topic at the table. And then Lyubov Petrovna quietly but distinctly said: “Thank God, this bastard has finally died!” I ran out from the table in horror … Later, of course, I realized that she never had any reason to love Stalin – her first husband was repressed, then Nikolai Erdman (one of the screenwriters of Volga-Volga. – Red) was sent into exile. .), in the 37th they arrested Vladimir Nielsen (the cameraman of the film, was shot. – Ed.) … “


Not a single Soviet actress cared about her image like Orlova, perfectly stylish and perfectly correct in words. As for words, Orlova in the 30s and 40s was engaged in journalism, speaking out in the press on a variety of occasions. For example, about abortion: “Pregnancy will tear a woman out of her work, maybe at the moment when she completes a grand project. Let her be allowed an abortion in these cases … I myself want a child, and I will certainly have one. She never gave birth – at first the cinema seemed to her a more grandiose project, and then it was too late.

As for appearance, at some point Orlova began to collect outfits, then she opened plastic surgery – but contrary to rumors, she was not very fond of it.

Orlova is credited with the phrase: “I will always be 39 years old, and not one day more!” (Actually, this is a phrase from the play “Pretty Liar” in which she acted). These words played a cruel joke on her. In the 60s, she and Aleksandrov decided that Lyubov could play the young heroine in the film Starling and Lyra about scouts. The elders did not dare to argue, but the premiere in 1974 did not take place. It was too embarrassing to look at the 71-year-old People’s Artist of the USSR in the role of a young girl. The film was released in a very limited release only in the early 90s.

On the day when the dubbing of Starling and Lyra was finished, Orlova became ill, she was taken to the hospital, they realized that we were talking about oncology, and at an inoperable stage. Orlova, in accordance with the rules of the then medical ethics, did not say anything. And Alexandrov was told. He reacted: “It’s good that she is the first …” Aleksandrov understood: if he had died first, for Lyubov Petrovna it would have been a tragedy worse than oncology.

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He outlived her by eight years, and no longer made feature films. I shot only one, a documentary – of course, about my wife …

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