The range of Livanov's film/cartoon characters is quite wide: from Tsar Nicolas I and Chief of Che-Ka to Karlsson-on-the-Roof and alien Gromozeka (Sci-Fi cartoon), but character of Sherlock Holmes is most important in Livanov's career.
If you want to do an impression of Sherlock Holmes in Russia, you don't have to smoke a pipe or put on a deerstalker. You may merely begin to speak with his slightly hoarse voice.
Vasily Livanov acquired the unique voice of his during shooting of his first film. Director Kalatozov proposed to record his actors' lines directly on location which happened to be in Siberian forest in the middle of a suitably cold winter. The film was called "The Letter Never Sent" (1961). Despite the initial despair on losing his voice, Livanov is now thankful to director Kalatozov. "For an actor, an individual voice is a half of a success", says he.
1. A FEW WORDS ABOUT LIVANOV'S VOICE
Livanov made very few appearances in the movies produced in the late 1960s and 1970s, using his newly acquired hoarse voice to become the voice behind the famous Russian cartoon characters - Karlsson-on-the-Roof , Crocodile Gena ,
kind and intellectual serpent ("38 parrots"),
alien Gromozeka ("The Mystery of Third Planet", 1982),
Sherlock Holmes ("Sherlock Holmes and me", 1985) and many others.
His other major contribution to the Soyuzmultfilm cartoon industry was the modernized adaptation of Town Musicians of Bremen, which went on to become a cult Soviet cartoon film of the 1970s.
There is half-serious comparison of Livanov's Karlsson with Livanov's Holmes: Karlsson a bit like Great Detective. He disgraces two criminals - both abductors are turn into rout, he avoids a publicity (Karlsoon flies away from firemen), he has independent and (sometimes) unbearable personality and -- it's extremely interesting to be friends with Karlsoon!
Crocodile Gena (voiced by Vasily Livanov) - Крокодил Гена - is a fictional friendly crocodile in the series of Cheburashka books by Russian writer Eduard Uspensky and also in the animated films based on the series by Soyuzmultfilm studio.
Gena works as a crocodile in a zoo and plays the accordion. He is best friend with Cheburashka, the title character in the series. Gena is 50 years old.
2. SOME FILM CHARACTERS BY VASILY LIVANOV
In 1960s Vasily Livanov as film actor made stable specialty -- he played geologist, surgeon, interpreter and schoolteacher...
Every character was personified of romantic intellectual hero. In 1966 one film critic wrote on young Livanov: "Actor is sparing with gestures, he seldom forces voice, he is devoid of exaggerated expression. Even in sequences, which bases on wild emotional clashes, he doesn't lose a reserve. And inexhaustible inner vigour lurks beyond that reserve".
One of early characters is interpreter Vadim Geiman (film "I was 19"). Last days of II World War. Soviet military interpreter tries to persuade German detachment to surrender...
In "The Blue Exercise Book" (1963) Livanov played Felix Dzerzchinsky, chief of CheKa of 1920s (the historical prototype of KGB). It was the only ideological / communist character by Livanov during total career. It was very shortly sequence, but brilliance. There events happen before October Revolution of 1917, when nobody can't imagine historical scale of these revolutionaries and their cruelty. They looked ardent fighters and romantics. In that sequence Livanov / Dzerzchinsky says to Lenin, who hides from police: "If you will protect, I'll commit suicide!" Livanov pronounces these words with SUCH icy calm and SUCH tranquil expression of face... In thirty years time (in 1995) Livanov played Don Quixote . Vasily Livanov portrayed old knight like a dangerous romantic fanatic.
In 1975 Vasily Livanov played another historical character -- Tsar Nicholas I in film "A Star of Fascinating Fortune". For the first time in Soviet Cinematic Art, Tsar Nicolas was portrayal so convincing and so attractive, though that Tsar cruelly suppressed the noblemen's uprising in 1825. In storm of palace's sequence, the only Tsar's shout: "Did you really not recognize to me?" -- the only that shout disarms rioters. The Livanov's phrase was mix of surprise, confusion and imperative shout. "In the image Nicolas I, created by Livanov, absolutely all traits were regal, -- another film critic writes. -- Actor not merely behaves on horseback in the regal style. The most amazing that the horse under him behaves in the regal style too. The horse imperceptibly repeated manners of the rider".
During own film career Livanov played many characters, though without a doubt he would play more. Perhaps the reason why after 1986 Livanov played 5-6 characters only -- in his famous portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Not every director makes up own mind to take actor having Holmes's face in film. Therefore in 1995 Livanov personally directed film "Don Quixote returns", in which he played main person -- that same old knight. The latest role by Livanov: Professor Stravinsky in mystical TV-series "Master and Margarita" (2005) by Mikhail Bulgakov's novel.
3. AN EXCERPT OF LIVANOV'S INTERVIEW / from TV-show "The Double Portrait" (2003), Russian TV-channel TVC
-- I'm absolutely corresponding to the appearance of that person. But, it's first of all. Next I was must to do the character of this man. And to do it -- with enjoyment in order to a viewer can to enjoy it. When we (Vitaly Solomin and me) started to work, we asked director Maslennikov the question: what have main idea of the film? About what is the film? A main sense? Maslennikov proposed "to play in English/British Style". We asked to him: "to play in English Style", what is it? In my opinion, it is not show these two persons. I think Sherlock Holmes is guarantor of reliability in mad world, in which we live. It began when masses of people, meeting with a flow of life, experience an inner discomfort. There are many imminent dangers - in work, outside, at home; supposedly accidents pursue which derived by life slow, by uncomfortable and fast fluidity of life. And in the middle of that flow -- figure of Sherlock Holmes (like a cliff) towers above this, he is ready to help (unselfishly!) to every sufferer.
He is absolutely independent man. He does act resolutely. It makes no difference to him how he looks in eyes of people, however he maintains all politeness norms in a company. He doesn't adapt to life, he remains own identity. That train is certainly characteristic of Englishman. Island dwellers! I remember first review by English press: Solomin and me are all-time best pair of the continent (Livanov smiles and laugh). They didn't restrain to lay emphasize on they are island dwellers, but we are Continent.
Quation: How do you think -- whether Sherlock Holmes's personality and manners gained any Russian traits? Are you may to say that Holmes had been transform into Russian man as a result of Russian TV-series?
-- No, he hadn't. I'm sure. That character is such non-Russian. And Watson too. Therefore they are interesting in the extreme for Russian people.
About different performers of Holmes...
-- No, I'm not jealous, they don't give a reason... (Livanov smiles) For many actors, Holmes and Watson had been transform into stereotyped figures with lost human traits, therefore actors didn't know how to play / to perform their. And every actor merely puts on a deerstalker, takes a pipe... and he carries on to be actor only. I'm sure, it's impossible -- to create Sherlock Holmes from actor's individuality only. As Watson too. It's absolutely definite human relations, which are exactly elaborate by Conan Doyle, with ideal accuracy by human and writer point of view, with the shrewdness... Conan Doyle is doctor. He is splendid psychologist. He brilliantly created these characters, then which merely will in need of the filling in human content, emotions.
-- I avoided to reread Conan Doyle's stories when I got down to this character. I was frightened to lose that ecstatic attitude to Holmes, which influenced to me, when I was 14. Well, years that I lived added some ironic moment in my attitude to that character. That combination of absolute recognition of this cool gentleman and some ironic attitude were essence of our work. We were a bit ironic regarding the World of Sherlock Holmes, though we played absolutely sincerely so that sometimes it provoked a smile.
the review by Alek-Morse (Alexander S).
used info: from Wikipaedia,
books: "Vasily Livanov" by Alla Gerber (1985), "Actors of Soviet Cinema" (1966, Part 2)
the friendly caricature "Sherlock Holmes and Karlsson" painted by K.Kukso (1985)