Vladimir Zeldin

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Vladimir Zeldin
BornVladimir Mikhailovich Zeldin
Владимир Михайлович Зельдин

10 February [ O.S. 28 January] 1915
Kozlov, Tambov Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 31 October 2016(2016-10-31) (aged 101)
Moscow, Russia
Occupation Actor
Years active 1927–2016
Awards Full cavalier of the Order "For Merit to the Fatherland"

Vladimir Mikhailovich Zeldin (Russian : Владимир Михайлович Зельдин; 10 February [ O.S. 28 January] 1915 – 31 October 2016) was a Russian theatre and cinema actor. A centenarian, he was among the longest-serving stage performers and continued acting up until his death. [1] [2]


Early life

Zeldin was born in the town of Kozlov (now Michurinsk, Tambov Oblast of Russia), the youngest of five children. With the start of the Russian Civil War the family moved to their relatives in Tver. His mother Anna Nikolaevna Zeldina (née Popova, 1884—1931) was a native Russian teacher turned a housewife. His father Mikhail Evgenievich Zeldin (1876—1928) was a musician of Jewish origin who converted to Russian Orthodoxy in order to enter the Moscow Conservatory; he served as a kapellmeister in the Imperial Russian Army concert band and as the head of the Kozlov and Tver music schools after the October Revolution. Vladimir himself was raised in the Russian Orthodox traditions and associated himself with Russian culture. [3] [4]

In 1924 the family moved to Moscow. Zeldin continued studying at the secondary school. He also learned to play trumpet, piano and violin, and at the age of 12 tried to enter The Bolshoi Theatre Ballet School. According to Zeldin, his father wished him a better career and was highly against this decision, so he did everything to prevent his son from entering the school. [4] For several years Vladimir played trumpet in the military band under the Joint State Political Directorate led by his father's friend Feodor Nikolaevsky. In 1935 he graduated from the theatre college at the Mossovet Theatre where he studied under Evgeny Lepkovsky and became its actor.


In 1938 Zeldin moved to the Moscow Transport Theatre (modern-day Gogol Center) where he performed as Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors and Ferdinand in Intrigue and Love , among other roles.

Zeldin became an all-Union celebrity in 1941 starring in the leading role in the musical comedy They Met in Moscow by Ivan Pyryev. His other famous movie works include Boris Olenich in Ballad of Siberia (1947), Aldemaro in Dance Teacher (1952), a clown in Carnival Night (1956), Aleksandr Vladimirovich Serebryakov in Uncle Vanya (1970), Judge in And Then There Were None (1987) and grandfather in Cops and Robbers (1997), a remake of the Italian comedy of the same name.

During the Battle of Moscow he and other actors were evacuated to Almaty where he played in the Alma-Ata Russian Drama Theatre. He also visited the frontline to perform for soldiers and was awarded the Medal "For Valiant Labour in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945" after the war. [3] [4]

From 1945 to his death Zeldin performed in the Russian Army Theatre. His most famous role was Aldemaro in The Dancing Master play by Lope de Vega. Other popular roles include Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew , Aleksandr Vladimirovich Serebryakov in Uncle Vanya , Albert Gregor in The Makropulos Affair , Frank Gardner in Mrs. Warren's Profession and others. The Most Honest, a satirical play about an elderly Baron Munchausen, was written by Grigory Gorin on Zeldin's suggestion and with him in mind. It was an enormous success and was later adapted by Mark Zakharov into a TV movie The Very Same Munchhausen with Oleg Yankovsky in the lead. [5]

On February 2005 Zeldin celebrated his 90th birthday by performing in the new musical Man of La Mancha (which premiered in December 2004) where he starred both as Don Quixote and Miguel de Cervantes. The role of Don Quixote quickly became his signature role and he closely associated himself with the character. [3] [4] [6]

He celebrated his 101st birthday on stage by performing the leading role in the play Dance with the Master (loosely based on The Dancing Master) and written specially for him. According to the director Yuli Gusman, a total of 200 performances of Man of La Mancha and Dance with the Master were staged during Zeldin's lifetime. Man of La Mancha was last shown just a month prior to the actor's death. Due to a recent hip fracture, he had to perform with a walking stick. [7] [8]

Late years

Zeldin was, as of 2014, the oldest living People's Artist of the USSR. He turned 101 in 2016. [9]

On June 2005 his signature appeared under the open letter by "members of culture, science and public representatives" published in Izvestia where they supposedly expressed support to the court decision concerning the former Yukos management. However, a number of singnatories, including Zeldin, denied their involvement. [10]

On October 2013 at the age of 98 he took part in the 2014 Winter Olympics torch relay, becoming the oldest torchbearer in history. [11] [12]

Vladimir Zeldin died on 31 October 2016 and was buried at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow. He was survived by his third wife Ivetta Evgenievna Kapralova-Zeldina (1933—2017) who died just two months after her husband and was buried near him. They lived together for 52 years. [2] [13]

Vladimir Zeldin´s only son (from his first civil wife Lyudmila Martynova) died of a gastric infection at the age of 18 months in 1941. Zeldin took care of his grave until his death.

Honours and awards

Selected filmography


  1. "Vladimir Zeldin". The New York Times .
  2. 1 2 "World's oldest actor Vladimir Zeldin dies aged 101". theguardian.com . Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 Vladimir Zeldin (2013). My Profession: Don Quixote. — Moscow: AST-Press, pp. 9, 17—23, 117 ISBN   978-5-462-01024-8
  4. 1 2 3 4 Interview with Dmitry Gordon, 3 July 2002 (in Russian)
  5. The very same Munchhausen: Excerpts from the new biography of the German Baron article at KinoPoisk, 11 February 2018 (in Russian)
  6. Man of La Mancha at the official Russian Army Theatre website (in Russian)
  7. Dance with the Master at the official Russian Army Theatre website (in Russian)
  8. Interview with Yuli Gusman at Moskovskij Komsomolets, October 31, 2016 (in Russian)
  9. Рыцарь образа: 100 лет Владимиру Зельдину (in Russian). TASS. 10 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  10. How can I accuse or excuse someone by signing a document if I don't know the full picture? I'm neither pro nor against. I only know that everyone should pay taxes, but the court decision is not within my competence. I couldn't sign any letter. On why I signed it interviews at Novaya Gazeta , 30 June, 2005 (in Russian)
  11. Nick Zaccardi. Sochi Olympic torch relay: by the numbers at NBC Sports, October 7, 2013
  12. World’s oldest working actor Vladimir Zeldin dies at 101 postmortem by Hollywood.com
  13. Vladimir Zeldin's tomb