Faina Ranevskaya (1896-1984) is recognized as one of the greatest comic actors of the 20th Century. She acted in plays by Anton Chekhov
, Alexandr Ostrovsky, Maxim Gorky, Ivan Krylov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and others. Unfortunately, we can judge about her theater performances only by photos as only three final performances of "Make Way for Tomorrow" by Vina Delmar, "Truth is Good, but Happiness is Better" by Alexandr Ostrovsky, "The Curious Savage" by John Patrick were filmed. Faina Ranevskaya is more known to a wide audience as a cinema actress by her performance in such films as "Pyshka" (Boule de Suif), "The Man in a Shell", "Mechta" ("Dream"), "Vesna" ("Spring"), "Zolushka" ("Cinderella"), "Elephant and string" and many more.
Faina Ranevskaya was born on August 27 (August 15 - Old Style), 1896 in the city of Taganrog in a wealthy Jewish family. Her father - Girschi Haimovich Feldmann - owned a dry-ink factory, several buildings, a shop and the steam vessel "Saint Nicolas". He was head of Taganrog Synagogue and a founder of Jewish asylum for the aged. Faina's mother (Milka Rafailovna, née Zagovaylova) - was an ecstatic personality, great admirer of literature and art, and passionate worshipper of Anton Chekhov
. It seems that Faina inherited from her wisdom, artistic feeling, and love to poetry, music, and theatre. There were three other children in the family - two brothers and the elder sister Bella.
Faina Feldmann attended the elementary school classes at the Mariinskaya Girls Gymnasium, and then received regular home education - she was given music, singing, foreign languages lessons, and Faina loved reading.
At the age of 14 began her passion about theater. The strongest impact had her attendance of Anton Chekhov
's "The Cherry Orchard" onstage of the Moscow Art Theater. The pen name "Ranevskaya" is also due to this theater visit, and later became her official last name. She fell in love with theatre. When Faina told her parents about her wish to become an actress, it caused a scandal and their relations were broken. In 1915 the girl left Taganrog for Moscow as she was determined to pursue a theater career. She started with extra actor in crowd or background scenes at the Malakhov Summer Theater near Moscow in 1915. The Feldmann family emigrated in 1917, but Faina decided to stay and she worked in the theaters of Kerch, Rostov on Don, at the mobile theater "The First Soviet Theater" in Crimea, also in Baku, Arkhangelsk, Smolensk and other cities.
In 1931 Ranevskaya became an actress at the Kamerni Theater. The film "Pyshka"("Boule de Suif" in the U.S.), directed by Mikhail Romm marked her debut as a film actress in 1934. It was a silent black and white film based on the novel "Boule de Suif" by Guy de Maupassant and Faina starred as Mme Loiseau. Although the film was silent, Ranevskaya learned several sayings of Madame Loiseau in French from the original Maupassant novel. Romain Rolland, French writer who visited Soviet Union in the thirties loved the film, and his favorite actor in the movie was Faina Ranevskaya. At Rolland's request, the "Pyshka" (Boule de Suif) was shown in French cinemas, and was a great box-office success. Ranevskaya played on stage of the Central Theater of Red Army (1935-1939), Drama Theater, now Mayakovsky Theater (1943-1949), Mossovet Theater (1949-1955, 1963-1983), Pushkin Theater (1955-1963).
The actress was awarded USSR State Prizes in 1949 for outstanding creative achievements on theater stage, and in 1951 as an actress for the film "U nih est' Rodina" (They Have Their Motherland), directed by Vladimir Legoshin and Alexandre Feinzimmer. In 1961 Faina Ravevskaya received the title of the People's Artist of the USSR. The actress died on July 19, 1984 in Moscow and was buried at the Donskoe Cemetery. A memorial plate dedicated to Ranevskaya was placed on her birthhouse in the city of Taganrog on August 29, 1986.
In May 2008, the First International Ranevskaya Drama Festival "The Great Province"
will be held in Taganrog. The event is dedicated to the memory of the outstanding Russian actress