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Mark Naumovich Bernes (Russian: Ма́рк Нау́мович Берне́с, Mark Naumovič Bernes) (October 8 [O.S. September 25] 1911, Nezhin, Chernigov Governorate, Russian Empire - August 16, 1969, Moscow, Soviet Union) was a Soviet actor and singer of Jewish ancestry (his father's last name was Neumann), who performed some of the most poignant songs to come out of the World War II, including Tyomnaya noch (Russian: Тёмная ночь, Dark Night; 1943) and Zhuravli (Russian: Журавли, Cranes; 1969). His voice had some similarities to Bing Crosby, but his style was closer to French chansonniers such as Yves Montand.
Life and work
In late 1930s, not long before the war, Mark Bernes starred in two motion pictures: Man With a Rifle and The Fighter Planes . In both of these films, he performed songs, which immediately became famous all over Soviet Union after each film was released. In the former film, he performed the song Clouds Rose Over the City, which was a romantic song of a simple young Soviet worker. In the later film, he performed a famous patriotic ballad Beloved Town. This pre-war song was full of hope and optimism, and several years later, this song helped soldiers during the war.
When the war began, Bernes became among the first singers to perform for the Soviet troops. In 1943, he starred in the motion picture Two Fighters. He played a young soldier from Odessa named Arkady Dzubin. In that film, Bernes demonstrated typically Jewish wit and humor, such humor that was characteristic of Jews from Odessa. In that film, he sang two masterpiece songs: Tyomnaya noch and Shalandy polnye kefali (Russian: Шаланды полные кефали, Scows Full of Mullet).The second song is the humorous account of Kostya the sailor man from Odessa who ironically spoke to his fiancee Sonya the fishing girl. The first song, "Dark Night" was a serious ballad about a wife with a baby child waiting for the soldier, who was in the midst of a deadly fight. The song was sung by Bernes from the point of view of that soldier, who addressed his wife at home and assured her that he will live through all the deadly battles as long as she waits for him. "Dark Night" is the most recognizable Soviet song from World War II.
Bernes's name had become closely associated with World War II. After the war, he continued to perform songs about the war. His greatest hits of the 1950s were Boys From Moscow (also known as Sergey From Malaya Bronnaya Street) and Enemies Burned His Home Village. Both songs were about hardships suffered by people who lost family members in the war. Both songs expressed extreme melancholy and pain of the losses in the war, and both songs directly confronted death and grief. The latter song, Enemies Burned His Home Village was banned by the government, because it was considered too pessimistic and too anti-Soviet. In the song, the soldier grieves for his killed wife and laments that his hopes had been shattered. By the reasoning of the Soviet authorities, it was unpatriotic to sing about broken hopes when the war was won, and thus, all the hopes became reality. In the 1950s, Mark Bernes also performed torch songs such as the sentimental ballad I Dreamed of You Three Years and inspirational optimistic songs such as the march I Love You, My Life.
In 1969, Mark Bernes was dying from lung cancer. In the summer of 1969, he recorded his last song Ballad About the Cranes, which became his testament before death. Bernes sang that the soldiers that perished in war turned into cranes. He sang that the cranes are still in their flight and that soon, he will join their ranks. On August 16, Mark Bernes died. Ballad About the Cranes was played at his funeral.
- This date: September 21 [O.S. September 8] 1911 - is a mistake of Большая советская энциклопедия [Large Soviet Encyclopaedia] and a few later issues. True date: October 8 [O.S. September 25] 1911 - was engraved on the Bernes's gravestone at Novodevichy Cemetery (Moscow), and also confirmed by Bernes's daughter Natasha.
- Mark Bernes' biography. - www.kino-teatr.ru
- Dictionary of Minor Planet Names - p.250
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