Mikhail Kalatozov

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This article is about the film director. For his grandson and film director, see Mikheil Kalatozishvili (born 1959).
Mikhail Kalatozov
Born Mikheil Konstantinovich Kalatozishvili
(1903-12-28)28 December 1903
Tiflis (now Tbilisi), Russian Empire (now Georgia)
Died 27 March 1973(1973-03-27) (aged 69)
Moscow, Soviet Union (now Russia)
Occupation Film director
Years active 1928–1971
Notable work Salt for Svanetia, The Cranes Are Flying, The Unsent Letter, I Am Cuba, The Red Tent

Mikhail Konstantinovich Kalatozov (Georgian: მიხეილ კალატოზიშვილი, Russian: Михаи́л Константи́нович Калато́зов) (28 December 1903 — 27 March 1973), born Mikheil Kalatozishvili, was a Soviet film director of Georgian origin who contributed to both Georgian and Russian cinema. People's Artist of the USSR (1969). His movie The Cranes Are Flying won several international awards, including Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival.[1]


Kalatozov was born in Tiflis, Russian Empire (now Tbilisi, Georgia). His family belonged to a noble Amirejibi house that traces its history back to the 13th century. One of Mikhail's uncles served as a General in the Imperial Russian Army, another one was among the founders of the Tbilisi State University.

Kalatozov studied economics and changed many professions before starting his film career as an actor and later — as a cinematographer. He directed several documentary films, including Salt for Svanetia (1930).

In 1933 he enrolled to the Russian State Institute of Performing Arts. In 1936 he headed the Kartuli Pilmi film studio, then he was suggested a place at the USSR State Committee for Cinematography. In 1939 he moved to Leningrad to work at the Lenfilm studio as a film director. During the World War II he directed several propaganda films and worked as a cultural attaché at the Soviet embassy in the United States.

During the 1950s he directed several other films. His four final features, The Cranes Are Flying (1957), The Unsent Letter (1959), I Am Cuba (1964), and The Red Tent (1969), are among his most famous works.[2] The first three movies are often praised for the masterful camerawork by the Russian cinematographer Sergey Urusevsky. The Cranes Are Flying became one of the leaders of the 1957 Soviet box office (10th place with 28.3 millions viewers)[3] and won several international awards, including Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival.[1] The Red Tent was a joint Soviet-Italian effort and featured an international team of actors, including Peter Finch, Sean Connery, Claudia Cardinale, Hardy Krüger, Nikita Mikhalkov and others. It was nominated for the 1972 Golden Globe award as the best English-language foreign film.[4] During the 1990s I Am Cuba was discovered by American film professionals and showed to Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola who became so impressed with the production that they advocated the restoration and distribution of the movie that was conducted by Milestone Films.[5] In 1995 it was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best International Film.

Kalatozov was married to Zhanna Valachi, daughter of the Italian consul. They met in Batumi during vacation. In 1929 Zhanna gave a birth to their son Georgi and became a naturalized citizen of the Soviet Union. Georgi followed his father's steps and worked as a cinematographer and film director at the Kartuli Pilmi studio, and so did his grandson — Mikhail Kalatozishvili who also became a successful Russian film director and producer.

Mikhail Kalatozov died in Moscow on March 27, 1973 after the 7th heart attack and was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery.[6] Mikhail Kalatozishvili founded a non-commercial Mikhail Kalatozov Fund named after his grandfather to help with film preservation and with funding of new movies.[7]



  • Anna Kalatozishvili, Zaza Japaridze (2012). — Mikhail Kalatozov. — Tbilisi, 270 pages. — ISBN 978-9941-0-4685-8 (biography)
  • German Kremlev (1964). — Mikhail Kalatozov. — Moscow: Iskusstvo, 244 pages. (biography)
  • Cinema: Encyclopedic Dictionary (1987) / Ed.: Sergei Yutkevich. — Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia, 640 pages.


  1. ^ a b Awards 1958 : All Awards at the official Cannes Film Festival website
  2. ^ Chansel, Dominique (2001). Europe on-screen: cinema and the teaching of history. Council of Europe. p. 53. ISBN 978-92-871-4531-4. 
  3. ^ The Cranes are Flying at KinoPoisk
  4. ^ Winners & Nominees 1972 at the Golden Globe official website
  5. ^ The New Cult Canon: I Am Cuba at The A.V. Club by Scott Tobias, April 30, 2008
  6. ^ Celebrity Tombs
  7. ^ Mikhail Kalatozishvili interview at Echo of Moscow (in Russian)

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