Vasily Livanov

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Vasily Livanov

Vasily Livanov 26.01.2017.jpg
Vasily Borisovich Livanov

(1935-07-19) 19 July 1935 (age 86)
OccupationActor, animation director, film director, screenwriter, writer
Years active1958–present
Spouse(s)Elena Livanova (1973–present)
Parent(s)Boris Livanov and Evgenia Livanova

Vasily Borisovich Livanov MBE,[1] FMF, PAR (Russian: Васи́лий Бори́сович Лива́нов; born 19 July 1935), is a Soviet and Russian actor, animation and film director, screenwriter and writer most famous for portraying Sherlock Holmes in the Soviet TV series.[2] He was named People's Artist of the RSFSR in 1988.

Early years[edit]

Vasily Livanov was born into a famous theatrical family. His paternal grandfather Nikolai Alexandrovich Livanov (1874–1949) was a Volga Cossack from Simbirsk who moved to Moscow in 1905 and performed at the Struysky Theatre under a pseudonym of Izvolsky; after the revolution he worked at the Mossovet and Lenkom Theatres. Vasily's father Boris Livanov (1904–1972) was also a prominent actor and stage director who served at the Moscow Art Theatre all his life, while his mother Eugenia Kazimirovna Livanova (née Prawdzic-Filipowicz) (1907–1978) was an artist who belonged to Polish szlachta.[3]

Vasily was brought up in the artistic milieu. Many famous actors who worked with his father, like Olga Knipper, Alla Tarasova, Vasily Kachalov (whom Livanov was named after), as well as Pyotr Konchalovsky, Boris Pasternak, Valery Chkalov were frequent guests at their house.[3][4] In 1940 his family was staying in Chernivtsi along with other Moscow actors, and his Polish nanny took him to the local Catholic church where he was baptized, presumably with his mother's permission. Today he belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church despite he never officially converted.[3]

His family spent the first war years in evacuation and in 1943 returned to Moscow.[3] In 1954 Vasily graduated from the Moscow Secondary Art School under the USSR Academy of Arts, and in 1958 he finished the acting courses at the Boris Shchukin Theatre Institute. His film career started in 1959 with one of the leading roles in the Letter Never Sent.

The movie was shot in Taiga at −40 °C, and the director Mikhail Kalatozov decided that Livanov and Samoilova should voice their characters crying not in the studio, but outside, right in the woods. As a result, Livanov lost his voice, and in two weeks it returned as a unique hoarse tembre that would've become one of Livanov's trademarks ever since.[4]

From 1958 to 1959 he performed at the Vakhtangov Theatre, and from 1960 to 1964 – at the National Film Actors' Theatre. He also starred in the 1960 adaptation of Vladimir Korolenko's Blind Musician along with his father and the 1962 adaptation of Vasily Aksyonov's Colleagues that became his first real breakthrough.


In 1966 he finished the High Directors Courses where he studied under Mikhail Romm and joined Soyuzmultfilm as an animation director, screenwriter and voice actor. During the next ten years he wrote and directed several animated films, including Most, Most, Most, Most and The Blue Bird feature.[5]

Yet his biggest success came with The Bremen Town Musicians animated musical, a modernised adaptation of the eponymous folktale he created with Yuri Entin and Gennady Gladkov. Both parts showed heavy influence of rock and roll and hippie cultures which was unusual for the Soviet cinema. The first film was directed by Inessa Kovalevskaya, while the sequel On the Trail of the Bremen Town Musicians (1973) was directed by Livanov himself. The leading Soviet pop singer Muslim Magomayev voiced almost all characters in it which only added to the overwhelming popularity of the series.[6][7]

Livanov was also the voice behind multiple popular Soviet animated characters such as Gena the Crocodile from the Cheburashka series, Karlsson-on-the-Roof from the Soviet adaptation of Astrid Lindgren's fairy tale and Boa from 38 Parrots.[5]

Sherlock Holmes[edit]

In the late 1970s and in the 1980s, Livanov returned to film stardom in what became the greatest success of his acting career: the role of Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles and other Holmes TV series directed by Igor Maslennikov.[8][9]

Those movies were filmed between 1979 and 1986, with the latter four stories forming the plot of a standalone big-screen feature entitled The Twentieth Century Approaches. Vasily Livanov played Sherlock Holmes and Vitaly Solomin played Doctor Watson.

On 27 April 2007, a sculpture featuring Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson as portrayed by Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin was opened on the Smolenskaya embankment alongside the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Moscow (sculptor Andrey Orlov).[10]


Apart from screenplays Vasily Livanov has been professionally writing books since the 1960s. He published novels, stories, fairy tales and memoirs, including biography books dedicated to Boris Livanov, Boris Pasternak and other people he personally knew.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Livanov was married twice. His first wife (1958–1970) was Alina Engelgardt, daughter of the acclaimed Soviet biochemist Vladimir Engelgardt. They had a daughter Anastasia. Since 1972 he has been married to Elena Artemievna Balabanova, an art director and animator. They have two sons, Boris and Nikolai. In 2009 Boris was charged with a murder of Igor Khromov whom he cut with a knife during a drunken brawl; he was imprisoned for nine years, but set free following a parole in 2015.[12] On June 2017 Maria Golubkina, an actress, daughter of Larisa Golubkina and stepdaughter of Andrei Mironov, announced her engagement to Boris Livanov, but in just a month they "decided to take a break".[13]

Vasily Livanov was a close friend of Vitaly Solomin and Rina Zelyonaya, who played Doctor Watson and Mrs. Hudson. As he writes in his memoir:

"It happens so that when someone passes away, we customarily treat his actions and related events as the thing of the past. But everything about my beloved closest friend and partner Vitaly Solomin has become a part of my way of life, my conscience, so for me it will become the thing of the past only when I pass away too."[14]

Honors and awards[edit]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Film Original title Role Other
1959 Letter Never Sent Неотправленное письмо Andrei
1960 Resurrection Воскресение Kryltsov
Blind Musician Слепой музыкант Pyotr
1962 Colleagues Коллеги Sasha Zelenin
1968 I Was Nineteen Ich war neunzehn Wadim Gejman
Junior and Karlson (animation) Малыш и Карлсон Karlsson-on-the-Roof (voice)
1969 Gena the Crocodile (animation) Крокодил Гена Gena the Crocodile (voice)
The Bremen Town Musicians (animation) Бременские музыканты Screenwriter
Ded Moroz and Summer (animation) Дед Мороз и лето Screenwriter
1970 Waterloo Ватерлоо officer
Karlson Returns (animation) Карлсон вернулся Karlsson-on-the-Roof (voice)
The Blue Bird (animation) Синяя птица dog, miner (voices) Director, screenwriter
1971 Cheburashka (animation) Чебурашка Gena the Crocodile (voice)
1973 On the Trail of the Bremen Town Musicians (animation) По следам бременских музыкантов Director, screenwriter
1974 Shapoklyak (animation) Шапокляк Gena the Crocodile (voice)
1975 The Captivating Star of Happiness Звезда пленительного счастья Nicholas I of Russia
1976 38 Parrots (animation) 38 попугаев Boa (voice)
1977 The Steppe Степь Kazimir
1979 Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson Шерлок Холмс и доктор Ватсон Sherlock Holmes
1980 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson Приключения Шерлока Холмса и доктора Ватсона Sherlock Holmes
1981 The Hound of the Baskervilles Собака Баскервилей Sherlock Holmes
The Mystery of the Third Planet (animation) Тайна третьей планеты Gromozeka (voice)
Dog in Boots (animation) Пёс в сапогах British detective (voice)
1983 The Treasures of Agra Сокровища Агры Sherlock Holmes
Moon Rainbow Лунная радуга Galbraith
Cheburashka Goes to School (animation) Чебурашка идёт в школу Gena the Crocodile (voice)
1985 Contract (animation) Контракт security alarm (voice)
1986 The Twentieth Century Approaches Двадцатый век начинается Sherlock Holmes
1987 Friend Друг Drug (voice)
1988 Pereval (animation) Перевал Boris (voice)
1997 Don Quixote Returns Дон Кихот возвращается Don Quixote Director, screenwriter, producer
2000 The New Bremen Town Musicians Новые бременские Screenwriter
2005 The Master and Margarita Мастер и Маргарита Alexandr Stravinsky


  1. ^ List of Honorary Awards January–June 2006 Archived 17 February 2013 at the UK Government Web Archive
  2. ^ Anton Makarenko. Russian Sherlock Holmes Livanov turns 80 article by Russia Beyond, 20 July 2015
  3. ^ a b c d Vasily Livanov (2013). Echo of One Dash. A Path from Childhood. — Moscow: AST, p. 18-23, 33–39, 51–53, 72–76, 113, 168 ISBN 978-5-17-077885-0
  4. ^ a b Vasily Livanov: "Vitaly Solomin Simply Destroyed Himself with the Last Play" interview at the Seven Days magazine, 28 January 2015 (in Russian)
  5. ^ a b Sergey Kapkov (2006). Encyclopedia of Domestic Animation. — Moscow: Algorithm, p. 394-395
  6. ^ The Bremen Town Musicians article by RIA Novosti, 2 February 2009 (in Russian)
  7. ^ Gennady Gladkov: "The Bremen Town Musicians Was A Distraction for Me" interview at Izvestia, 16 January 2013 (in Russian)
  8. ^ Шерлок Холмс запил, солдаты выносят
  9. ^ Василий Ливанов: В современных «Шерлоках» нет никакого Конана Дойла
  10. ^ (in Russian) Livanov and Solomin immortalized in bronzeKomsomolskaya Pravda
  11. ^ Vasily Borisovich Livanov bibliography at the Russian State Library
  12. ^ Vasily Livanov's family: First interview after the son was released at the Story Caravan Collection magazine, 19 February 2015 (in Russian)
  13. ^ Boris Livanov: "Me and Masha Decided to Take a Break" interview at Story Caravan Collection magazine, 1 August 2017 (in Russian)
  14. ^ "Записки Шepлока Холмса". 19 July 2010.
  15. ^ President's Decree № 1381 at
  16. ^ List of Honorary Awards January – June 2006, Foreign and Commonwealth Office – UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  17. ^ President's Decree № 572 at
  18. ^ Vasily Livanov received Golden Eagle Award for his contribution to cinema article by RIA Novosti, 27 January 2017 (in Russian)

External links[edit]