In 1924 he became a literary consultant for Mezhrabpom-Rus, the German-Russian film studio. He was assigned as assistant to Yakov Protazanov in 1925 and made his directorial debut in 1927 with The Circle, first drawing attention the following year with Penal Servitude. His next success was The Earth Thirsts in 1930, the Soviet Union's first sound film.
He joined Mosfilm in 1931 and in 1937 he won his first Stalin Prize (of the Second degree) for The Last Night, which was also his first collaboration with the writer Yevgeny Gabrilovich with whom he worked for the next 40 years. The film also achieved international recognition winning the Grand Prix at the Paris International Exhibition of 1937.
Rainis (1949) won another Stalin Prize (second degree).
Cavalier of the Golden Star, also known as Dream of a Cossack, won the top prize at the 1951 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and also competed for the Grand Prix at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival. It also won the Stalin Prize of the First degree.
His 7 Stalin/State Prizes made him one of the most decorated cultural figures in the Soviet Union. He was the first person to receive the Honor and Dignity Award for lifetime achievement at the Nika Awards in 1988 presented by the Russian Academy of Cinema Arts and Science.
- The Circle (1927)
- Penal Servitude (1928)
- The Earth Is Thirsty (Земля жаждет) (1930)
- The Pilots (Пилоты) (1935)
- The Last Night (Последняя ночь) (1936)
- Virgin Soil Upturned (1939)
- Mashenka (1942)
- Fall of Berlin - 1945 (1945)
- Rainis (1949)
- Dream of a Cossack (1951)
- Conflict (Urok Zhizhni) (1955)
- The Communist (1958)
- Private Life (1982)
- Birchenough, Tom (January 2, 1995). "Obituaries". Variety. p. 83. Retrieved May 7, 2018.
- Katz, Ephraim; Fred Klein; Ronald Dean Nolan (1998). The Film Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). New York: HarperCollins. p. 1126. ISBN 0-333-74037-8.
- "The 55th Academy Awards (1983) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
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