Considered one of the Soviet Union's finest directors during the early sound era, Friedrich Ermler specialized in realistic, psychologically insightful dramas that were highly patriotic (Ermler staunchly supported Communist party ideology).
Born in Rechitsa, Latvia, Ermler originally studied to be a pharmacist. Ermler's political beliefs led him to desert the Russian Army in 1917 and join the Bolsheviks during the October Revolution. During the Russian Civil War, Ermler was serving with the Red Army on the Northern front when he was captured and tortured by the White Guard. After the war, he formally joined the Communist Party. In 1923, Ermler underwent acting and screenwriting training at the Institute of Screen Arts in Petrograd (later St. Petersburg); during this period, he made his film acting debut in a few avant-garde films by Vyacheslav Viskovsky. Ermler launched his directing career in 1924 after establishing the Cinema Experimental Workshop (KEM). His first film, Skarlatina/Scarlet Fever, was a comedy. Ermler's best-known films are Vstrechnyy/Counterplan (1932), his first sound film (made in conjunction with director Sergei Yutkevich); the two-part biography of Stalin's slain enemy Sergei Kirov, Veliky Grazhdanin/Great Citizen (1938); and Veliky Perelom/Turning Point (1946). Over his career, Ermler traveled to Europe (in 1929) and Hollywood (1935) as an ambassador for Soviet films. Between 1939 and 1943, Ermler served as an artistic director of Lenfilm Studios.