Specializing in portraying an idealized version of the Average Man, Nikolai Kryuchkov was one of the Soviet Union's most popular movie stars of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Acting was his passion and he was always complimented on his professionalism and willingness to be the role model offscreen that he was in the movies. Learning his craft at the Moscow Young Workers theater, where he studied under Nikolai Khmelev and Igor Savchenko, Kryuchkov was discovered for films by Boris Barnet who cast him as Senka the Shoemaker in Okraina/Patriots (1933). Senka, as with the other characters in which he would specialize, was a modern socialist, optimistic about his life, always looking to improve, and eager to work hard. Initially, due in large part to the fact that he was so recognizable, the actor was sometimes criticized for not so much acting as simply playing himself, but Kryuchkov denied it, claiming that his goal was to add perspective to his characters by filtering them through his personality rather than totally immersing himself into them. By the late '30s he was averaging three films a year, but his career really took off after he starred as Klim Yarko, a model of Soviet youth, in the propaganda-filled classic comedy Traktoristy/The Tractor Drivers (1939). The role earned him the USSR State Prize in 1940. In the early '50s, he changed his acting style and philosophy. While his characters were as bright and interesting as previously, he added a psychological complexity and subtle ambiguity that made them more compelling. Notable films from this period include Zhestokost/Cruelty (1959) and Sud/The Trial (1962). He continued playing more dramatic roles through the 1960s. One of his best-known films from the 1970s was Gorozhane/City Dwellers (1976), in which he played a taxi driver. Over his career, Nikolai Kryuchkov won many important awards, including one from the All Union Film Festival for Your Home Address (1972). In 1965, he was honored by the Soviet Government when he was named People's Artist of the USSR; in 1980, Kryuchkov received his country's highest civilian award when he was designated a Hero of Soviet Labor.