Leo Arnshtam

Active - 1936 - 1967  |   Born - Jan 15, 1905   |   Died - Dec 27, 1979   |   Genres - Drama, Dance [nf], Theater [nf]

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Russian filmmaker Leo Arnshtam earned his greatest international acclaim for Zoya (1944), an impressionistic drama depicting the heroism and sacrifice of an 18-year-old girl who is captured by the Germans during WWII. Born in the Ukraine, Arnshtam originally aspired to become a professional musician and studied piano at the Leningrad Conservatory. Graduating in 1923, Arnshtam joined the Vsevolod Meyerhold Theater as a musician in 1924, eventually becoming music director before departing in 1927. Arnshtam then branched into film as Sergei Yutkevich's assistant on Zlatye Gory/The Golden Mountain (1931). He became a sound director and co-screenwriter for Soyuzkino (later Lenfilm). Arnshtam co-directed a travel documentary, Ankara, Heart of Turkey, and another feature before making his solo directing debut under Yutkevich's supervision with Girl Friends/Podrugi (1935). This and his sophomore effort, Druzya/Friends, had strong patriotic overtones without descending into sloppy sentimentality. Following the success of Zoya, which won Arnshtam a Stalin Prize in 1946, the director made the ultra-patriotic Glinka (1947) and won the prize again. Arnshtam's successful career took a major hit in 1950 with his unfinished production, The Warmongers, said to be one of the most vicious anti-American films of the Cold War. Arnshtam had a bit of a comeback in 1955 with his version of Romeo and Juliet, which won a major award at the Cannes Film Festival. Two years later, he released the unsuccessful The Lesson of History; though Arnshtam would continue on to make at least two more movies, he would never regain the popularity he had with Zoya and Glinka.

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