During the 1960s, Alexei Batalov was one of the Soviet Union's most popular actors whose honest, guileless face and sweet smile helped make him the ideal contemporary Soviet man. A nephew of distinguished actor Nikolai Batalov, Alexei Batalov received formal training from the so-called Studio School at the Moscow Art Theater School and from 1950 to 1953 he performed with the Soviet Army Theater. He next joined the Moscow Art Theater and remained there through 1957. Batalov made his feature film debut in Josef Heifitz's The Big Family (1954). The young actor went on to appear in several more Heifitz films. In 1957, Batalov starred in the first Soviet film to win the Palm d'Or at Cannes, Letyat zhuravli (Cranes Are Flying). In 1966, Batalov's work in Devyat Dnyey Odnogo Goda (Nine Days of One Year) earned him a special State prize. In addition to working as an actor in such well-regarded efforts as Dama S Sobachkoy (Lady With a Dog). Batalov made his directorial debut in The Overcoat (1960) and went on to direct two more films: Three Fat Men (which he co-directed in 1966) and an adaptation of Dostoyevsky's The Gambler (1973). In 1976, Batalov was accorded one of the Soviet Union's highest honors when he was named a People's Artist of the U.S.S.R. The same year, he was appointed the head of Moscow's State Film Institute's Actors Studio until 1980 when he stepped down to become a professor there.