He was never considered among the Soviet Union's great thespians, nor was he a dashingly handsome hunk, but a lack of looks and dramatic talent did not prevent Savely Kramarov from becoming one of his country's most popular comedians of the '60s and '70s. Back then audiences adored his goofy crossed eyes and stupid, slack-jawed portrayal of the everyday Joe. Of the 42 Soviet films in which he appeared, his most popular were Trembita (1968), The Twelve Chairs (1970), Gentlemen of Fortune (1972, featuring one of his largest roles), Ivan Vasilyevich Changes His Profession (1973), the television mini-series Long Recess (1976).
Kramarov began his career after graduating from the Soviet State Film School. At the peak of his popularity in 1979, Kramarov shocked his fans by publicly announcing his desire to leave Russia and live in Israel. The authorities allowed him to leave in the early '80s, but instead of emigrating to Israel, he moved to the U.S. Just before leaving, Kramarov called himself "a prisoner of my own success" and claimed that no one would be allowed to see his films and television shows after he departed. Kramarov was right. As with all celebrities considered traitors of enemies of the state, Kramarov became persona non grata in the Soviet Union. His name was removed from film credits, and no biographies or mention of his name in print was allowed until the late Perestroika period (late '80s). By the time of his death in 1995, Kramarov's films were again becoming popular in Russia.
During the 13 years he spent in the United States, Kramarov underwent surgery to repair his crossed eyes, and then forged a sporadic, and largely non-descript career as a character actor. His most famous roles in American films included that of a KGB operative/hot-dog vendor in Moscow on the Hudson (1984), and a cosmonaut in 2010 (1984). Kramarov made his final appearance playing a Russian seaman in Love Affair (1994).