People’s Artist, Laureate of the USSR State Awards
Michail Astangov was born 21 October (3 November) 1900 in Warsaw to a family of a railway worker. In 1918 graduated from a gymnasium and entered the faculty of Law in the Moscow State University. Among his peers were such as R.N.Simonov, A.M.Lobanov, O.N.Abdullov, N.M.Gorchakov. As a student, he attended A.A.Matveeva’s theatre studio in the Maly theatre, also he took lessons in A.A.Geyrot’s studio. In 1920 he entered Shalyapin Studio which became an artistic school for him and his first professinal scene. At that time he had several influentional acquaintances with L.M.Leonidov, Y.B. Vakhtangov and A.D.Dikiy. His first major roles were played in popular at that time pieces “Revolutionary Marriage” by Mikhaelis and “Green Parrot” by A.Schintsler. In 1923 he began working in the Kommissarjevskaya Theatre. There he became popular for his role as Chichikov (“The Dead Souls” by Gogol, 1925). Astangov created an image of a slave of the idea, ambitious and desperate man. He also played Lodyzhin (“The End of Kryvorylsk” by Romashov, 1926), and that laid the beginning of the gallery of revolutionary oppositioners that Astangov played. In 1927 Astangov went to Odessa where he stayed for 1927-28 and then to Kazan (1928-29), spent some time in St.Petesburg in a company of the Narodny Dom Drama Theatre. During these years of travelling he becomes especially proficient and experienced. Among the most prominent roles of that time are: seaman Godun (“The Breach” by Lavrenyov), Quasimodo (“Notre-Dame de Paris” by Hugo), Beethoven (piece by Jijmor). Seasons in Odessa and Kazan made Astangov one of the most bright actors of the provincial scene. In 1930 he returned to Moscow, to the Revolution Theatre where he worked in 1925-2917. Th most successful period of his work was in 1930s with the role of of the revolutionary Spaventi (“The Street of Joy” by Zarkhi, 1932). Among other bright works of that time were Gay (“My Friend” Pogodin, 1932), Pavel Grekov (play be Voitekhov and Lench, 1939), Kerenskiy (“The Truth” by Korneychyuk, 1937), Paratov (“Without a Dowry” by Ostrovskiy, 1940) and many others. Depite contradictive evaluations of Astangov’s Romeo (“Romeo and Juliet”, 1935), he became very popular. In 1943-45 he worked in the Mossovet Theatre where he played roled of F.Talanov “The Invasion” by Leonov, 1943) and Treplev (“The Seagull” by Chekhov, 1945). Since 1945 and till his death he worked in the Vakhtangov Theatre. His first role in the Vakhtangov – Cyrano de Bergerac (Rostan, 1946) – Astangov finished on a stagic pitch. It was almost a rehearsal for the future Hamlet. Such of Astangov’s roles as Mca Hill (“Plot of the Doomed” by Virta”), Smith (“The Russian Issue” by Simonov”), Gargott (“Missouri Waltz”by Pogodin) and others refer to a period of political satire. He also played at that time Insarov (“On the Eve” by Turgenev), Pastukhov (“Kirill Izvekov” by Fedin) and many others. During his last years Astangov’s reason was particularly dominating over his feelings. One of his best roles is Matthias Clausen (“Before the Sunset” by Hauotman, 1954). His love for life made the audience believe that even being very old he is still able to love and be loved. At the same time it is a sad story of man who lost all his hopes and illusions. In 1958, being almost 60 years old, he played his legendary Hamlet with his famous “ever living human thought”. This role became a great example of a man who grew out of a fight against the evil. M.F.Astangov died 20 April, 1965.