September 01, 2002

Influential Comic Voice

Actor Anatoly Papanov (1922-1987) would have turned 80 on October 31. Generations of Russian children associate his voice with that of the Wolf in the popular cartoon Nu Pogodi!  (“You just wait!”). His wife, Nadezhda Karataeva, later recalled: “In fact, he was a bit upset when people recognized him as the Wolf. He said: ‘As if I did nothing else, only Nu Pogodi!’”

But he did. One of the most talented actors of the past century, Papanov excelled in the role of Gorodnichy in Nikolai Gogol’s play “The Inspector General” at his beloved Satire Theater, which he joined in 1948. His other major role there was Kisa Vorobyaninov, in “Twelve Chairs.”

In point of fact, the fame of the Satire Theater in the 1970s-1980s largely hinged on the talents of Papanov and his somewhat younger colleague Andrei Mironov. In 1955, director Eldar Ryazanov invited Papanov to act in Ryazanov’s first comedy film, Carnival Night. Yet Papanov’s screen test did not impress Ryazanov and, for the next few years, Papanov thought he was not “videogenic” and stayed away from cinema.

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