The Youth of Maxim
Directed by: Grigori Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg
Starring: Boris Chirkov
This conventional Soviet story about a factory worker Maxim turning into a Bolshevik was Stalin’s favorite movie of all time. The events take place in 1910. Maxim is young and sees the cruelty of the tsarist police, loses a friend and becomes a Bolshevik. Music
was composed by Dmitry Shostakovich. Stalin praised the beating scene for its accuracy and ordered some corrections made to the scene where the proclamation is being dictated to the typist.
Directed by: Grigory Alexandrov
Starring: Lyubov Orlova, Igor Ilyinsky
Another Stalin’s all time favorite. It belonged to the series of escapist Soviet jazz comedies of the 1930s that were meant to paint a more colorful picture of Soviet life to its people. Stalin’s message “Life has become better and more fun” had to be delivered to the public. The public was already driven to exhaustion by the extent of collectivization and Gulags. The movie title was jokingly suggested to Grigory Alexandrov by Charlie Chaplin. And Stalin, having seen the movie first, ordered a long scene depicting a French kiss be cut out.
Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (1938)
Directed by: Norman Taurog
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney
This very famous Hollywood movie starring Spencer Tracy was surely his favorite non-Soviet film. Stalin saw it 25 times! The movie tells the biography of a real-life person Catholic priest Edward J. Flanagan, who established a sort of centre for troubled youth called the “Boys Town”. In a sequence where the boys are fighting, Stalin would grab the arm of the person sitting next to him, he would squeeze and say: “..Look at that, look at that!”
Directed by: Grigory Alexandrov
Starring: Leonid Utyosov, Lyubov Orlova
One of the most popular Soviet Movies of the 1930s. Another one of the famous jazz-comedies with the depiction of carefree life, laughter and most outstanding pop melodies by Isaak Dunayevsky
. The two main characters of the movie, Grigory Alexandrov’s wife Lyubov Orlova and the singer Leonid Utyosov both rocketed to lifelong stardom after the film. Stalin famously said after finishing the movie: “It feels like having been on a month’s vacation”.
Directed by: Grigori Vasilyev, Sergei Vasilyev
Starring: Boris Babochkin
This war movie that depicts the life of the Russian Civil War commander Vasily Chapayev, is undoubtedly one of the most popular Soviet movies ever made. On the very first year of screening, it was watched in cinema by 30 million people. Many generations of children have grown up watching the adventures of Chapayev and his assistants Petka and Anka. Stalin absolutely loved the film. It has been written down that between the years 1934-37 Stalin watched “Chapayev” 38 times!
Each Dawn I Die
Warner Bros. (1939)
Directed by: William Keighley
Starring: James Cagney, George Raft
Stalin liked gangster movies and he loved westerns. He probably could identify himself with the lone ranger type of characters. This movie here was a box office smash hit from 1939. It is a story about a reporter who is unjustly thrown in jail and befriends there with a gangster.
In Old Chicago
20th Century Fox (1937)
Directed by: Henry King
Starring: Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche
Stalin also had a softer side. “In Old Chicago” was a drama based on the Niven Busch story “We the O’Learys”. It was a story about the Great Chicago Fire of 1891, one of the most expensive movies ever made to that day.
It Happened One Night
Columbia Pictures (1934)
Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert
Stalin also liked the romantic comedy “It Happened One Night” that featured a young socialite woman who wants to break free from his father and falls in love with a reporter. The film was the first to win the Academy Awards in all major categories.