Puneet Varma (Editor)

Say a Word for the Poor Hussar

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Directed by  Eldar Ryazanov
Cinematography  Vladimir Nakhabtsev
Release date  January 1981
Director  Eldar Ryazanov
Production company  Mosfilm
Music by  Andrey Petrov
Production company  Mosfilm
Initial release  1980
Music director  Andrey Petrov
Starring  Stanislav Sadalskiy Oleg Basilashvili Valentin Gaft Yevgeny Leonov
Written by  Eldar Ryazanov, Grigori Gorin
Cast  Valentin Gaft, Oleg Basilashvili, Yevgeny Leonov, Stanislav Sadalskiy
Similar  The Garage, Station for Two, The Promised Heaven, Zigzag of Success, A Cruel Romance

Say a Word for the Poor Hussar (Russian: О бедном гусаре замолвите слово…, translit. O bednom gusare zamolvite slovo) is a 1981 Soviet film directed by Eldar Ryazanov. Film shot in the style of historical tragicomedy.



A hussars regiment fumes to the provincial town of Gubernsk for summer maneuvers. Frivolous life outside the barracks, away from the metropolitan authorities, evening shows in the theater, billiard, card game, flirting with the ladies - this is the hussars' lives in the provincial town. But soon the regiment gets into trouble. From St. Petersburg, on the personal orders of the emperor, with a special mission, arrives count Merzlyaev.

Some officers of the regiment are suspected of "free-thinking" and of conspiring against the government. Merzlyaev offers these officers a test: they must shoot a rebel, thus demonstrating their loyalty to the emperor. Merzlyaev's cunning plan is that the "execution by shooting" is false: the cartridges are blank, and the role of "the condemned conspirator" will be played by a stranger. If the officers refuse to shoot - they face the military court and penal servitude.

On the role of the "conspirator" Merzlyaev hires Bubentsov, an actor who is in jail for a stupid carelessness. Merzlyaev's "play" goes perfectly, but suddenly it is interfered by human dignity. Cornet Alexei Pletnev (one of the officers who should play the role of the executioners), let the "rebel" Bubentsov go free. And it's starting to turn tragic ...

Trying to save his plan and his reputation, count Merzlyaev is ready to take any action, to create any abomination. But he is unable to defeat love and generosity of honest people...


  • Stanislav Sadalskiy - cornet Alexei V. Pletnev
  • Oleg Basilashvili - count Merzlyaev, privy councilor from St Petersburg
  • Yevgeny Leonov - Athanasios P. Bubentsov, provincial actor
  • Irina Mazurkievich - Nastya Bubentsova, provincial actress, Bubentsov's daughter
  • Valentin Gaft - colonel Ivan А. Pokrovsky, the commander of a cavalry regiment
  • Georgi Burkov - Artyuhov (aka Yegorych), Merzlyaev's valet
  • Zinovy Gerdt - Lev B. Pertsovsky, dealer parrots
  • Victor Pavlov - jailer Stepan
  • Boryslav Brondukov - 2nd jailer
  • Vladimir Nosik - cornet Simpomponchik
  • Valery Pogoreltsev - hussar Lytkin
  • Nikolai Kochegarov - 2nd Hussar
  • Alexey Shmarinov - 3rd Hussar
  • Anatoliy Egorov - 4th Hussar
  • Natalya Gundareva - Juju, milliner from the Madame Josephine's salon
  • Svetlana Nemolyaeva - Zizi, milliner from the Madame Josephine's salon
  • Liya Akhedzhakova - Lulu, milliner from the Madame Josephine's salon
  • Valentina Talyzina - Anna P. Speshneva, provincial actress
  • Grigory Shpigel - prompter
  • Gotlib Roninson - Mark Y. Mavzon, provincial actor
  • Viktor Filippov - Theodore S. Spiridonov, provincial actor
  • Alexander Belyavsky - governor
  • Zoya Vasilkova - governor's wife
  • Eldar Ryazanov - confectioner
  • Andrei Mironov — narrator (voice)
  • Music

    The music for the film was written by a prominent Soviet composer Andrei Petrov. This composer repeatedly worked with Eldar Ryazanov. The songs in the film were written on poems of famous poets of different times: Denis Davydov, Pyotr Vyazemsky, Mikhail Savoyarov, Marina Tsvetaeva, Mikhail Arkadyevich Svetlov. Later, a disc was released, which was recorded with the participation of the USSR State Committee for Cinematography Orchestra (conductor Sergei Skripka) and State Wind Orchestra of the RSFSR.

    Filming scandal

    The film proved to be an ordeal for Eldar Ryazanov. The screenplay was written in the summer and autumn of 1978. The State Committee for Cinematography of the USSR did not accept the script, and Eldar Ryazanov brought it to Central Television of the USSR. After a long bureaucratic process the script was adopted into production by Studio Ekran. In autumn 1979 the movie was put into production in the cinematic studio Mosfilm. But soon came the decision that stunned Ryazanov - to shut down the film. In December 1979, Soviet troops entered Afghanistan and the Soviet censors saw the script of the film as a kind of "sedition". Initially, according to the creators, Merzlyaev was a Gendarme officer, but then, at the insistence of the TV authorities, any mention of that Russian "law enforcement agency" should be excluded from the screenplay. Screenplay authors Ryazanov and Gorin were surprised - "Soviet power" that toppled down "damned tsarism" in 1917, in 1979 struggled to protect one of the most hideous manifestations of "tsar's power" - "political police" represented in the movie by Gendarmes. Despite all his attempts to change the decision of TV authorities, Ryazanov could not do anything.

    Then Ryazanov and Gorin made a decision to rewrite the script. The general meaning of the film was immediately distorted, the story developed numerous inconsistencies and logical absurdities. Merzlyaev became an indistinct official with special assignments. To emphasize his involvement in the secret services, he was awarded the rank of Actual Privy Councilor. Such rank, equal to that of the general, in the Russian Empire, could be held only by high-ranking officials of the ministerial level. It looked unlikely that an official of such rank would personally come to a provincial town and get engaged in petty intrigues.

    Total control and censorship continued in the course of the filming. In his autobiography Ryazanov tells of flagrant cases of such intervention. For example, in one of the humorous episodes, actor Bubentsov (played by Yevgeny Leonov) was supposed to quote the famous poem by Lermontov: "Farewell, unwashed Russia!". TV bosses noticed the lines: "... And you, blue uniforms, and you, people faithful to them" and considered them as "seditious" hints at the Gendarmes. They ordered to replace the poem. Enraged Ryazanov shouted in the face of the censors, that this Lermontov's poem is not an illegal literature and is learned by heart in every Soviet school. In vain. In the final version the actor Bubentsov quoted Pushkin's poem: "I sit behind bars in a damp prison ..."

    Ryazanov, wrote in his book: Working over the film "Say a Word for the Poor Hussar" was not only a test for professionalism, it was a test for integrity, honesty and generosity. The content of the movie corresponded to our lives, to our work. The provocations, intrigues, infamies, that were described in our scenario, we had tested on ourselves while shooting the movie. Every scene that was planned to be shot tomorrow, as a rule, was remodel, refined, and appended the day before, which also increased the chaos and confusion on the film set. Perhaps "Say a Word for the Poor Hussar" was my most difficult work. Blows rained down on from all sides, from within and without.


    Say a Word for the Poor Hussar Wikipedia