Incomparable Yuri Nikulin
Incomparable Yuri Nikulin was more than a clown, more than an actor. He was a great comforter, who knew how laughter and tears treat the soul. “I firmly believe that laughter improves health and prolongs life”. … Mid 20’s. The Moscow circus presents a show. Three clowns with spectacular name Barasseta pulled out of the cylinder endless string of amazing items: a loaf of bread, a bunch of sausages, round sausages – an enviable food set for a hard time. In the hall is heard enthusiastic child’s cry, and one of the clowns to the great joy of the hall mimics the boy. He shakes his father: “Daddy, Daddy, the clown said it to me!” It was the first performance of his life – a five-year-old Yura was brought to the circus by his father, a writer. Returning home after the performance, Yura asked his mother to make him a clown suit.
Yuri Nikulin found himself at once. Nobody doubted that the guy would be an actor, he was born to be one. The tall, gangly, with an elongated head, his eyes at any moment were ready to shine. He loved to tell jokes and even wrote them down in a notebook. Then this notebook would serve for Nikulin, it would be with him during two wars – the Finnish and the Great Patriotic War. It would be on the Leningrad front during the blockade, meet victory in the Baltic. At the most difficult moments the jokes written in it would help to discharge the hard atmosphere, and encourage the soldiers. Nikulin’s talent to comfort people on time, to make them a little happier was priceless.
This unique individuality of Yuri Nikulin is natural, a delicate comic had yet to understand it. But ironically, the 25-year-old veteran, who came to enter the cinematographic institute was not accepted. Nikulin experienced insulting rejection of theater and filmmakers. Once into his hands got the magazine with the announcement of the clown studio. They offered new vacancies.
But the apparent simplicity was imaginary – his mask Yuri was looking for a long time. Traditionally, a clown is sure to have a resounding nickname, bright wig, gummy nose. The famous Karandash (Pencil), to whom Nikulin with his future partner Michael Shuydin assisted for several years, demanded that they should perform with their own stage names. How much time had it taken for Nikulin to understand the main thing: no masks is needed! Just to be himself.
Nikulin almost did not use make-up, did not wear the “special” clown suit, only some jackets with too short sleeves, and narrow striped pants, and on his head – a flat hat. That’s all. Its ridiculous, but such a lovable character, was a neighbor in the stairwell, a guy from our yard, who got into various ridiculous situations. He was one of us – just eccentric. And when the audience laughed at him – they laughed at themselves. Unlike many clowns his sincerity was always sad, showing the injustice of the world, and because of it – full of sympathy. However, this second, “serious” part of his personality was spotted at once. But still, he became famous all over the country, playing Balbes in mega popular comedy films by Leonid Gaidai.
The selection committee at Cinematography Institute was wrong: Yuri Nikulin was literally created for films, and circus pantomime experience could not be more helpful. These roles played by Nikulin were very loved by people. He was an excellent actor both of comedy and drama films.
In his own personal life love has come once and lasted till the end of his days. He was already 28 when clown Karandash was given a funny short-legged horse named Lapot. Three female students of Timiryazev Academy looked after it. One of the students, Tanya, noticed Nikulin. He invited the girl to the show, but during the reprise … was hit by a horse. From the arena he was taken directly to the hospital, Tatiana visited him. Since then, Tatiana Nikulina was always there – both at home and in the circus. Their son Maxim, now the director of the Old Circus.
Monument to Yuri Nikulin was opened three years after his death, in 2000. It was established in front of the Nikulin Circus, where the actor worked for 50 years. No pomp, no pedestal: bronze cabriolet from the “Caucasian Captive” and from the car door in his clown suit and boater hat – stepping onto the pavement Nikulin. There are always fresh flowers and the children enthusiastically climbing up the car. Yuri Nikulin is still with us – cheers and comforts.