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More Stars Than in the Sky Above
“You should bear firmly in mind that of all the arts, cinema is the most important to us.” Many of our compatriots – emigrants of the first wave whose contribution to the Dream Factory is difficult to overestimate – could bravely endorse this famous Leninist expression. According to the film historian Sergei Kudryavtsev, “the earliest meticulous study of various Western directories found no less startling information. It’s time to begin counting the few figures in film who have nothing to do with Russia at all.”
Nobody has yet succeeded in calculating the exact number of people from Russia who have left their mark on Hollywood. Very different and rough estimates show that the total number varies from several hundred to several thousand. Coming up with a precise number is problematic given the difficulty in determining the criteria for counting. Marcello Mastroianni, Jean-Michel Jarraud, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, Sylvester Stallone, and many other actors, directors, writers and composers have all had Russian ancestors. These people quite obviously cannot be considered Russians, however. After all, if we delve into all their backgrounds, just as many will come up with German, Dutch or Irish roots.
There is obviously no need to be overly dramatic in telling the story. Russian writers and journalists have long written about Russians in Hollywood. In their view, had it not been for censorship, the pale of settlement, the cost of admission to universities and the pogroms, Russia – even tsarist Russia – could well have become the birthplace of film.
This view was adhered to not so much by Soviet researchers, as one might assume, but by