25 April, 2009
Vasily Borisovich Livanov is a notable Russian and Soviet film actor, screenwriter, voice actor and the only one to have been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.
His father Boris Livanov was a prominent actor of the Moscow Art Theatre. Vasily was brought up in the artistic milieu, as many Soviet/Russian actors (such as Olga Knipper and Alla Tarasova) worked with his father and frequented the Livanov house.
Livanov graduated from the Vakhtangov Theatre school and started his film career in 1959. His breakthrough role came in the 1963 adaptation of Vasily Aksyonov's Colleagues, in which he co-starred with Vasily Lanovoy and Oleg Anofriev.
Livanov's rather erratic bohemian lifestyle derailed his film career. He made very few appearances in the movies produced in the late 1960s and 1970s, using his newly acquired hoarse voice to become the voice behind the famous Soviet cartoon characters – Karlsson-on-the-Roof and Crocodile Gena. His other major contribution to the Soyuzmultfilm cartoon industry was writing the modernized adaptation of Town Musicians of Bremen, which went on to become a cult Soviet cartoon film of the 1970s. He also wrote a few more animated films, e.g. The Blue Bird.
In the late 1970s and in the 1980s, Livanov returned to film stardom in what became the greatest success of his acting career: the role of Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles and other Holmes TV series directed by Igor Maslennikov. His other notable roles from the period included Tsar Nicholas I(1975) and Don Quixote(1997) .
Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels that were featured in Livanov's movies included: A Study In Scarlet, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, The Hound of the Baskervilles,The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, The Adventure of the Final Problem, The Adventure of the Empty House, A Scandal In Bohemia, The Sign of Four, The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb, The Adventure of the Second Stain, The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans and His Last Bow. Those movies were filmed between 1979 and 1986, and the latter four stories formed the plot of a standalone big-screen feature titled The 20th Century Begins. Vasily Livanov played Sherlock Holmes and Vitaly Solomin played Doctor Watson.
The actors were cast for the roles according to the illustrations by Sidney Paget, a friend of Conan Doyle and the first illustrator of the book The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - their appearance was close to this of the characters of Paget’s illustrations.
New Zealand Mint Ltd. issued a four-coin set to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes; the picture of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are easily recognizable as Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin.
Vasily Livanov is also the author of a number of stories, plays, fairy tales for children and memoirs (one of them a book about Boris Pasternak, who was a close friend of his father Boris Livanov).
He lives in Moscow.