MOSCOW: Vladimir Zeldin, believed to have been the world’s oldest working actor, has died aged 101, after appearing for 71 years at the same Moscow theatre.
Zeldin, a veteran of both stage and screen, died Monday morning in Moscow.
“Vladimir Mikhailovich passed away early in the morning,” the actor’s wife, Ivetta Kapralova, told the TASS news agency, using his first and middle names. “I received a call from the hospital where he was staying. For the past three weeks, he has been in intensive care but, unfortunately, they have not been able to help him.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin described Zeldin as “a marvellous actor with an extraordinary work ethic and immense creative energy”. He said the actor’s death was a loss for all Russian culture.
Zeldin appears in the Guinness Book of World Records as the planet’s oldest working actor. On his 100th birthday, Zeldin appeared in a five-hour-long play.
The actor also celebrated his 101st birthday on stage, appearing in the title role of a play dedicated to him by the Russian Army Theater, where he had worked since 1945. The play was called Dancing with Teacher, in reference to the classic play by Felix Lope de Vega, The Dancing Teacher. He had appeared in the play more than 1,000 times, Tass reported.
Additionally, Zeldin has appeared in more than 40 films, including such Soviet classics as They Met in Moscow (1941), Carnival Night (1956) and Ten Little Indians (1987).
Zeldin’s colleagues remember him as “a Russian stage legend” whose death marks the end of an era.
“We were planning a performance for his 102nd birthday and Zeldin, as always, was the driving force behind it,” said director Yuli Gusman. “Throughout all his life he was like a child, that is perhaps why God gave him so many years to live.”
s3According to Zeldin’s wife, 80, the secret to his longevity was his daily 90-minute walk, never smoking and flirting with young women.
She and Zeldin were married for more than 50 years.
Zeldin was born in 1915, when Tsar Nicholas II was on the Russian throne. He shot to fame when he appeared in the film They Met in Moscow, on which shooting began shortly before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
Filming was interrupted when Zeldin, who was then 26 and playing an illiterate shepherd who wins the heart of a beautiful swineherd, was sent to the front. But he was recalled on Stalin’s orders to finish shooting the film.
When the war finished, Zeldin joined Moscow’s Red Army Theatre, where he was part of the troupe from 1945 until his death. The theatre is now known as the Russian Army Theatre. Fellow actors at the theatre described him as full of energy until the very last.
Zeldin’s coffin will be laid out in the the Russian Army Theatre on Thursday, before he is buried in Moscow’s prestigious Novodevichy cemetery.