vt The Lady and the Hooligan
Russia / 43 minutes / bw silent / Neptun
Dir: Yevgeni Slavinsky, Vladimir Mayakovsky
Scr: Vladimir Mayakovsky
Story: La Maestrina degli Operai (1895; vt The Workers’ Young Schoolmistress) by Edmondo De Amicis
Cine: Yevgeni Slavinsky
Cast: Vladimir Mayakovsky, Aleksandra Rebikova, Fyodor Dunayev, Yan Nevinsky.
Aleksandra Rebikova as the schoolteacher.
A timid young schoolmarm (Rebikova) comes to a remote small town to teach a class of students ranging from children to oldsters, all male and all pretty rowdy. While walking in the woods she catches the eye of the town hooligan (Mayakovsky), who follows her home and is sufficiently taken by her that he enlists in her class. He becomes besotted, seeing visions of her wherever he goes and presenting her with, in lieu of his classwork assignment, a billet saying, “I love you very much.” She reacts with revulsion to the latter, as she does when he lures her to the woods, grapples with her, and implores her to love him.
Vladimir Mayakovsky as the hooligan
Another member of the class (Nevinsky) has been trying to make her life difficult ever since she started teaching here. When this student lunges for her one day, the hooligan hauls him off and prepares to whop him; one of the other classmates pulls a knife, but the situation is calmed by the hooligan being expelled. The school principal (Dunayev) seems all too willing to pretend the knife was never drawn.
One of the hooligan’s classmates pulls a knife.
Next time the hooligan encounters the teacher in the woods, he again tries to press his suit upon her. She eventually gets it through to him that grabbing at her ass isn’t the surest way to woo a fair lady, and it seems he’s beginning to learn that lesson. However, a group of the students from the school waylay him and pick a fight with him; in the ensuing melee he’s fatally stabbed.
The hooligan (Vladimir Mayakovsky) goes down on his kees to declare his love for the schoolteacher (Aleksandra Rebikova).
As he lies on his death bed the hooligan pleads that the schoolteacher be brought to him. After she gives him the kiss he has so long craved, he kisses the cross and embraces death.
Mayakovsky, who scripted, co-directed and played the lead in this, was a pioneer of the Futurist movement in Russia. In the years immediately preceding the Russian Revolution he became a staunch supporter of socialism; part of the message of Baryshnya i Khuligan, in which love for a schoolteacher turns a man from a local thug into something far better, can be construed to concern the importance of worker education. Mayakovsky is also known for the long affair he had with Lilya, the wife of his publisher, Osip Brik; the relationship was common knowledge and yet the Briks, in defiance of tradition, didn’t separate. Despite his earlier support for the Party, the onset of the Stalinist period outraged Mayakovsky, and he dared to publish satires of the regime. In 1930 he committed suicide; ironically, Stalin later lavished praise upon him.
The actress Aleksandra Rebikova, the adopted daughter of the composer Vladimir Rebikov, studied under Stanislavski at the Moscow Art Theatre. Her first movie was done for legendary Russian director Yevgeni Bauer in 1915; I’ve been unable to identify the exact movie. Baryshnya i Khuligan marked the start of a friendship between her and her co-star, Mayakovsky, that was to last until his death; she starred alongside him in his now-lost Zakovannaya Filmoi (1915; vt Shackled by Film). Rebikova retired in the early 1920s, suffering from the disfiguring ailment Graves’ disease, and lived as a recluse in her Moscow apartment until her death in 1957.
The movie’s as primitive as you’d expect for something of its milieu and period, yet it has its merits—most notably that its visual narrative is sufficiently clear that it can be watched and understood without the benefit of intertitles save one to explain the ill judged billet that the hooligan offers to the woman he loves.
Drinking in a lowlife bar, the hooligan (back to us) has one of his recurring visions of the schoolteacher he idolizes as above all this.
The movie was remade as Baryshnya i Khuligan (1970 TVM) dir Apollinari Dudko, with Irina Kolpakova, Aleksei Noskov, Svyatoslav Kuznetsov and Valentina Mukhanova.
I came across this movie thanks to Jean-Eric de Cockborne’s excellent blog A Cinema History.