19 November 2014

Nicolas Rimsky

Russian actor Nicolas Rimsky (1886-1941) is most famous for his silent films of the 1920s produced in France. Rimsky also performed in several Russian films in the late 1910s and he also had parts in the French sound cinema of the 1930s.

Nicolas Rimsky
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 318.


Nicolas Rimsky was born in Moscow in 1886.

He started out in Russian cinema in 1916, not only as actor but also as scriptwriter. His first film acting role was in Yastrebinoe gnedzo/The Cloven Tongue (Cheslav Sabinsky, 1916).

This debut was followed by Ledyanoy dom/The House of Ice (Konstantin Eggert, 1916), while he wrote the script for Yakov Protazanov's Zhenschina s kinzhalom/The Woman with the Dagger (Yakov Protazanov, 1916) with Ivan Mozzhukhin.

The next year he played in three films by Protazanov: Otyets Sergei/Father Sergius (Yakov Protazanov, Alexandre Volkoff, 1917), Proktalie millioni/Damned Millions (Yakov Protazanov, 1917), and Andrei Kozhukov (Yakov Protazanov, 1917), again with Ivan Mozzhukhin.

In 1918 he appeared in Khamka (Aleksandr Ivanovsky, 1918), Dnevnik Nelli/The Diary of Nellie (Aleksandr Ivanovsky, 1918), Kaliostro/Cagliostro (Wladyslaw Starewicz, 1918), and Taine korolevy/The Secret of a Queen (Yakov Protazanov, 1918) with Nathalie Lissenko.

His last film in Russia was Protazanov's To nadezhda, to revnost spelaya/Jealousy is Blind (Yakov Protazanov, 1919).

With the troupe of Ermoliev, including Ivan Mozzhukhin, Nathalie Lissenko, Nicolas Koline and Yakov Protazanov, Rimsky first moved to Crimea and then to France, where he would have an excellent career during the 1920s.

At Ermoliev's studio in Montreuil, he played roles in L'écheance fatale/The fatal Term (Alexandre Volkov, 1921) and La tourmente/The Storm (Serge Nadejdine, 1921).

1921 was mainly dedicated to the 12-episode serial La fille sauvage/The Wild Girl (Henri Etievant, 1921), opposite Romuald Joubé and Nathalie Lissenko.

Then followed three films by Viktor Tourjansky: Nuit de carnaval/Carnival Night (1922) with Nicolas Koline, Calvaire d'amour/Love Ordeal (1923) with Nathalie Lissenko and Charles Vanel, and the successful comedy Ce cochon de Morin/This Pig of Morin (1923).

For these films Rimsky also wrote the script and the adaptation of the stage play. Also for the next two films in which he acted, Rimsky did the adaptation and scenario as well: L'heureuse mort/Happy Death (Serge Nadejdine, 1924) and La cible/The Target (Serge Nadejdine, 1924).

After his role in La dame masquée/The Masked Lady (Viktor Tourjansky, 1924), Rimsky was ready to become a film director as well. While his roles had been quite diversified in the early 1920s, he would specialize in comedy henceforth because of the success of the comedy Ce cochon de Morin.

Nicolas Rimsky
French postcard by Cinémagazine Editions, no. 223.

Double Life

Nicolas Rimsky's first direction was the funny comedy Paris en cinq jours/Paris in Five Days (1925), co-directed with Pierre Colombier. Dolly Davis and Rimsky himself played the leading roles, and again he did the adaptation and the script as well.

His next direction, together with Serge Nadejdine and Henry Wulschleger was La nègre blanc/The White Negro (1925), for which he also did adaptation and scenario.

His third and fourth direction were the romantic comedy Jim la Houlette, roi des voleurs/Jim the Cracksman, the King of Thieves (co-directed with Roger Lion, 1926) and Le chasseur de chez Maxim's/Maxim's Porter (1927). In Jim la Houlette, Rimsky is a timid secretary who pretends to be a notorious thief, just to impress the daughter of his employer, a thriller writer. Of course things go wrong.

In Le chasseur de chez Maxim's Rimsky again leads a double life, this time of an ordinary man with a second life in the night time. The story was co-written by Max Linder.

After that, Rimsky returned to acting. He appeared in the French films Minuit... Place Pigalle/Midnight at Place Pigalle (René Hervil, 1928), a rare tragic film, and Parce que je t'aime/Because I Love You (Hewitt Claypoole Grantham-Hayes, 1928).

He also made two German films: Unmoral/Immorality (Willi Wolf, 1928) with Ellen Richter, and the horror film Cagliostro/ (Richard Oswald, 1928) starring Hans Stüwe.

After his last silent role in Trois jeunes filles nues/Three Naked Flappers (Robert Boudrioz, 1929) starring Annabella, Rimsky co-directed with Nicolas Evreinoff his first sound film: the comedy Pas sur la bouche/Not On the Lips (1930). It was also his last film direction.

Until 1939 he would continue to play supporting parts in French films. These films include La voit qui meurt/The Dying Voice (Gennaro Dini, 1932), Nostalgie/The Postmaster's Daughter (Viktor Tourjansky, 1937) starring Harry Baur, Le patriote/The Patriot (Maurice Tourneur, 1938) with Harry Baur and Suzy Prim, and Menaces/Threats (Edmond T. Gréville, 1939) starring Mireille Balin.

Nicolas Rimsky died in 1941 in Marseille, France.

Nicolas Rimsky
French postcard. Nicolas Rimsky probably in the Albatros producton Calvaire d'amour (Viktor Tourjansky, 1923).

Nathalie Lissenko, Nicolas Koline & Nicolas Rimsky in Calvaire d'amour
French postcard, with names written in Russian. The Russian actors Nathalie Lissenko, Nicolas Koline and Nicolas Koline in the Albatros producton Calvaire d'amour (Viktor Tourjansky, 1923).

Sources: François Albéra (Albatros. Des Russes à Paris, 1919-1929 - French), CineArtistes (French) and IMDb.

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