US Influence on the Cinema of the USSR: Where the Legs of Gaidai's Trinity Grow From

Coward, Balbes and Byvaly - Gaidai's iconic trio, which became a true heritage of Soviet comedy! However. is it true that the inspiration came from the West? Let's get to the bottom of it...

Gaidai's Trinity - Western inspiration: prototypes and facts

The Coward, the Jackass, and the Bullshitter - who is not familiar with this iconic comedy trio of the USSR? The trio of actors were once at the height of their fame - idols who amused millions of viewers, and everyone waited with delight for new films with them... They became the embodiment of the Soviet comedyand also the main stars of Gaidai's best projects. At some point, the trio grew tired of each other and "split" - but the general public, including the younger generation, still loves them.

Here's the interesting thing: for many decades, the iconic trio has been surrounded by a halo of rumours, speculation and even confident assertions - supposedly inspired by the western prototype! Is it true? Let's find out!

Marx Brothers

One hypothesis of possible inspiration concerns Marx Brothers - comedy icons of old Hollywood, who were American heroes of "absurdity": on the screen, the brothers played out wonderful scenes with cake throwing, slapping and awkward flirting. In general - a whole set of clichés that are characteristic of films of the "black and white era". In general, the brothers were 5, but it was the trio was able to earn the greatest fame and recognition. They created a catchy image of knaves, fraudsters - Chico, Harpo and Groucho.

Marx Brothers
Marx Brothers

Groucho was an experienced gang leader, Harpo was a crook by nature, and Chico had a silly behaviour. A bit reminiscent of Gaidai's trio, don't you think? On screen, the brothers acted out comical scenes and interacted with each other mainly by means of reprises. In general, there was no depth in their image - it was entirely built on comedy and absurdity. And this is what Gaidai himself would later come to in the case of ours "the people's trinity".

Marx Brothers
Marx Brothers

Another factor hinting at possible inspiration is. Ivan PyryevHe was a great admirer of the brothers and a good comrade and colleague (as well as curator) of Gaidai. It is more than certain that Pyryev not only told, but also showed Gaidai his favourite Hollywood films.

"The Three Stooges."

But even the Marx Brothers don't seem to be as strong a source of inspiration as these guys... And their name is... yeah: "The Three Stooges.". This is about a trio of American vaudeville performers who became famous for their comedic talent. They were as popular in the USA as our trio were in the USSR. It's not surprising, considering how many films the "Balbesy" starred in....

"The Three Stooges."
"The Three Stooges."

Their long career has spanned more than half a century and over 190 short films Columbia Pictures films! However - through the trio, there were a total of about six actors (meaning the cast changed periodically, but never more than three members at a time). Since they were at the height of their fame in the comedy genre, they had a lot of work to do - so much so that the actors worked almost without a day off. The actors played various comic roles on screen, from plumbers to lift operators, thus presenting the audience with familiar and accessible characters - but in their own absurd manner.

Alas, but the work did not bring the actors a decent income - despite the frantic workload, the actors received very little, as almost all earnings went into the pocket of the studio. For Columbia Pictures "The Three Stooges were something of a money-making machine! Americans adored this trio, and today films featuring them are considered classics of their genre in the West. Of course, the USSR also knew about them.

"The Three Stooges."
"The Three Stooges."

Just look at the photo above: does it remind you of anyone? As we think - "The Three Stooges" looks very much like Gaidaev's trio! Curly Howard (which is in the very centre) - Byvaly (Evgeny Morgunov), Moe Howard (bottom right) - a coward (Georgy Vitsin), and the last one on the left, it is Larry Fine - he does have some commonalities with Balbes (Yuri Nikulin). Even if not so obvious...

Again: all these theories are not taken out of thin air - they have been actively discussed for decades: by ordinary viewers, fans, critics, and even Gaidai's colleagues themselves... There is no doubt that Gaidai saw films with American cartoon trios. In general, the director has repeatedly confessed to being a fan of of old Hollywood comedy classics. (Charlie Chaplin and all that sort of thing). And critics, including domestic critics, have repeatedly emphasised that Leonid Iovich uses the tricks and techniques of Western cinema in his film masterpieces.

"The song of the rogue."

Well the last theory for today - and it concerns the American musical of the 1930s. "The song of the rogue." - a film whose action, strangely enough, is set in the Russian Empire, namely in our Caucasus. Ironically, the centre of the story is a bride kidnapping! And in this film there is a trio that reminds us so much of ours - just look at the photo.

A still from the film "The Rascal's Song."
A still from the film "The Rascal's Song."

We can talk about coincidences for a long time, but there are too many of them here. Most likely, as critics point out, Gaidai came up with his trio under the inspiration of the West, and, in fact, there is nothing there's nothing wrong with that - again, given that the director himself professed his love for the old Hollywood comedy. Plus, ours The Coward, the Jackass, and the Bullshitter will outlast everyone! In its own way, it was a brilliant image that influenced the modern domestic cinema. But just who exactly of the mentioned artists made such a strong impression on Leonid Iovich? It's a good question...

Nikulin, Vitsin and Morgunov in the film "The Caucasian Captive, or The New Adventures of Shurik"
Nikulin, Vitsin and Morgunov in the film "The Caucasian Captive, or The New Adventures of Shurik"

What do you think about it? Share your own opinions in the comments - maybe we've overlooked some theory? Anyway, it will be interesting to read.....


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