"The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom" (1924)

also known as

"Papirosnitsa of Mosselproma"

Produced in the Soviet Union by Mezhrapporn Russ
Directed by Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky
Released in 1924 with a musical score and sound effects.
The cast includes Yulia Solntseva, Igor Ilyinsky, Anna Dmokhovs Kaya, Nikolai Tseretelli, L. Baratov, Galina Kravchenko, Naum Rogozhin, N. Vishnyak and Mikhail Zharov.

"The Cigarette Girl From Mosselprom" is the story of a young girl who is "discovered" by a film crew, becomes an inept "star," and is wooed by a fumbling accountant, a dashing cinematographer, and a corpulent American businessman who is bringing "high fashion" to the Soviet Union.

A 'polished' and 'western" Soviet film

This charming and stylish romantic comedy is one of most polished and "western" of the Soviet productions of the silent era. A poster of the very popular German actor at this time, Harry Piel, can be seen on a wall in the film studio. It satirized the Soviet movie mania and was the greatest box office hit of the late 20's, being shown in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Germany, although it was panned by most of the Soviet critics.

The Soviet revolution had a great impact upon the Russian cinema, and the removal of the Czar's censors gave the early Soviet filmmakers quite a bit of latitude during the first few years following the Communist takeover. By 1930 the Communist party had complete control on what could be distribute,d but prior to that, a certain amount of latitude was available.

A preference for comedies

Critics were horrified that the audiences preferred comedies made according to "capitalistic standards" instead of boy meets girl on tractor and falls in love with her when she receives medal for harvesting 50 tons of potatoes. "Cigarette Girls" became a generic term for comedies made according to "capitalistic standards."

Ippolit Sokolov wrote in 1924, "The only thing Soviet about 'The Cigarette Girl' was the citizenship of most of the characters."

In the summer of 1925 two American journalists covering the workers paradise were clearly offended by the ascendancy and appeal of American films. "Russian reels were hard to find in Moscow last summer . . . four times out of five, I would be seeing another Hollywood product. I have seen scantily filled theaters snuffing and sobbing over Baby Peggy and the Japanese valet who loved her while her parents quarreled and committed adultery. And I have gone away in high dudgeon that even a social revolution could not ban such films or change sentimental audiences."

"No Actors Allowed!"

Working conditions at the film studios at that time were very poor, and the average pay was 10-20 rubles a day for a leading part while the legitimate stage pay was about 75 rubles per day. Most of the actors received little or no mention in the reviews, and the critics openly stated that if a director was really good, then the actor was no more than a "mirror" reflecting the director's will. Actors even faced the indignity of searching for a lavatory that they were allowed to use, since some were posted "No actors allowed! "

After seeing so many Russian films proclaiming the glories of the Soviet Revolution, "The Cigarette Girl Of Mosselprom" is quite a contrast. This very funny film has many scenes worthy of Mack Sennett and many views of Moscow in the early 20's.

copyright 2002 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.

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