Thursday, 27 March 2008
Валерий Иванович Инкижинов, known as Valéry Inkijinoff and various other spellings in the West, was an actor in France and the Soviet Union, of Buryat descent, born in Irkutsk (25 March 1895; we just missed his birthday!).
The image above is from the 1931 movie Le Capitaine Jaune ("The Yellow Captain"). The typically racist title belies the fact that Inkijinoff plays the hero of the story; in a seedy Marseilles pub, he falls in love with Simone D'Al-Al's character (she was a Parisian model of West Indian descent), is falsely accused of murder, goes into hiding with his lover, foils an attempted mutiny, finds the murderer, and all ends well!
Here's a nice collage of his different roles through the years. (Complete filmography in French) In an age when Asian characters in Western movies had a very limited range of mostly villainous roles, Injikinoff's career took an unusual start when he played the hero of a Soviet movie of anti-imperialist rebellion in Mongolia. Storm Over Asia (directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1928) tells the story of a simple herdsman who is mistakenly believed to be the descendant of Genghis Khan. The Western occupying forces (British in the original, White Russian in Western prints of the film) plan to use him as a puppet ruler over the credulous masses. (If you wonder what the Brits were doing in Mongolia, read more about the Siberian Intervention.) However, the hero sees through the imperialist plot and leads the people in revolt in a dramatic finale - see below.