Mark Bernes (Neeman) - biography
Mark Naumovich Bernes (Russian: Ма́рк Нау́мович Берне́с, Mark Naumovič Bernes) (October 8 [O.S. September 25] 1911, Nezhin, Russian Empire - August 16, 1969, Moscow, Soviet Union) was a Soviet actor and singer of Jewish ancestry (his father's last name was Neumann), who performed some of the most poignant songs to come out of the World War II, including Tyomnaya noch (1943) and Zhuravli (1969). By his voice and singing style, he is similar to American performers Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, being the first Soviet crooner.
In late 1930s, not long before the war, Mark Bernes starred in two motion pictures: Man With a Rifle and The Fighter Planes . In both of these films, he performed songs, which immediately became famous all over Soviet Union after each film was released. In the former film, he performed the song Clouds Rose Over the City, which was a romantic song of a simple young Soviet worker. In the latter film, he performed a famous patriotic ballad Beloved Town. This pre-war song was full of hope and optimism, and several years later, this song helped soldiers during the war.
When the war began, Bernes became among the first singers to perform for the Soviet troops. In 1943, he starred in the motion picture The Two Soldiers. He played a young soldier from Odessa named Arkady Dzubin. In that film, Bernes demonstrated typically Jewish wit and humor, such humor that was characteristic of Jews from Odessa. In that film, he sang two masterpiece songs: The Dark Night and Chalands that filled with mugil. The second song is humorous account of Kostya the sailor man from Odessa who ironically spoke to his fiancee Sonya the fishing girl. The first song, The Dark Night was a serious ballad about a wife with a baby child waiting for the soldier, who was in the midst of a deadly fight. The song was sung by Bernes from the point of view of that soldier, who addressed his wife at home and assured her that he will live through all the deadly battles as long as she waits for him. The Dark Night is the most recognizable Soviet song from World War II.
Bernes's name had become closely associated with World War II. After the war, he continued to perform songs about the war. His greatest hits of 1950's were Boys From Moscow (also known as Sergey From Malaya Bronnaya Street) and Enemies Burned His Home Village. Both songs were about hardships suffered by people who lost family members in the war. Both songs expressed extreme melancholy and pain of the losses in the war, and both songs directly confronted death and grief. The latter song, Enemies Burned His Home Village was banned by the government, because it was considered too pessimistic and too anti-Soviet. In the song, the soldier grieves for his killed wife and laments that his hopes had been shattered. By the reasoning of the Soviet authorities, it was unpatriotic to sing about broken hopes when the war was won, and thus, all the hopes became reality. In 1950's, Mark Bernes also performed torch songs such as the sentimental ballad I Dreamed of You Three Years and inspirational optimistic songs such as the march I Love You, My Life.
Not long before the Sino-Soviet Border Conflict, Bernes sang to the troops stationed near the border with China. It was there in 1967, when he sang the song Where Does Homeland Begin?. Next year, that song became the theme of the World War II related film Shield and Sword.
In 1969, Mark Bernes was dying from lung cancer. In the summer of 1969, he recorded his last song Ballad About the Cranes, which became his testament before death. Bernes sang that the soldiers that perished in war turned into cranes. He sang that the cranes are still in their flight and that soon, he will join their ranks. On August 16, Mark Bernes died. Ballad About the Cranes was played at his funeral.
He received People's Actor of the RSFSR (1965), awarded the Stalin Prize (1951), two orders, and many medals.
A minor planet 3038 Bernes discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh in 1978 is named after him.