Rufina Nifontova, a Russian stage and screen actress and National Artist, died Nov. 28 of a heart attack in Moscow. She was 63.
Born into a working-class family in a small village outside Moscow, she grew up in an environment of amateur performance and music. She came to study at the Acting Faculty of Moscow’s State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in the late 1940s, in the same class as other great actresses of her generation such as Maya Bulgakova, Isolde Izvitskaya and Tatiana Konukhova.
After graduating from VGIK in 1955, she earned immediate fame with her portrayal of Nastya, a simple country girl, in Grigory Roshal’s film “Volnitsa” (“Lover of Freedom”) (1956). Her work with the director continued in his trilogy, “Purgatory” (1957-1959), after the novel by Alexei Tolstoy, where she played the role of Katya. Both roles were close to her own upbringing, and she played them with a sincerity and innocence that endeared her to the postwar generation.
In 1958 she joined the company of Moscow’s leading classical theater, the Maly, where she continued to perform until her death. Among her stage roles were Katerina in Ostrovsky’s “Storm,” the commissar in Vishnevsky’s “An Optimistic Tragedy,” and Odintsova in the theater’s adaptation of Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons” (1968) and the Tsaritsa Irina in Alexei Tolstoy’s “Tsar Fyodor Ioanovich” (1978).
Her other major film appearances included roles in “Lyubov Yarovaya” (1970), and “Time and the Conways” (1984). A member of the Communist Party from 1972, Nifontova was created a National Artist of the Soviet Union in 1978.