Vladimir Menshov, a prolific Soviet actor and director whose film “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1980 and surprised many American critics, died on July 5 in a Moscow hospital. He was 81.

Mosfilm, the Russian film studio and production company, said the cause was complications from Covid-19.

“Moscow doesn’t believe in tears”, a soapy, melodramatic crowd puller, attracted around 90 million moviegoers in the Soviet Union even after it was broadcast on television shortly after it was released in 1980. His theme song “Alexandra”, written by Sergey Nikitin and Tatyana Nikitina, became one of the most popular film music pieces in the country.

Still, when “Moscow”, only the second film directed by Mr. Menshov, won the Oscar, many moviegoers and critics were amazed at the competition this year. It was voted ahead of François Truffaut’s “The Last Metro” and Akira Kurosawa’s “The Shadow Warrior” as well as Spanish director Jaime de Armiñán’s “The Nest” and Hungarian director Istvan Szabo’s “Confidence”.

“There was more condescending benevolence behind the Oscar for ‘Moscow’ than aesthetic discrimination,” wrote Gary Arnold of the Washington Post when reviewing the film, which was released in the United States after it won an Oscar.

The film follows three girls, who were quartered in a Moscow hotel for young women in the late 1950s, in search of male company and revisits them 20 years later. It played Vera Alentova, the director’s wife and the mother of her daughter Yuliya Menshova, a television personality. Both survive him, along with two grandchildren.

Mr. Arnold noted that Mr. Menshov’s film “revived a genre that Hollywood couldn’t sustain, reliably it seems: the chronicle of provincial girls, usually a trio pursuing careers and / or friends in the big city” – a Genre that at the time ranged from “Bühnentor” (1938) to “Valley of the Puppets” (1967).

Vincent Canby of the New York Times admitted that the film was “played properly” but wrote that after two and a half hours it “appears endless”.

From time to time there are allusions to social satire, “wrote Mr. Canby,” but they are so mild that they could only surprise and interest an extremely prudish, unconstructed Stalinist. “

Although he found it understandable that “Moscow” was one of the most successful films in the Soviet Union, Mr. Canby concluded: “You can also believe that part of Mr. Menshov’s biography (included in the program) that reports that he was in the first three years failed. “at the Cinema Institute in Moscow and was not much more successful as an acting student at the Moscow Art Theater.”

He added sharply, “I assume we are being told these things to underscore the insignificance of these early failures which, however, appear to be summed up in his Oscar-winning actress.”

Vladimir Valentinovich Menshov was born on September 17, 1939 to a Russian family in Baku (now Azerbaijan). His father Valentin was an officer in the secret police. His mother, Antonina Aleksandrovna (Dubovskaya) Menshov, was a housewife.

As a teenager, Vladimir worked as a machine worker, miner and sailor before entering the Moscow Art Theater School. After graduating from school in 1965 and from the Gerasimov Institute for Cinematography in 1970, he worked for the Mosfilm, Lenfilm and Odessa Film studios.

He had more than 100 credits as an actor, including the hit “Night Watch” (2004) and was also a screenwriter. He made his directorial debut in 1976 with the film “Practical Joke”.