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Shura (Golubkina, on the left) and Rzhevsky (Yakovlev, on the right)
"Hussar Ballad" (Гусарская баллада) is a Soviet musical comedy from 1962. It was directed by Eldar Ryazanov and starred Larisa Golubkina, Yuri Yakovlev, and Igor Ilyinsky.
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Set in 1812, the movie follows Shura (Golubkina), a girl who just turned 17. Her uncle and legal guardian arranges a masked ball in her honor, and for that ball she dresses as a hussar cornet (second lieutenant). The uniform fits her so perfectly, that even a real hussar lieutenant Rzhevsky (Yakovlev) does not realize he is talking with a girl instead of a fellow officer. As there is an arranged marriage between her and Rzhevsky, which neither of them seems to favour, she uses this opportunity to tease Rzhevsky mercilessly, getting him to reveal everything he doesn't like in women, and then, dressed as a girl, giving him exactly that.

However, this game ends quickly as the local governor arrives at the ball announcing that the war with France started. Rzhevsky, after saying a few ardent words about protecting one's motherland, leaves for the army, still not knowing he was played with. Shura, inspired by his words and wanting to prove herself on a battlefield, leaves shortly after. She successfully gets into the army, although not as a front line fighter, as she wanted, but as a messenger. Only much later she meets Rzhevsky again, purely by chance. She also meets Field Marshal Kutuzov (Ilyinsky) who, accidentally, uncovers her secret, but the situation forces him to keep his mouth shut. Finally, she joins the colonel Vasiljev's guerrilla squadron and gets some real action.

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"Hussar Ballad" premiered in theaters on Sept. 7, 1962. It received very positive reviews, and remains quite popular ever since.


Tropes in 'Hussar Ballad':

  • Action Girl: Shura. An orphan, being raised by her uncle, former military, and his batman, Shura is a skilled horseback rider and a sharpshooter. Her fencing skills, while not great initially, become much better near the end of the film.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The film is based on a play "A long time ago" (Давным-давно) by Alexander Gladkov, and remains a mostly faithful adaptation, despite being much shorter. A few episodes were changed to better use the medium without affecting the story-line in general.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Minor. Several additional scenes were added by the director, mostly fight sequences, adding dynamics to the film and preventing it from being just a filmed theatrical performance.
  • Artistic License:
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    • Artistic License – History: Field Marshal Kutuzov was only appointed as the head of the army two months after the start of war; yet in the movie it's indicated that he leads the army from the very beginning.
    • Artistic License – Military: Rzhevsky, first meeting Shura, comments that her uniform makes her a Pavlograd hussar, while in reality she is dressed as Sumy hussar; and Rzhevsky is the guy who would know.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Averted. Field Marshal Kutuzov, the leader of Russian army, is an old man with lots of extra weight, and doesn't get into any fights. French general Dusier is forced to fight, but proves to be rather mediocre at that — Salgari manages to fight him and another french officer at the same time.
  • Band of Brothers: Colonel Vasiljev's guerrilla squadron. They treat each other like family, which makes Shura very welcome in their circle, as soon as they find out she is a friend of Rzhevsky.
  • The Bet: Shura and Rzhevsky make a bet on whether he would eventually save his bride (who is Shura herself, although he doesn't know that), or not. Amusingly, Rzhevsky is the one who claims it won't happen ever, as he despises the girl, and claims he would never come at her aid.
  • Bling of War: Uniforms are mostly correct, but originally intended for parades only; day-to-day uniforms were considerably less chic.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite quite a lot of people being killed in battles, barely any blood is shown.
  • Book Burning: Shura sneaks into the French lines as a spy, wearing a French uniform. She finds a French regiment bivouacked in her family's mansion, with French officers chucking her uncle's books into the fire for warmth.
  • Boss Fight: Averted. Although there is a big fight near the end of the film, none of the hero's opponents shows any exceptional skills.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: For the most of the film, Shura wears a distinctive light grey uniform, which makes it easy to spot her in the crowd.
    • Inverted at the end of the movie, when Rzhevsky wears a black cloak over his usual blue uniform, which makes seeing him a bit of a surprise.
  • Cool Old Guy: Kutuzov. Old and fat, he is also wise and witty, supposedly a great leader, treated with respect by everybody in the army, including Shura.
    • Ivan, Shura's batman, as well. He is old, but quite strong, and a formidable fighter.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle
    • Guerrilla squadron's attack on the French supply unit. Guerrillas clearly outnumber the French guards, and have generally better fighters.
    • French marauder's ambush of general Balmashov. He has only a few guards, who, while giving a decent fight, are quickly disposed of.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Salgari, captured by Shura, but simultaneously saved by her from freezing to death, swears to be her friend forever.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Averted. After guerrillas find out about Shura's true identity, they have no problem with continuing to treat her as their friend. Granted, it would be very different if they didn't see her fighting alongside them before.
  • Duel to the Death: Shura and Rzhevsky. Amusingly, over a woman, although Shura is absolutely straight.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Shura gets through a lot of trouble, risking her life on numerous occasions, but finally earns genuine respect from Vasiljev's guerrillas, not to mention finding a love of her life.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: After all her bravery in combat, after shooting French cavalrymen off their horses, Shura faints at the sight of a mouse.
  • Impersonation Gambit: Shura, dressed as a French lieutenant, infiltrates the Dusier's headquarters, giving the name of a real lieutenant, Vincento Salgari, earlier captured by her. It gets complicated when the real Salgari escapes and shows up at headquarters as well.
  • I Owe You My Life: Twice, both time with Shura as a savior and with the saved not knowing of her gender:
    • General Balmashov, saved from French marauders' ambush, later pulls rank on Kutuzov himself, forcing him to recognize Shura's heroism.
    • Vincento Salgari, to whom she gave her short coat to keep him warm; later he commits treason for her, convincing other French officers that she is his brother, carrying the same name because of an ancient family tradition.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Played mostly straight; unlike the most movies set in this time period, neither Emperor Napoleon, nor Russian Tsar appear on-screen. Kutuzov is the only real historical figure featured here, and he is not shown making any history-making moves.
  • Number Two: Rzhevsky is this to colonel Vasiljev. He is Vasiljev's second in command, and, while not much of a strategist, successfully leads the squadron in a fight.
  • Papa Wolf: Ivan, Shura's batman and previously that of her uncle, cares about her deeply and looks after her in the fights, sometimes saving her life.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Completely averted. Golubkina, while quite attractive as a girl, really does look (and sound) like a young man when in uniform — to the point when even first-time viewers might not realize at first that it's the same character. Director tested lots of actresses before finding one capable of pulling it off.
  • Politically Correct History: Mostly averted; the setting is definitely sexist and Kutuzov initially sees Shura's presence in the army as a dishonor. However, everybody who knows her as a fighter, is OK with accepting her as a soldier.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Nearly everybody, including protagonists, is eager to kill some French soldiers, and sees fighting in a war as necessary to be a man. Justified, as they are protecting their own country, not starting a war on their own.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Kutuzov is the wisest guy in the whole film, and quick to acknowledge his mistakes if he makes any. Also, Balmashov pulls his rank only for a good cause.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Every time some character learns of Shura's real gender, it causes a lot of disbelief.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: An edge case. Kutuzov is initially reluctant to give Shura an award for saving Balmashov's life; the latter, being technically on a lower level than Kutuzov, still successfully pulls rank on him, due to the fact that he is a personal messenger for the Russian Tsar. Justified, as the only reason for Kutuzov's reluctance is that Shura is a girl, which Balmashov is unaware of.
  • Snow Means Death: This time, for the French army. Russians, much better accustomed to the harsh weather, see winter as their ally.
  • Sweet on Polly Oliver: Played with. Rzhevsky considers Shura, in her uniform, as a friend. After learning the truth, however, he quickly realizes he is in love with her.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Shura. She dresses as a man to help protecting her motherland and to get some fame in the process.
  • Time Skip: A clever one. On a clear sunny day, we see the French army marching jauntily down a road. There's a closeup of a sign saying "To Moscow". Then a cut to that same sign, but in the dead of winter with snow everywhere. Then we see a much less jaunty French army marching in the opposite direction.
  • Tomboyish Name: Shura, short for Alexander or Alexandra, is a gender-neutral Russian name, so she doesn't have to change her name significantly.
  • Translation Convention: When Shura infiltrates the French headquarters, she poses as a French lieutenant. The dialog on screen is in Russian, although we are supposed to assume she is speaking French while talking to enemy officers. Justified, as French was indeed very popular among Russian nobles at the time, so it's very probable that she had a good command of French; also, she poses as not a Frenchman, but a Spanish, which might explain away any imperfections.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: In the beginning of the film, Rzhevsky is not at all eager to marry, but loses a lot of money in card games, and is saved by his uncle, who demands in return that Rzhevsky marries.
  • True Companions: Guerrillas. After learning that Shura's captured, they rush at her aid, despite being outnumbered. They succeed.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Although it was never claimed to be really based on a true story, there are some similarities between Shura's story and a real-life one of Nadezhda Durova, who, dressed as a man, joined the army and proved to be a good fighter. Key points like Shura's age, motivation, army rank, romantic interest etc. are completely different though.
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Guerrillas of Vasiljev's squadron celebrate the victory in a battle by consuming a lot of wine; Shura, trying to blend in, becomes quite drunk, makes a fool of herself, barely avoids exposure and faints.
  • War Is Glorious: For everyone.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Shura. Her uniform starts as a costume for a masked ball, and later serves as a mean to get into army.
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