Only Old Men Are Going to Battle

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Only "Old Men" Are Going Into Battle
File:Only Old Men Are Going to Battle.jpg
Directed by Leonid Bykov
Starring Leonid Bykov
Music by Viktor Shevchenko
Cinematography Vladimir Voytenko
Running time
92 min
Country Soviet Union
Language Russian

Only Old Men Are Going to Battle (Russian: В бой идут одни «старики», one of the meanings of the Russian idiom "old man" is "most experienced person") is an iconic 1973 Soviet war drama black-and-white film produced in the Ukrainian SSR about World War II fighter pilots, written and directed by Leonid Bykov, who also played the lead role as the squadron commander.

Screenplay by Leonid Bykov, Yevgeni Onopriyenko and Aleksandr Satsky.

Original music by Viktor Shevchenko, cinematography by Vladimir Voytenko. Runtime 92 min. Production by Dovzhenko Film Studios.


The film combines two storylines: the main war drama plot is paralled with vivid artistic performance - the fighter squadron doubles as an amateur musical group during rest time, led by its enthusiastic commander turned conductor.

The title comes from two scenes in the film, where the squadron is facing very hard dogfights with German fighter planes, so only "old men" are sent up, while those fresh from flying school have to wait on the ground together with the mechanics. Soon, of course, the newcomers have replaced most of those veterans and have become "old men" themselves, taking to the skies while a new group of newcomers wait on the ground with the mechanics.


  • Leonid Bykov - "Maestro" Titarenko, commander of the 2nd "Singing" squadron
  • Sergey Podgorny - "Darkie" Shchedronov, fighter pilot
  • Sergei Ivanov - "Grasshopper" Aleksandrov, fighter pilot
  • Rustam Sagdullayev - "Romeo" Sagdullayev, fighter pilot
  • Yevgeniya Simonova - Masha, female bomber navigator
  • Olga Mateshko - Zoya, female bomber pilot
  • Vladimir Talashko - Skvortzov, fighter pilot, Maestro's wingman and best friend
  • Aleksei Smirnov - Makarych, Maestro's technician
  • Viktor Miroshnichenko - "Pop", the fighter regiment commander
  • Alim Fedorinsky - Alyabyev, fighter pilot
  • Vano Yantbelidze - Vano, fighter pilot
  • Aleksandr Nemchenko - Ivan Fedorovich, fighter pilot
  • Vilori Pashchenko - Vorobyev, fighter pilot
  • Georgiy Gladiy - Grasshopper's technician
  • Vladimir Volkov - political officer
  • Dmitri Mirgorodskiy - infantry captain
  • Yuri Sarantsev - Air Division commander
  • Valentin Grudinin - chief of Air Army intelligence department
  • Alexandr Milutin - fighter pilot

Script and production

Leonid Bykov's childhood dream of becoming a pilot inspired his directorial debut.

The story is based on the memoirs of the Soviet fighter ace Vitaly Popkov who fought with a real-life "singing squadron" boasting own amateur choir. The squadron even toured the Soviet rear with concerts and received fighter planes built with money donated by Soviet star musicians.

Most of the elder cast and production members fought the war themselves. Actor Aleksei Smirnov ("Makarych the technician") was a decorated war hero, an artillery sergeant; also a battlefield amateur musician as well.


The film won most of the Soviet bloc film prizes at the time, including the first prize in the 7th All-Union Film Festival in Baku in 1974.


In 2009 a colorized version was released for TV and DVD, which resulted in a legal battle in Ukrainian courts between the copyright owners, Leonid Bykov's daughter and Ukrainian Dovzhenko Film Studios, and the company behind the colorization, as the copyright owners claim that the colorization has been done against the wishes of Bykov, who intentionally chose to do the film in black and white, in order to match newly shot scenes with the newsreel material in the film. In May 2011, the District Court of Kiev ruled that the colorization was a breach of copyright and that the colorized version can't be shown or rented in Ukraine.[1] The director re-worked the film's script to suit being shot in black and white after being denied color film stock on the grounds that color film was reserved for films about "socialist realism" [1]


External links