DE-STALINIZATION AND THE DISAPPEARING ACT
After Khrushchev's "secret speech" denouncing Stalin in 1956, the dictator's image was gradually removed from its place of honor in offices, public squares, and hearthsides. It was also removed from films made during the height of his reign.
During the early 1960s, Soviet archivists produced "revised" versions of 1930s classics that expunged all views of the leader. It was relatively easy to cut out shots in which Stalin appeared and redub sound tracks to eliminate references to him. But some shots could not be deleted without losing story information. Therefore, optical tricks were used. Portraits of Stalin and his henchmen were masked by large vases of flowers or pictures of Marx and Lenin. When Stalin himself was in the shot, matte work eliminated him, sometimes in bizarre ways. Below, we see that Mikhail Romm revised his Lenin in October (1937) by blocking Stalin out with Wellesian foreground elements, such as a head or an elbow. This example comes from Alexander Sesonske, "Re-editing History: Lenin in October," Sight and Sound 53, no. 1 (winter 1983/1984): 56–58.
(90.0K)Lenin in October, Stalin standing on the left.
(72.0K)Lenin in October, Stalin hidden by a Wellesian foreground supplied by special effects.