MOSCOW — Tatiana Samoilova, a movie star who was known in the Soviet Union for her beauty and strong-willed performances but who remained virtually unknown in the West because the Soviet authorities would not let her work there, died here on Sunday, her 80th birthday.
Her brother, Alexei Samoilov, said that the cause was complications of heart and lung ailments.
Ms. Samoilova, whose doe-eyed, dark-haired screen presence drew comparisons to that of Audrey Hepburn, reached her acting pinnacle in the role of a young woman who loses her fiancé in World War II in Mikhail Kalatozov’s 1957 film “The Cranes Are Flying.” In 1958 it won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and it remains the only Soviet or Russian film to have done so.
Soviet officials allowed Ms. Samoilova to attend the festival, where she received a special prize, but they did not let her work in the West.
In her later years, Ms. Samoilova spoke often of how bureaucrats had determined her fate. In a recent interview, published posthumously in 7 Days, a popular Russian television guide, she recalled the grand future envisioned for her by Pablo Picasso, whom she met during the Parisian leg of her Cannes trip.
“I remember,” she said, “this amazing person said to me: ‘Today you walk along the boulevard and no one knows you. But tomorrow you will be driving in a car through Hollywood.’ And his prediction almost came true! Already at the festival, Gérard Philipe gave me a watch as a gift and invited me to star in ‘Anna Karenina’ with him. Can you imagine how dazzled I was by the prospect? I thought: ‘Well, it’s begun!’ But my return to the U.S.S.R. brought me back down to earth.”
Studio officials said she could not appear in the film because she was still a student, and they warned her of Hollywood’s loose morals.
Ms. Samoilova went on to play Anna Karenina in a 1967 Soviet film adaptation of that Tolstoy novel, but first, instead of going to Hollywood, she was ordered to star in “Letter Never Sent,” also directed by Kalatozov, about four geologists whose search for diamonds in Siberia takes a tragic turn after they are caught in a forest fire.
Tatiana Yevgenyevna Samoilova was born in Leningrad on May 4, 1934. Her father, Yevgeny Samoilov, was a well-known stage and film actor. As a child, she moved to Moscow with her family and studied ballet there before focusing on acting.
For Ms. Samoilova, roles dried up in the 1980s. After 1991, she occasionally appeared in films and on television, including in a mini-series about Stalin’s Russia based on Vassily Aksyonov’s family saga “Generations of Winter.”
Ms. Samoilova was married four times. Besides her brother, she is survived by a son from her third marriage, Dmitri Samoilov, who lives in the United States, and a granddaughter.
At her funeral on Wednesday, fellow actors, directors and other artists spoke of her artistic gift. But several also spoke of the difficult lives of elderly actors in Russia, including Ms. Samoilova, whose financial status did not reflect the acclaim and revenues they had earned for the Soviet state.
“It is shameful to speak of this at her coffin, but she didn’t have money,” said Iosif Kobzon, a singer who is a member of the Russian Parliament. “It’s shameful how cultural figures are treated.”