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The Volga Boatman (1926)

During the Revolution Princess Vera, though betrothed to Prince Dimitri, is attracted to the peasant Feodor.



(novel), (adaptation)


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Complete credited cast:
Vera, A Princess
Prince Nikita
Prince Dimitri
Mariusha, A Gypsy
Stefan, A Blacksmith
Vasili - A Boatman


In tsarist Russia, the Volga boatmen live hard lives, trudging along the water's edge as they pull heavy cargoes up and down the river. One day, as Prince Dimitri and his fiancée Princess Vera stop to have their fortunes told at a Tartar camp along the river, they encounter a group of boatmen who are taking a short rest. One of the boatmen, the spirited Feodor, provokes a hostile confrontation with the two aristocrats. Later, when the Revolution breaks out, Feodor becomes a leader in the Red Army, and he again encounters Dimitri and Vera, only this time with much higher stakes. Written by Snow Leopard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance





Release Date:

23 May 1926 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le batelier de la Volga  »

Box Office


$497,356 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Jetta Goudal signed on to play the gypsy Mariusha, the role was originally written as a straight dramatic character. After the role was rewritten as comedic, Goudal left the film. See more »


Feodor, A Volga Boatman: I love you - with the last beat of my heart.
See more »


Referenced in With Love and Hisses (1927) See more »


Song of the Volga Boatmen
By Sigmund Spaeth
Harmonized by Carl Deis, c. 1926
'the immortal song that inspired the Cecil B. DeMille motion picture production "The Volga Boatman" with William Boyd and Elinor Fair'
See more »

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User Reviews

Storm the Bastille, Citizens!, um, no, wait... Storm the Winter Palace, Comrades!
12 July 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

When I first heard of the Volga Boatman, I couldn't believe it. Cecil B. DeMille, super-patriot and rabid anti-communist made a film in which the hero was a BOLSHEVIK? And said Bolshevik played by none other than William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd? Needless to say, I had to see it.

I like DeMille's silent films considerably better than his sound ones and The Volga Boatman is certainly a lovely film to look at. William Boyd and Elinor Fair look splendid, the historically inaccurate but lushly gorgeous gown by Adrian are breath-taking. Communists commune, White Russians waltz the night away and the Volga looks very Volga-ish in spite of being in California.

The movie begins with a disclaimer stating that the film takes no sides. For the most part, this is true. Both sides are shown to have their heroes and villains. The problem is, the behavior and motivations of the characters make the movie seem like a French Revolution film that got the wrong costumes delivered by mistake. The mob scenes in particular made me feel like I was watching a reel of Orphans of the Storm! Oh well, this is DeMille.

DeMille hired Russians as consultants and actors but discarded any advice that they offered on authenticity. The fact that boatman had not been used on the Volga in 50 years did not dissuade him. The fact that some modern viewers would see this movie as an authentic portrayal of Russian life is disturbing, to say the least. (My source, by the way, is "Behind the Mask of Innocence" by Kevin Brownlow) The plot involves Feodor (Boyd), the titular boatman. Elinor Fair is Vera, a princess engaged to marry Prince Dimitri (Victor Varconi). Vera and Feodor meet by the riverbank and there is definite chemistry, much to Dimitri's annoyance. When the Revolution comes, Feodor rises in the ranks of the Red Army and soon finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to execute Vera personally. What will he do? Well, the movie is available on DVD so it's easy to find out.

The sincerity and charm that Boyd would display so memorably as Hopalong Cassidy serve him well in this part. DeMille asks a lot of his leading men, to make the sometimes very silly scripts believable must have been a job and a half. Being a DeMille leading man also required a certain amount of upper body strength. Please note the whiplash inducing spin that Boyd gives Fair before their first kiss. That's a DeMille specialty. The same technique was later used by Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments.

By the way, movie buffs should look for Eugene Palette (Friar Tuck in The Adventures of Robin Hood) in an uncredited role. He is part of the Red Army firing squad.

The Volga Boatman is a historical curio and pure brain candy. It is a fun movie to watch and it's certainly worth seeing Boyd without his cowboy hat, he and Fair give rather good performances and Varconi does a good job as the morally weak Dimitri. But as for the history... Well, best put that out of your mind and enjoy the ride.

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