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John S. Robertson
As Europe looms on the edge of war in 1913, the family and members of the court of the Russian czar Nicholas come under the sway of a mysterious mystic named Rasputin. When Rasputin miraculously appears to cure the czar's son Alyosha of his hemophilia, the monk's reputation is cemented, particularly in the mind of the princess Natasha. Natasha's fiancé (and, later, husband) Prince Paul Chegodieff, however, suspects Rasputin is a charlatan who will cause the downfall of the royal family and perhaps of Russia itself. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Upon its initial release in 1932, the movie was the subject of a lawsuit issued by Prince Feliks Yusupov, who had actually been involved in the death of the real Grigory Rasputin. Although names in the film were changed (Yusupov's character, as portrayed by John Barrymore, was called Prince Paul Chegodieff), Yusupov also recognized Diana Wynyard's character of Princess Natasha to be that of his wife, Princess Irina. the Yussoupovs sued for libel as a result of a scene which suggested that his wife had been raped by Rasputin. MGM lost the suit, and the scene was cut from later releases. It rendered Wynyard's character somewhat incomprehensible if the viewer of the film is unaware of the cut - in the first half of the film, Princess Natasha is a supporter of Rasputin, and in the second half, she is inexplicably extremely afraid of him. The laserdisc release of this film includes the original theatrical trailer, which contains a portion of this deleted scene. See more »
At the beginning of the movie it is told that Sergei Alexandrovich, Grand Duke of Russia, is killed. However this happened in 1905, 8 years before the scene's setting. See more »
Rasputin and the Empress shouldn't be used as a lesson of pre-Soviet Russia. Names have been changed (and that didn't prevent MGM from law suits) and a lot of the information we now know about this period of Russian history - was not known in 1932.
As other people have commented about this being the only film that Ethel, John, and Lionel Barrymore appeared together, this movie doesn't show why the Barrymores have the reputation that they have. John Barrymore's career started going downhill after the introduction of sound. Lionel Barrymore, wearing one of the phoniest fake beards, tries to capture the charisma and sense of control that Rasputin had over Czarina Alexandra and the Czarevitch. Ethel Barrymore gives an understated performance - too understated at times. When her only son seems to be close to possible death, she doesn't seem all that bothered.
C. Henry Gordon is a great Grand Duke Igor, Ralph Morgan is a convincing Czar Nicholas II, but they don't appear that frequently. Don't expect anyone to speak with a Russian accent or even attempting and accent.
Rasputin is one of the most interesting people in the world during the early 20th Century. He was also one of the most enigmatic and contradictory. A holy man who was accused of raping a nun, excessive drinking, and being power hungry. Barrymore's portrayal of Rasputin plays this up, plus making claims that he will be Russia. He seems almost like Charles Manson at times in the way he can make someone, especially the Czarevitch, behave like they are totally different people compared to the way they acted before meeting Rasputin.
It is best to watch this movie as just that - a fictional representation of various accounts of what happened in the royal court of Russia in its final days. The writers included Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht, Robert Sherwood, Mercedes de Acosta, and Lenore Coffee - some of the best writers of the period.
It's worth a view - don't expect historical accuracy, but it is an interesting film that tries to show a much different world than what Americans would have known.
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