IMDb > The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934)

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Release Date:
9 February 1934 (USA) See more »
Straightforward biography of the Russian empress, up to her assumption of the throne. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
The Rise -- Not The Rule -- of Catherine. See more (12 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. ... Grand Duke Peter (as Douglas Fairbanks Jnr.)

Elisabeth Bergner ... Catherine
Flora Robson ... Empress Elisabeth
Gerald du Maurier ... Lecocq
Irene Vanbrugh ... Princess Anhalt-Zerbst
Joan Gardner ... Katushienka
Dorothy Hale ... Countess Olga
Diana Napier ... Countess Vorontzova
Griffith Jones ... Grigory Orlov
Gibb McLaughlin ... Bestujhev (as Gibb MacLaughlin)
Clifford Heatherley ... Ogarev
Laurence Hanray ... Goudovitch
Allan Jeayes ... Col. Karnilov
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Heron Carvic ... Minor role (uncredited)
William Heughan ... Minor role (uncredited)
Arnold Lucy ... Minor role (uncredited)

Directed by
Paul Czinner 
Alexander Korda (uncredited)
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Lajos Biró  play "The Czarina"
Marjorie Deans 
Melchior Lengyel  play "The Czarina"
Arthur Wimperis 

Produced by
Alexander Korda .... producer
Ludovico Toeplitz .... producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
Ernst Toch (uncredited)
Cinematography by
Georges Périnal 
Film Editing by
Stephen Harrison 
Harold Young 
Art Direction by
A. Hallam 
Vincent Korda 
Costume Design by
John Armstrong 
Production Management
David B. Cunynghame .... production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Geoffrey Boothby .... assistant director
Sound Department
A.W. Watkins .... sound
Camera and Electrical Department
Robert Krasker .... camera operator
Robert LaPresle .... camera operator
Costume and Wardrobe Department
B.J. Simmons .... costumier: King Street Covent Garden
Editorial Department
Stephen Bearman .... colorist
Music Department
Muir Mathieson .... musical director
Other crew
Lajos Biró .... continuity
Melchior Lengyel .... continuity
Arthur Wimperis .... continuity
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
95 min | Germany:100 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Australia:M | Australia:G (TV rating) | Canada:PG (Ontario) | Germany:(Banned) (after premiere) | West Germany:16

Did You Know?

In 1937, this film was re-released on a double bill with Wives Never Know (1936) in Canada.See more »
Continuity: When the Grand Duke Peter is talking with guard at the bottom of the stairs about Ivan Ivanovich. The guards crossed belts on his chest are repositioned when the scene cuts to a close up of the guard.See more »
Movie Connections:
Version of The Scarlet Empress (1934)See more »


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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful.
The Rise -- Not The Rule -- of Catherine., 2 September 2014
Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is Peter III, the heir to the throne of Russia in the mid-1700s. A tempestuous character, he shouts out orders and is unhappy. Well, who wouldn't be? He's dressed in some kind of bear skin outfit and is made up like Frankenstein's monster, with a silver wig, black eyebrows, black false eyelashes, a black mustache, and two black beauty spots. He could clear a room without a gun.

His bride-to-be is brought to him from Germany. They've never met before and she mistakes him for an ordinary castellan of no particular prominence. He quickly twigs but Catherine carries on about how much she's dreamed of marriage to him and how little she cares for empire. It all sounds a bit like Fred and Ginger.

Gradually, Fairbanks comes to accept her as the genuine artless article and whisks her off to be married. This is quite a mental achievement for Fairbanks. After all, she's Prussian, not Russian, doesn't speak the language and is Lutheran rather than Russian orthodox. On top of that -- the real obstacle -- is that she was born Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg. I ask you, would you marry someone with a name like that? Even if she looked like Botticelli's Venus? So they called her Yekaterina.

As played by Elisabeth Bergner, who never looks more than vaguely cute, the new bride is all winsome and proud and overwhelmed by the sumptuousness of the Russian court. Flora Robson is Fairbanks' aunt, Empress Elizabeth, always impatient and angry. Florid Robson -- I mean Flora, of course -- was always some kind of Empress or Queen, whether in England or China or Russia. It didn't matter. She radiated disdain. She glowed with authority. Her Empress here is sexier than usual. In fact, young as she was, her big face was compellingly ugly. And she got what she wanted. Historically, she was a terrible rake and played doctor with everyone.

Alexander Korda's direction is functional and expressive. He really manages to capture the splendor of the court, even if it's rendered in fuzzy black and white. When Fairbanks and Bergner are married, the priest puts the wedding ring on Bergner's right hand, as he should.

This is no place to recount the history of Russia, so putting it in a nutshell: Robson dies, Fairbanks takes over, goes increasingly nuts, until Bergner finally consents to exile Fairbanks and rule Russia herself. The end. There is only the barest hint of what her rule would be like.

She became a benign dictator, brought Russia into the modern world, implemented all sorts of reforms, and corresponded with Voltaire. What we've watched is a filmed play about palace love and intrigue, and not a bad one. There are no outdoor scenes, not a shot is fired or a sword lifted in anger. Someone should have made "Catherine the Great, Part II." As it is, at Bergner's moment of triumph, she stands on a balcony, arms raised, listens to the cheering crowd, and almost swoons as she cries, "They love me!" And then the host presents her with the Academy Award.

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