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In 18th century Russia,a naive and idealistic lieutenant,Alexei Chernoff, deserts his unit and rushes to the Imperial Palace to warn Empress Catherine the Great of great dangers.Lieutenant Chernoff's fiancée,Countess Anna,is one of the ladies-in-waiting of the Empress.Upon forcing his way into the palace, lieutenant Chernoff meets Chancellor Nicolai Iiyitch who promises to convey Chernoff's warning to the Empress but Chernoff wants to meet the Empress in person.His fiancée is also surprised to see Chernoff inside the palace.When Chernoff finally meets the Empress,he's mesmerized by her personality and swears to give his life to protect her.Catherine is impressed by his sense of sacrifice,innocence,sincerity,loyalty and also by his good looks.Infatuated with him,she makes him her boy-toy,to Anna's dismay.Overnight,Chernoff is appointed Chief of the Imperial Guard and his rank is raised to captain,to major,to colonel,according to Empress Catherine's romantic mood. Written by
According to legend, Garbo agreed to star in the film after Bankhead had been signed. However, Garbo had been off the screen for 3 years, and Bankhead was considered "hot" for her performance in Hitchcock's "Lifeboat"' so she kept the part. See more »
After seeing a couple of serious dramas concerning the ascension to the throne of Russia of Princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst who has come down in history as Catherine the Great, it was an interesting change to watch A Royal Scandal and see what Tallulah Bankhead did with the Mother of all the Russias.
The two films that I refer to are the ones done in the Thirties that starred Elizabeth Bergner and Marlene Dietrich. Both of those dealt with young Catherine and how in a palace coup she dethroned her husband and as the consort Empress was recognized as the actual ruler. What happens in those two films play very much into what happens in A Royal Scandal.
What a coup accomplishes, another coup can reverse. Catherine is not all that secure on her throne. She's in the midst of a power struggle between her military leaders personified by Sig Ruman and her Chancellor who wants a peace policy capped off with an alliance with France. Chancellor Charles Coburn has even got an ambassador from Louis XV in the person of Vincent Price to seal the deal.
In all this blunders William Eythe an earnest but not terribly bright young guardsman, the kind Catherine the Great was known to fancy. She fancies him a lot, but as she says one must be wary not to put too much trust in handsome men in uniforms.
So we've got a nice little Russian court comedy going with Ruman and Coburn both trying to use Eythe for their own purposes and Bankhead who when Eythe says his sword is at her disposal, she wants to make sure she gets the most use out of it. While all this is going on, Eythe is engaged to Anne Baxter one of Tallulah's ladies in waiting. And she doesn't want a castoff when Bankhead's through with the merchandise.
Coburn comes off really well as the foxy old chancellor who's survived many a palace intrigue by using his wits. Ruman's not bad either and I do love Grady Sutton's brief role as Ruman's idiot son who just wants to go back to the Urals. Sutton's southern accent actually works here as he makes the Urals sound like the Ozarks. Definitely a touch of Ernest Lubitsch.
A Royal Scandal together with Lifeboat, both released in 1945 marked the height of Tallulah Bankhead's all too brief film career. Too few film parts for this stage legend, only the Lunts are worse in that regard. For that reason this bright and witty comedy should be seen and treasured.
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