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Russian exiles in Paris plot to collect ten million pounds from the Bank of England by grooming a destitute, suicidal girl to pose as heir to the Russian throne. While Bounin is coaching her he comes to believe she is really Anastasia. In the end the Empress must decide her claim. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
I love to watch great acting; even a movie with a mediocre script or direction can still be wonderful if it is well-acted. Happily, ANASTASIA is brilliantly directed and well-written as well as containing some of the grandest acting I have ever seen on film.
Yul Brynner had quite a year in 1956. He won the Best Actor Oscar for his stagy but fascinating work in THE KING AND I, yet in ANASTASIA he delivers a brilliant, subtle, and completely captivating performance as the Russian general who engineers the plot to convince the world that the unknown woman he has encountered in Paris is in fact the Grand Duchess Anastasia. His is a complex character, scheming, dishonest, and unscrupulous, but it is impossible to dislike him. Quite an accomplishment.
As the woman, Ingrid Bergman won the Oscar for her thrilling, roller-coaster ride of a performance. She is astonishing; one minute she is laughing wildly, the next, sobbing heartbrokenly. She veers from coquettishness to desperation without so much as an eyeblink. You have to watch this film more than once to really see everything Bergman put into this role.
And then, there's Helen Hayes as the Dowager Empress. Oddly enough, she was cast by accident; the producers wanted a British actress named Helen Haye, but someone misread a telegram, and the rest is history. Hayes is magnificent as the elderly matriarch who has lost her entire family to the Russian Revolution. Again there is a duality in her performance; she is at once astonishingly stubborn yet unbelievably frail. It is a fascinating performance; and there is a scene between Hayes and Bergman that is unforgettable.
This is a film full of rich performances; the rest of the cast, right down to the smallest bit part, performs superbly. Kudos especially to Martita Hunt, who provides hilarious comic relief as the Empress's lady-in-waiting.
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