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War and Peace (1956)

PG | | Drama, Romance, War | 21 August 1956 (USA)
Napoleon's tumultuous relations with Russia including his disastrous 1812 invasion serve as the backdrop for the tangled personal lives of two aristocratic families.

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(based on the novel by), (adaptation) | 5 more credits »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Field Marshal Kutuzov (as Oscar Homolka)
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Lea Seidl ...
Anna Maria Ferrero ...
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Prince Bolkonsky (as Wilfred Lawson)
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Storyline

By 1812, Napoleon's forces controlled much of Europe. Russia, one of the few countries still unconquered, prepares to face Napoleon's troops together with Austria. Among the Russian soldiers are Count Nicholas Rostov and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. Count Pierre Bezukhov, a friend of Andrei's and self-styled intellectual who is not interested in fighting. Pierre's life changes when his father dies, leaving him a vast inheritance. He is attracted to Natasha Rostov, Nicholas's sister, but she is too young, so he gives in to baser desires and marries the shallow, manipulative Princess Helene. The marriage ends when Pierre discovers his wife's true nature. Andrei is captured and later released by the French, and returns home only to watch his wife die in childbirth. Months later, Pierre and Andrei meet again. Andrei sees Natasha and falls in love, but his father will only permit the marriage if they postpone it for one year until Natasha turns 17. While Andrei is away on a military mission, ... Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

"A SPECTACULAR MOVIE." -- Life (original print ad - mostly caps) See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

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Language:

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Release Date:

21 August 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La guerra y la paz  »

Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)| (as Perspecta Stereophonic Sound ® by Suonitalia Studio - Rome -)

Color:

(Technicolor) (as Technicolor®)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jeremy Brett was chosen to play Nicholas in part because it was felt he resembled his on-screen sibling, Audrey Hepburn. See more »

Goofs

The marching band in the opening parade are all playing modern musical instruments. See more »

Quotes

Gen. Kutuzov: [about retreating from Moscow] Russia's ancient and sacred capitol? Allow me to tell you, Your Excellency, that that question has no meaning for a Russian! Such a question cannot be put! It's senseless! The question I've asked you and these gentlemen to meet and discuss is a military one! The question is of saving Russia! Is it better to give up Moscow without a battle or, by accepting battle, lose the army as well as Moscow? Well, gentlemen, I see I am the one who has to pay for the broken ...
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Crazy Credits

Closing credits epilogue: The most difficult thing - but an essential one - is to love Life, to love it even while one suffers, because Life is all. Life is God, and to love Life means to love God. Tolstoy "WAR and PEACE" See more »

Connections

Version of Natasha Rostova (1915) See more »

Soundtracks

Die Rose von Nowgorod
(uncredited)
Music by Nino Rota
Lyrics by Wolfgang Schrauth and S.Krapp
Sung by Zarah Leander
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Worthy (Though Flawed) and Much-Underrated Effort
19 September 2005 | by (Sacramento, CA USA) – See all my reviews

Given that trimming Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE down to the length of one feature film (even at three-and-a-half hours) is probably a fool's errand to begin with, this 1956 version deserves more respect than it's generally gotten -- though the comments here indicate that the film may actually be gaining the respect that critics and film historians have so long denied it.

The movie does suffer from two undeniable shortcomings. First is the atrocious sound recording that has blighted virtually every Italian movie ever made. As some of the comments have noted, movies shot at Rome's Cinecitta had their sound post-dubbed rather than recorded on the set. But actually, this practice was then (and remains) very common. The sound in Italian movies stands out simply because they were so bad at it. The brutal truth is, even the greatest masterpieces of Fellini, De Sica, Rosselini, etc. are less than they might have been because Italian sound technology was so slipshod. And so it is with WAR AND PEACE: it's hard to suspend disbelief when soldiers struggling across a river sound like someone dropping quarters into a toilet.

The other shortcoming is the appalling miscasting of Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezhukov. It's the worst performance of his career, and he looks and sounds about as Russian as a slice of pumpkin pie. One commenter here said Alec Guinness should have played Pierre. It's an intriguing suggestion, and of course Sir Alec was always good. Even better, I think, would have been Peter Ustinov. In 1956 he was Pierre to the very life.

But the rest of the casting is genuinely inspired. Oskar Homolka as Gen. Kutuzov, Barry Jones as Count Rostov, Jeremy Brett as Nikolai, Herbert Lom as Napoleon -- all could hardly be improved upon. And Audrey Hepburn was simply born to play Natasha. And Mel Ferrer as Prince Andrei ... well, he did have his faults as an actor (to say the least!), but at least he looked the part.

Beyond that, the movie has lavish production values, impressive battle scenes, and one truly great and powerful sequence, the French Army's disastrous retreat from Russia, that takes up much of the last hour.

There's no substitute, of course, for reading the novel (I've read it three times myself). But this 1956 movie makes a worthy introduction, and even helps to keep Tolstoy's complex plot straight when you do get around to reading it.


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