Doctor Zhivago (1965) Poster


Strelnikov's armored train was a very accurate replica of actual trains that were used during WWI and WWII to patrol areas with heavy snow that were unaccessable to trucks or tanks.
The film was shot in Spain during the regime of Gen. Francisco Franco. While the scene with the crowd chanting the Marxist theme was being filmed (at 3:00 in the morning), police showed up at the set thinking that a real revolution was taking place and insisted on staying until the scene was finished. Apparently, people who lived near where filming was taking place had awoken to the sound of revolutionary singing and had mistakenly believed that Franco had been overthrown. As the extras sang the revolutionary Internationale for a protest scene, the secret police surveyed the crowd, making many of the extras pretend that they didn't know the words.
The film was not shown in Russia until 1994.
As of 2010, adjusted for inflation, Doctor Zhivago (1965) is the 8th biggest grossing film of all time.
The film was torn apart by critics when first released. Newsweek, in particular, made comments about "hack-job sets" and "pallid photography." David Lean was so deeply affected by these criticisms (despite the popularity of the film with the general public) that he swore he would never make another film. Thanks in part to MGM's extreme marketing campaign and strong word of mouth, Doctor Zhivago (1965) became an spectacular success at the box office and the second highest grossing film of 1965, behind The Sound of Music (1965). It went on to receive ten Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture and Director), before eventually taking home five awards. This gave Lean the utmost confidence to continue making films. His next film, however, Ryan's Daughter (1970), received a poisonous reception from film critics and, in stark contrast to Zhivago, bombed very badly at the box office. This finally prompted Lean to retire from filmmaking for over fourteen years, until the release of A Passage to India (1984); his last film before his death in 1991.
The actor who plays the young Yuri Zhivago at his mother's funeral is Omar Sharif's son Tarek Sharif.
Omar Sharif shaved off his real hair as it looked too Middle Eastern, and wore a wig to play Zhivago.
In the scene where Julie Christie slaps Rod Steiger, Steiger slaps her back. Steiger slapping her back was not in the script or discussed during filming, Steiger did it only during filming and the stunned reaction of Christie was genuine. When Rod Steiger kisses Julie Christie for the first time, her struggling and surprise is genuine because Steiger deliberately French kissed her, sticking his tongue into her mouth.
Omar Sharif had to undergo the daily inconvenience of having his eyes taped back and his hair straightened to disguise his Egyptian looks. He also had his hairline shaved up about 2-3 inches and his skin waxed, a process which had to be repeated every 3 days.
After Gone with the Wind (1939), the second most profitable film in MGM's history.
The charge of the Partisans across the frozen lake was actually filmed in temperatures in excess of 30 degrees C (or 90 degrees F). A cast iron sheet was placed over a riverbed and then covered with fake snow (mainly marble dust).
Alec Guinness and David Lean quarreled frequently on the set of this film. According to Guinness, Lean was "acting the part of a super-star director" and frequently insulted Guinness's performance and him personally. This caused a rift to develop between the two and they would not work again until A Passage to India (1984) almost twenty years later.
In an interview years after making the film, Rod Steiger said he was almost the only American among so many great British actors. "All I wanted to do was not embarrass myself."
Omar Sharif asked David Lean to consider him for the role of Pavel Antipov (Pasha) and was surprised when Lean instead offered him the title role.
Initially the film failed to make much impact at the box office, probably due to the critics' lukewarm reception to it. Indeed the first three weeks returns were considered to be a disaster, despite a million dollars being spent on publicity. David Lean remarked at the time that "you could hurl boulders in the theater and not hurt anyone". Gradually, audiences started to pick up, probably due to the incredible popularity of Maurice Jarre's "Lara's Theme".
After a month went by with Marlon Brando failing to respond to David Lean's written inquiry into whether he wanted to play Viktor Komarovsky, he offered the part to James Mason, who accepted. Lean, who had wanted to cast Brando as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and offered him roles in Ryan's Daughter (1970) and his unmade "Nostromo", decided on Mason as he did not want an actor to overpower the character of Yuri Zhivago. Mason eventually dropped out and Rod Steiger accepted the role. Steiger eventually would be involved in the filming of "Dr. Zhivago" for the better part of a year, which may have been a reason that both Brando and Mason shunned the role.
David Lean had heard a piece of Russian music that he felt was perfect for the film but was unable to secure the copyright. So he tasked Maurice Jarre with coming up with a suitable theme for the film. Jarre submitted suggestion after suggestion, all of which were rejected by Lean. Eventually Lean told him to take off for the weekend with his girlfriend and to hole himself up in a cabin up in the mountains and make love for the entire weekend. This proved to do the trick as Jarre returned from his romantic break with "Lara's Theme".
Hungarian actress, Lili Muráti, was seriously injured in the scene where she runs along side of the train and grabs Zhivago's (Omar Sharif) hand to be hauled aboard. But a miscalculation was made. Sharif had been instructed to grab and hold on to Murati's hand. "She started panicking", said Ernest Day, who was watching it all through the camera, "but he didn't understand her. She was trying to make him let go, and when she did finally wrench her hand away she stumbled and disappeared out of the viewfinder". Murati had bunched up as she had fallen so the train wheels had not severed her limbs. She was also wearing thick clothes, which protected her further. Her stumble can be clearly seen in the finished film.
When asked if he thought Sarah Miles would make a good choice for the part of Lara, screenwriter Robert Bolt said "No, she's just a north country slut". Bolt would later marry Miles.
The inside of the ice palace was mostly made up specifically formed wax.
Among its highly diverse international cast, this film contains almost zero Russian actors or even actors of Russian heritage.
Julie Christie hated having to wear the infamous red dress. Initially, she refused to even put it on until production designer John Box assured her that she looked absolutely beautiful in it. (David Lean would never have been able to be so complimentary about one of his actors, and indeed had instructed Box to try and win her round.)
The shooting exceeded the ten month schedule because of David Lean's wish to capture the different seasons during which the story took place. Filming took place during one of the mildest winters in Spain, leading to delays and the need to simulate snow with marble dust and plastic snow in the height of summer. The actors had to have their faces dabbed by make-up artists every few minutes because of their sweating.
Not only did the mild winter mean no snow; the fields started turning green too early. The crew used white paint, plaster dust and even white plastic sheets to create many of the film's snow-filled vistas.
The soundtrack sold more than 600,000 copies during the film's initial release.
Carlo Ponti wanted to shoot the film in the Soviet Union, but the government refused his requests. David Lean visited Yugoslavia and the Scandinavian countries in search of locations. Both areas were too cold and the bureaucracy in Yugoslavia was too prohibitive. In the end, the majority of the film was shot in Spain.
Producer Carlo Ponti originally bought the rights to the novel so that he could cast his wife, Sophia Loren, in the role of Lara. David Lean, however, did not want to use Loren, claiming that she was 'too tall' for the role.
David Lean's first choice for the title role was Peter O'Toole who declined, citing the grueling experience of having made Lawrence of Arabia (1962) with Lean. This created a rift between the two that was never fully healed.
Although publicity material said that the Moscow set built in Canillas was half a mile long, the actual length of the street with tram line was merely 160 meters. To make this short street look longer, they built it on a slope, made the street narrower at the end, and made the height of the buildings shorter there. These are the standard procedures in building movie sets. In addition, David Lean allowed to take photos of the set only with wide lenses not to reveal the actual size.
Michael Caine tells in his autobiography that he also read for Zhivago, but after watching the results with David Lean, was the one who suggested Omar Sharif.
Omar Sharif claimed that he was close to breakdown throughout most of filming due to stress over playing such a high-profile role and David Lean's demands on him.
Geraldine Chaplin modeled her performance of Tonya on her own mother, Oona Chaplin.
When David Lean told the studio that he wanted Maurice Jarre to provide the score, he was told, "Maurice is very good on sand, but I'm sure we have someone better on snow." Jarre, of course, won the Oscar for best original score for this film.
Over 4000 daffodils were imported from the Netherlands and placed on the outskirts of the mountain town of Soria, where Zhivago's father-in-law's country estate was located.
According to Freddie Young, before he reluctantly agreed to take the director of photography job following an exhausting collaboration on Lawrence of Arabia (1962), David Lean had a major falling-out with the previous director of photography, Nicolas Roeg, over creative differences. After Young took over, an additional two weeks of photography was required to re-shoot the scenes that Roeg had shot.
Although Maurice Jarre's score is probably the best remembered feature of the film, David Lean himself was not a fan of it, considering it to be overly romantic.
We never learn the fates either of Lara's mother or of her first daughter, Katya Pavlovna.
The film's costumes inspired the "Zhivago Look" fordesigners like Yves St. Laurent and Christian Dior. Fur trims, silkbraiding and boots came back into fashion thanks to the film. Also returned to fashion by the film's success was facial hair. Beards and mustaches were in, just in time for the counter-culture revolution of the late '60s.
This film grossed more than every other film David Lean had directed put together.
The limousine seen at the hydro-electric power plant at the beginning and end of the film is a Czech built Tatra. These cars were favorites of Soviet bureaucrats in the late 1940s and 1950s.
A ten-acre replica of Moscow was built in Canillas, a suburb of Madrid. It included a cobbled 800-yard street with trolley cars, a train viaduct, a replica of the Kremlin and 60 shops and houses circling a giant plaza.
David Lean wanted Audrey Hepburn to play Tonya, but was so impressed by Geraldine Chaplin's audition that he cast her on the spot.
For the film's 30th anniversary in 1995, the Turner Entertainment Company (TEC) created a new print to be used for a theatrical reissue and new home videos. Over the years, the heavy demand for prints around the world had left the original negative worn and scratched, forcing MGM to use duplicate negatives for some sequences. Fortunately, the original negative had not suffered from color degeneration, so technicians simply had to create new printing masters that eliminated the scratches They also returned to the original sound elements to create a new soundtrack that was then recorded in DTS Digital Stereo. When the new version premiered at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences® some viewers thought the film looked even better than it had at its premiere.
Zhivago's and Lara's first lines of dialogue with each other don't happen until 1 hour 21 minutes into the film (counting the overture and opening credits).
Although this was a large epic on the scale of David Lean's previous film Lawrence of Arabia (1962), it was not shot in Super Panavision or other large film format. It was shot in standard 35mm Panavision anamorphic. The 70mm prints were blow-ups from the 35mm negative. Lean actually wanted to shoot the film in 70mm, but claimed that MGM refused as it would have been too expensive.

MGM, at the time, was greatly suffering from series of box office flops and a misdirected studio management. During the time in the early 1960s, the studio had just come off its outstanding critical, box office, and Academy Award success with Ben-Hur (1959), which had restored the studio's legacy and financial fortunes, only for a few years. MGM, then, fell into a habit that would eventually sink the studio: an entire year's production schedule relied on the success of one big-budget epic each year. This policy began in 1959, when Ben-Hur was profitable enough to carry the studio through 1960. However, four succeeding big-budget epics-like Ben-Hur, each a remake-failed: Cimarron (1960), King of Kings (1961), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962), and, most notoriously, Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Each of these four films, like Ben-Hur, were filmed in a widescreen 70mm film format. The 70mm film cameras and equipment, reportedly, added much turmoil and expense issues to the production on the four films, particularly that of Mutiny on the Bounty. Under the new and revised leadership of Robert M. Weitman (head of production) and Robert O'Brien (president) in 1963, MGM vowed never again to invest in 70mm filmmaking.
Igor Girkin, the leader of the Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine who was complicit in shooting down the Malaysian commercial airplane in 2014, adopted the nom de guerre of Strelkov after Pasha, the ruthless character played by Tom Courtney.
Although David Lean had championed Julie Christie to studio executives, during early days of filming he had a hard time getting what he wanted out of her. Rather than give her time to explore the role, he kept at her to get exactly what he wanted. When they returned to the hot Spanish locations after time in icebound Finland, she finally collapsed under the pressure. Gradually, however, they developed a working rapport. Lean took to visiting her in her apartment in Madrid and was quick to accept her suggestions for the script. By the time production had finished, they had forged a lasting friendship, though they would never work together again.
The budget ballooned from $5 million to $15 million.
A Sergei Rachmaninoff prelude is heard at the salon concert when Geoffrey Keen's doctor is summoned by Komarowski. Rachmaninoff was a personal friend of Boris Pasternak's family.
The scene where Zhivago and Lara meet amidst all the army deserters is a deliberate homage to King Vidor's The Big Parade (1925), one of David Lean's favorite films.
Ingrid Pitt appears throughout this film in five different uncredited bit roles.
It took two years to make the film. Over 800 craftsmen in three countries worked on the film. The final production budget was $14 million, twice what the film's backers had agreed to.
Many winter scenes were shot in the summer, when actors had to withstand temperatures climbing to 116 degrees while muffled in Russian furs. Costume designer Phyllis Dalton had to keep strict watch over the extras to make sure none of them were shedding layers of clothing to cool off. Omar Sharif would later note, "We had an army of make-up assistants who every two minutes came and dabbed you because we were sweating profusely."
The film's principal location in Spain was the C.E.A. Studios, near Madrid's international airport. Production designer John Box and his crew spent six months turning the ten-acre studio into a reproduction of Moscow between 1905 and 1920. Included in the set were a half-mile long paved street, trolley lines, an authentic replica of the Kremlin, a viaduct with real train engines, a church and more than 50 businesses. Publicists touted the set as the largest ever built for a film.
Boris Pasternak's novel runs to 592 pages. When Robert Bolt's screenplay was published, it ran to 224 pages.
Most of the exteriors were completely built inside as well to serve as interiors.
The book finally returned to his homeland in 1988, when Mikhail Gorbachev allowed it to be published there as part of his "glasnost" policy.
Maurice Jarre's score, especially "Lara's Theme", was widely dismissed as "syrupy" by some critics.
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Several producers and studios bid for the rights to the novel, which Carlo Ponti won in 1963. He wanted the film to be as grand as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), so he recruited the crew of that film, including director David Lean, screenwriter Robert Bolt, cinematographer Freddie Young, production designer John Box and composer Maurice Jarre.
Yvette Mimieux was rejected for the part of Lara.
The recreation of Moscow on a Spanish studio lot took 18 months to achieve.
The final scene, in which a rainbow appears over a dam as the final credits were rolled onscreen, was criticized as being "pro-Soviet" by more conservative critics, who felt it was signifying that the Soviet Union had a bright future. Robert Bolt, who adapted the novel, was a one-time member of the British Communist Party (leaving the Party in 1947) and well-known leftist who was prominent in the nuclear disarmament campaign, itself seen as a surrogate of the Cold War struggle between the West and the Soviet Bloc. Since David Lean was apolitical, the shot likely was created due to the beauty of its image, not as political symbolism.
David Lean discovered Geraldine Chaplin when he spotted her on the cover of a magazine (she was modeling at the time).
The film got an added publicity boost during post-production when Darling (1965) opened and made Julie Christie an international star.
Omar Sharif directed Tarek Sharif himself as a way to get closer to his character.
Thousands of extras were used, including Spanish soldiers and villagers, and Finnish Laplanders (for the scenes in Siberia when Zhivago deserts the Red Army).
The two most popular and acclaimed motion pictures of 1965 were The Sound of Music (1965) and Doctor Zhivago (1965). Each film initially was met with a lukewarm response from film critics, then eventually rescued by its muscular studio marketing campaign and strong word of mouth. Each film featured their respective elements that are beneficial to the enduring legacy of each film: a sensational soundtrack, spectacular production values, and the encompassing message of the triumph of the human spirit over evil and corruption. Ironically enough, the two films went on to receive ten Academy Award nominations, respectively, and each film taking home five Academy Award wins.
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David Lean reused some of the crew of Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - script writer Robert Bolt, composer Maurice Jarre, and production designer John Box, not to mention actors Omar Sharif and Alec Guinness.
Jane Fonda turned down the role of Lara because she didn't want to go to Spain for nine months, but weeks later she changed her mind and informed her agent she wanted to do it. By then Julie Christie had been signed to play Lara. In 2014, Fonda said that of all the movies she's turned down, Doctor Zhivago is the one she regrets not doing the most.
Rod Steiger was on set filming for 12 months.
David Lean cast Julie Christie as Lara after seeing her in Billy Liar (1963) (which also featured Tom Courtenay), and on the recommendation of John Ford, who had directed her in Young Cassidy (1965).
Screenwriter Robert Bolt recommended Albert Finney for the role of Pasha, and wrote Finney a long letter to convince him to accept. David Lean, however, refused, largely because Finney had turned down the title role in Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
David Lean wanted to make a more intimate, romantic piece after the big budget - and action-oriented - excesses of Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
Geraldine Chaplin's first filmed scene was when her character reads out a letter to Ralph Richardson. Although she pulled off the scene, Chaplin was very fortunate that the camera didn't pick up on the fact that she was shaking throughout.
Geraldine Chaplin's English language film debut.
When the film received only mixed reviews, MGM President Robert O'Brien committed another $1 million to advertising. Publicity trumpeted the picture as a cross between War and Peace (1956) and Gone with the Wind (1939). They even suggested that exhibitors play only music from the film before and after screenings and not sell concessions while the picture was running, though it's doubtful that any theatre managers gave up the chance for lucrative profits in that area. Helped by strong word-of-mouth, the film took off at the box office, becoming MGM's second-highest grosser to date, behind Gone With the Wind but ahead of Ben-Hur (1959).
Ranked #7 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions: America's Greatest Love Stories (2002), #39 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies: America's Greatest Movies (1998) and received a nomination for AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores.
Varykino is actually a city to the West of Moscow, not East as the movie portrays in Siberia.
Since the film takes the viewpoint of the dreamy poet Zhivago, the physician side of Zhivago is rarely in evidence. Zhivago writes poems for Lara near the end of their relationship, but the audience never hears the poems. Zhivago's poetry is included in a supplement at the end of the novel, and critics carped that the film, unlike the book, is shorn of the poetry, and that showing a writer at work is inherently boring.
Rita Tushingham filmed her part in two weeks.
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Klaus Kinski's dialogue was dubbed by Robert Rietty.
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For Zhivago's trip through the Russian Steppes, John Box constructed sets in the mountains north of Madrid. This required diverting the course of a river to fit Lean's vision and building miles of fresh railroad tracks.
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For the scenes in which Zhivago and his family suffer through a tortuous train ride to their summer home in the Urals, the company shot in Finland and Canada with the full cooperation of Finnish State Railways and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.
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Yuri's balalaika is never played in the film.
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Dirk Bogarde, Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster and Max von Sydow were considered for the title role but was never actually offered the part before David Lean offered the role to Omar Sharif.
The winter scenes did not go as planned due to the unusually mild winter, and they were instead mostly filmed in summer in temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with marble dust and plastic snow standing in for actual snow and the actors' profuse sweating requiring frequent makeup touchups. Some of the winter sequences, mostly landscape scenes and Yuri's escape from the partisans, were filmed in Finland. Winter scenes of the family travelling to Yuriatin by rail were filmed in Canada.
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Omar Sharif was a big fan of the novel.
All the locomotives used in the film are Spanish locomotives like the RENFE Class 240 (ex-1400 MZA), and Strelnikov's armoured train is towed by the RENFE Class 282 Mikado locomotive.
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It took an orchestra of 110 to record the film's score. Twenty-two of them were balalaika players.
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The cheering sailors seen at the side of the railroad before Strelnikov's train passes by are wearing hats from the cruiser "Aurora" which is written in Cyrillic.
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The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Julie Christie, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness; and three Oscar nominees: Omar Sharif, Tom Courtenay and Ralph Richardson.
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William Hartnell told co-stars on Doctor Who (1963) that he had been offered a part in the film (the truth of this has been queried). T.P. McKenna was offered a part too.
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With the exception of an uncredited bit in Limelight (1952), this Geraldine Chaplin's first appearance in an English-language film. She had only made two other films, both in France.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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The priest Lara talks to sounds like Richard Burton, although it was likely to be Robert Rietty's voice.
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