A Royal Scandal takes the 'great' out of Russia's Catherine II

Fact would have been more fun than fiction in this overblown big-screen biopic of Russia's 18th-century empress

A Royal Scandal (1945)

Director: Otto Preminger

Entertainment grade: B-

History grade: C

Catherine II "the Great" was Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796.

International relations

Anna (Anne Baxter), a lady in waiting, emerges from Catherine (Tallulah Bankhead)'s chambers to tell the chancellor of Russia (Charles Coburn) that the empress is fighting with the commander of the palace guard. The chancellor is known in the film simply as Nikolai Ilyich, with no surname, though since the film seems to be set in 1763 he should probably be Nikita Ivanovich Panin. In her rage, Catherine smashes a porcelain horseman – a gift from Frederick the Great, king of Prussia. "Even in her most furious moments, her majesty has exquisite taste," says the chancellor.


Anna's fiance, a young soldier called Alexei Chernoff (William Eythe), bursts into the
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