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The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934)

Not Rated | | Biography, Drama | 9 February 1934 (USA)
Straightforward biography of the Russian Empress, up to her assumption of the throne.

Directors:

Paul Czinner, Alexander Korda (uncredited)

Writers:

Lajos Biró (story) (as Lajos Biro), Arthur Wimperis (story) | 5 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. ... Grand Duke Peter (as Douglas Fairbanks Jnr.)
Elisabeth Bergner ... Catherine
Flora Robson ... Empress Elisabeth
Gerald du Maurier ... Lecocq
Irene Vanbrugh ... Princess Anhalt-Zerbst
Joan Gardner ... Katushienka
Dorothy Hale Dorothy Hale ... Countess Olga
Diana Napier ... Countess Vorontzova
Griffith Jones ... Grigory Orlov
Gibb McLaughlin ... Bestujhev (as Gibb Maclaughlin)
Clifford Heatherley Clifford Heatherley ... Ogarev
Lawrence Hanray Lawrence Hanray ... Goudovitch
Allan Jeayes ... Colonel Karnilov
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Storyline

In 1745, a German Princess, renamed Catherine (Elisabeth Bergner), arrives to marry Grand Duke Peter of Russia (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.), whom she initially likes. But his suspicious, unstable nature gradually estranges them, and Peter finds solace with pretty courtiers. Catherine invents her own (fictitious) lovers, temporarily improving matters. Alas, accession to the throne brings out the worst in Peter, and loyal Catherine is urged to assume power. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The more he hated her, the more she loved him...this girl of MANY loves who rose to rule a hundred million souls but could not govern her own heart. (Print Ad-New York Sun, ((New York NY)) 12 February 1934)

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At the time of its U.S. re-release in 1947, this movie was most frequently paired in second position on a double bill topped by the re-release of The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933). See more »

Goofs

When Peter marries Catherine in a Russian Orthodox service, they respond to the the lines "Do you take this man/woman to be your lawful wedded husband/wife... until death do you part?" These lines are not part of a traditional Orthodox service. The bride and groom usually do not say anything during the service. See more »

Crazy Credits

Openng credits prologue: RUSSIA 1745

THE HUNTING LODGE OF GRAND DUKE PETER, HEIR TO THE THRONE. See more »

Connections

Version of The Scarlet Empress (1934) See more »

User Reviews

 
CATHERINE THE GREAT (Paul Czinner, 1934) ***
2 June 2011 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

This is the first of 6 films I intend to watch about the famous Russian sovereign (albeit of German origins) as part of the Josef von Sternberg retrospective, whose masterpiece THE SCARLET EMPRESS – from the same year – also deals with her. It was obviously intended as the British response (through renowned producer Alexander Korda) of the afore-mentioned Paramount release; ironically, the latter had been made – as a vehicle for Marlene Dietrich – in the wake of the classic Greta Garbo title QUEEN Christina (1933)!

Even so, the result here is quite a good film taken on its own merits – though lacking the ornate visual sense and other idiosyncrasies that Sternberg deployed in his version (and which made it so fascinating to watch in the first place). In any case, this has all the virtues and faults of a typical Korda effort: low-key approach undermined by stiff production and buoyed by reliable casting. The latter sees Elizabeth Bergner – the director is her husband – in the title role (though she does well by the character on a human plane, there is little to suggest her 'great' qualities as monarch!), top-billed Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (an ambivalent characterization as he goes all-too-swiftly from being submissive to his Empress aunt through a pre-arranged marriage to tyranny: his is a valiant try, but the star's dashing looks makes this incongruity that more conspicuous!) and Flora Robson (as the ailing Empress who conspires with Catherine to depose her own unstable nephew: the distinguished actress would virtually make a career out of playing monarchs!).

Plot-wise, court intrigue (easily the more interesting aspect to the narrative) is too often swamped by romantic complications and that worst trapping of costumers i.e. archaic dancing…but, having grown up watching the Korda films on Italian TV (even if not among its very best examples, this one is solid enough), I kind of have a soft spot for them and, in fact, over the years I managed to collect virtually all of the more notable titles in that popular cycle (including the same year's THE PRIVATE LIFE OF DON JUAN which, coincidentally, starred Fairbanks pere!). By the way, while this one was originally released in the U.S. as THE RISE OF CATHERINE THE GREAT, it was recently issued on R1 DVD through Criterion's sister label Eclipse as part of a Korda Box Set (along with DON JUAN itself and two superb Charles Laughton vehicles – namely the Oscar-winning THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII {1933} and, arguably his masterpiece, REMBRANDT {1936}).


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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

9 February 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Rise of Catherine the Great See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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