The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • In 1745 a German princess, renamed Catherine, arrives to marry Grand Duke Peter of Russia, 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.

  • In 1745, unmarried and childless Empress Elisabeth of all of Russia believes her nephew, Grand Duke Peter, first in line to the throne, should get married so that their family monarchy line can continue. That marriage is even more important now as Elisabeth is in ill health, a fact that she disregards in an effort to remain visibly in charge. Peter does not like the idea of a wife, he who would rather remain the bachelor playboy he is without even meeting the intended the Empress has chosen for him. She is Princess Sophie Auguste Frederika of Anhalt-Zerbst, who the Empress and her aides rename Catherine. Peter and Catherine do marry, demure Catherine who has loved Peter from afar since she was a child and who still remains devoted to him. Peter, too, falls in love with her at first sight. But as their marriage progresses, it is negatively affected by Peter's unstable mental state, including his misogyny, narcissism, underlying self-doubt and his continuing womanizing ways. He mistrusts Catherine as having ulterior motives for marrying him. In her solitude, Catherine ends up learning the ways of ruling effectively for the needs of the people from Elisabeth. This ends up causing a problem as she may be deemed more appropriate a ruler than Peter. If so, Catherine will have to decide how to proceed. Her continuing love for Peter factors into how she decides to proceed.

  • Straightforward biography of the Russian empress, up to her assumption of the throne.


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