7.6/10
5,289
46 user 46 critic

The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Passed | | Drama, History, Romance | 7 September 1934 (USA)
A German noblewoman enters into a loveless marriage with the dim-witted, unstable heir to the Russian throne, then plots to oust him from power.

Writers:

Catherine II (based on the diary of), Manuel Komroff (diary arranged by)
Reviews
1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Marlene Dietrich ... Princess Sophia Frederica / Catherine II
John Lodge ... Count Alexei
Sam Jaffe ... Grand Duke Peter
Louise Dresser ... Empress Elizabeth Petrovna
C. Aubrey Smith ... Prince August
Gavin Gordon ... Capt. Gregori Orloff
Olive Tell ... Princess Johanna Elizabeth
Ruthelma Stevens ... Countess Elizabeth 'Lizzie'
Davison Clark Davison Clark ... Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky / Arch-Episcope
Erville Alderson ... Chancelor Alexei Bestuchef
Philip Sleeman Philip Sleeman ... Count Lestoq (as Phillip Sleeman)
Marie Wells Marie Wells ... Marie Tshoglokof
Hans Heinrich von Twardowski ... Ivan Shuvolov (as Hans von Twardowski)
Gerald Fielding Gerald Fielding ... Lt. Dmitri
Maria Riva ... Sophia as a Child (as Maria)
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Storyline

Young Princess Sophia of Germany is taken to Russia to marry the half-wit Grand Duke Peter, son of the Empress. The domineering Empress hopes to improve the royal blood line. Sophia doesn't like her husband, but she likes Russia, and is very fond of Russian soldiers. She dutifully produces a son -- of questionable fatherhood, but no one seems to mind that. After the old empress dies, Sophia engineers a coup d'etat with the aid of the military, does away with Peter, and becomes Catherine the Great. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Reigning Beauty of the Screen!

Genres:

Drama | History | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 September 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Catherine the Great See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$900,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,299
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's on screen title and all on screen credits are presented in lower case. See more »

Goofs

When the flag is being lowered for the dead empress, we see the flag flapping in the wind but the fake backdrop is flapping also. See more »

Quotes

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Something for the poor, You Majesty?
[Catherine removes several bracelets and places them in the collection plate]
Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: For the poor, Captain?
[Capt. Orloff drops a handful of diamonds in the plate]
Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Excellency?
Count Alexei: [Count Alexei tosses a bag of what sounds like coins] Quite a haul tonight, Father.
Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Chancellor?
[the chancellor gives him a single coin]
Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Elizabeth?
[Countess Elizabeth flings the food she'd been eating onto the collection plate. The archimandrite places the morsel on the table]
[...]
See more »

Connections

Edited from The Patriot (1928) See more »

Soundtracks

Kamennoi-Ostrow, No. 17
(uncredited)
By Anton Rubinstein
[Adapted by von Sternberg for wedding sequence]
See more »

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User Reviews

Empress Dietrich
17 June 2018 | by mukava991See all my reviews

This biopic about the rise of the German Princess Sofia to Empress Catherine of Russia, from naive and deferential innocent to rapacious predator, is accurate only in the broadest outlines. Even the opening credits indicate a loose approach to fact: "Based on a diary of Catherine," "arranged by Manuel Komroff."

In the first half Marlene Dietrich in the title role overplays breathless awe so emphatically that one can only wonder if she was strictly directed to do so; after her sexual awakening after months of resisting the stirring of her passions by a rakish courtier (John Lodge) and crazed with frustration by her unconsummated marriage to the repellent Tsar-to-be Peter (Sam Jaffe), she melts into the arms of a palace guard during a sudden moonlit encounter.

It's hard to believe this film passed the 1934 censors, given its open suggestions of out-of-wedlock sex (and subsequent pregnancy); Dietrich's posturings call to mind pre-Code Mae West (who was a friendly acquaintance of Dietrich's on the Paramount lot where they were working at the same time). Perhaps the keepers of the Code were too distracted by the shimmering vision of the blonde icon as lit by Josef von Sternberg. And make no mistake about it, this movie is a paean to Dietrich as a work of art. The "Catherine the Great" plot, scenic design and supporting players are the scaffolding and trappings supporting and surrounding the living goddess.

These trappings are highly stylized and elaborate as, for example, the Lubitsch-like ritual of Princess Sophia (the future Empress Catherine) kissing the hands of all adults present whenever she enters or exits a room; when she isn't engaged in strictly supervised activities she is kept locked in her bedroom several flights above the main floor of her house; her mother is such a disciplinarian that she scolds the child even when the child obeys. Empress Elizabeth of Russia (Louise Dresser) is introduced on a grand throne in forbidding surroundings decorated with huge grimacing gargoyles festooned with dripping candles and attended by over-dressed lackeys, only to open her mouth and jabber like a bilious small-minded housewife. And the future Tsar Peter whom Sophia is sent to Russia to marry is an imbecile and described as such repeatedly in intertitles in case we miss the point.

In fact the flow of exaggerations and extremes is more or less constant so that the viewer is alternately hypnotized and amused. If Dietrich is not your cup of tea, the movie will repel you, because it's all about her.


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