53 user 53 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.


Manuel Komroff (story- based on the diary of Catherine the Great)




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 ... Count Lestoq (as Phillip Sleeman)
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)


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


DIETRICH! woman of fire capturing a court with her charms ...a crown with her Cossacks...! (Print Ad-Greenfield Recorder, ((Greenfield, Mass.)) 17 August 1934) See more »


Drama | History | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The commercial failure of this film was so spectacular that it soured the relationship between Paramount and director Josef von Sternberg. Von Sternberg's contract had stipulated that Paramount was due a film of the studio's choosing following the release of this picture; however, the box office returns were so poor that studio heads released von Sternberg from that commitment. Freeing him from the commitment allowed von Sternberg to complete The Devil Is a Woman (1935). See more »


During the wedding feast, a skeleton can be seen bent over a cauldron. However, bolts in the joints of the skeleton and a precision cut across the skull indicate that it is an anatomical- or medical-skeleton model, an object that would not have been readily available in 18th-century Russia. See more »


Grand Duke Peter: I suppose you, too, want to congratulate as the father of the heir to the throne of Russia.
Marquis de la Chetardie: That was my intention, Your Imperial Highness. And I bring you the felicitations of my nation, and my own personal congratulations on so glorious an event.
Grand Duke Peter: Yes, I know. Tell me about it some other time. I want to be alone, do you hear? Get out, all of you! I'm crammed up to my neck with congratulations! Get out! And if you must congratulate someone, congratulate my wife!
See more »


A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.61
Written by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Excerpts incorporated into the score often
See more »

User Reviews

One more reason the Golden Age of Hollywood was golden...
18 March 2002 | by R BeckerSee all my reviews

Truly one of the greatest films ever made (see the International Film Critics' Top 100 Films list as well). Dietrich was never more luminous, nor cinematography more gorgeous, than in THE SCARLET EMPRESS. It's in black and white, but you'll feel like it's in full and glorious color. History it's not, but who cares? This is the way things should have been.

20 of 29 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 53 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

7 September 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Catherine the Great See more »


Box Office


$900,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed