7.7/10
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The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Not Rated | | 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.

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(based on the diary of), (diary arranged by)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
... Princess Sophia Frederica / Catherine II
... Count Alexei
... Grand Duke Peter
... Empress Elizabeth Petrovna
... Prince August
... Capt. Gregori Orloff
... Princess Johanna Elizabeth
... Countess Elizabeth 'Lizzie'
Davison Clark ... Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky / Arch-Episcope
... Chancelor Alexei Bestuchef
Philip Sleeman ... Count Lestoq (as Phillip Sleeman)
Marie Wells ... Marie Tshoglokof
... Ivan Shuvolov (as Hans von Twardowski)
Gerald Fielding ... Lt. Dmitri
... 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>

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The Reigning Beauty of the Screen!

Genres:

Drama | History | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

7 September 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Catherine the Great  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$900,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sam Jaffe's film debut. See more »

Goofs

Peter's Holstein guard is falsely referred to as Hessian. This may have been deliberate to make use of the bad reputation of Hessian mercenaries in the US war of independence. See more »

Quotes

Grand Duke Peter: I want to play with my toys!
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Connections

Referenced in Hollywood Mouth (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Rondo Capriccioso in E Op.14
Written by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Excerpts incorporated into the score often
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User Reviews

 
Dietrich & Old Russia - A Fascinating Phantasmagoria on Film
28 February 2000 | by See all my reviews

An innocent & obscure German princess is sent to Russia to become the wife of Grand Duke Peter, heir to the throne. Her romantic dreams are shattered when she finds her new husband to be a childish imbecile. Quickly growing wise, she soon begins taking lovers from among the military guard. So begins the legendary life of Catherine, Tsarina of Holy Russia, The Messalina of the North, THE SCARLET EMPRESS.

A riotous feast for the eyes, this is one of the great, unheralded films of the 1930's - enthralling for its visual impact alone. Seldom has an American film been filled with such lush imagery - tactile, grotesque, fascinating. The Russian royal palace is a charnel house full of ghouls & gargoyles - human & artistic. The actors share the scenes with fantastic statuary, twisting & writhing in silent, unspeakable pain. (Notice the tiny skeletons on the dining table.) Everywhere is death, moral decay & barbarism, even in the most powerful court in Europe.

At the center of this ossuary is the gorgeous Marlene Dietrich. Her beauty radiates, but never dominates, throughout the film. She is splendid as a young woman in a very dangerous place, who gains courage & great determination in her ordeal. Equally good is Sam Jaffe as Peter; with his leering grin & demented eyes he is the very picture of a murderous madman.

Louise Dresser, as the Empress Elizabeth, is very effective as a comic bully. John Lodge & Gavin Gordon, as Catherine's military lovers, are both stalwart. Wonderful old Sir C. Aubrey Smith has a small role as Catherine's princely father. Film mavens will spot an uncredited Jane Darwell as Catherine's nurse.

The highly emotional soundtrack, an amalgam of themes by Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn & Wagner, explodes in the film's final moments into musical pyrotechnics.


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