The Scarlet Empress ()

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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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Cast verified as complete

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)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Lackey #5 (uncredited)
Count von Breummer (uncredited)
Nadine Beresford ...
Sophia's Aunt (uncredited)
Thomas C. Blythe ...
Narcissus (uncredited)
Hal Boyer ...
Paul - Lackey #1 (uncredited)
Guard (uncredited)
Miss Cardell, Sophia's Nurse (uncredited)
Clyde David ...
Narcissus (uncredited)
Marquis de la Chetardie (uncredited)
George Davis ...
Jester (uncredited)
Anna Duncan ...
Catherine's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
Catherine's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
May Foster ...
Elizabeth's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
Catherine's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
Innkeeper (uncredited)
Petra McAllister ...
Sophia's Aunt (uncredited)
Eunice Murdock Moore ...
Sophia's Aunt (uncredited)
Patricia Patrick ...
Catherine's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
Castle Guard (uncredited)
Blanche Rose ...
Sophia's Aunt (uncredited)
Barbara Sabichi ...
Elizabeth's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
Katherine Sabichi ...
Catherine's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
Dina Smirnova ...
Catherine's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
Elaine St. Maur ...
Catherine's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
Agnes Steele ...
Elizabeth's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
Minnie Steele ...
Elizabeth's Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited)
Belle Stoddard ...
Sophia's Aunt (uncredited)
Bit Part (uncredited)
Paul (uncredited)
Lt. Ovitsyn (uncredited)
Herr Wagner (uncredited)
Bruce Warren ...
Lackey (uncredited)
Beautician Curling Catherine's Hair (uncredited)
Doctor #1 (uncredited)

Directed by

Josef von Sternberg

Written by

Catherine II ... (based on the diary of)
Manuel Komroff ... (diary arranged by)
Eleanor McGeary ... (contributor to screenplay construction) (uncredited)

Produced by

Emanuel Cohen ... executive producer (uncredited)
Josef von Sternberg ... producer (uncredited)

Cinematography by

Bert Glennon ... (photographed by)

Film Editing by

Josef von Sternberg ... (uncredited)
Sam Winston ... (uncredited)

Art Direction by

Hans Dreier ... (uncredited)

Costume Design by

Travis Banton ... (uncredited)

Art Department

Peter Ballbusch ... sculptor: gargoyles and figures (uncredited)
Hans Dreier ... set designer (uncredited)
Richard Kollorsz ... paintings (uncredited) / set designer: icons (uncredited)

Sound Department

Harry D. Mills ... sound recording engineer (uncredited)

Visual Effects by

Gordon Jennings ... special photographic effects (uncredited)


Audrey Scott ... riding double: Marlene Dietrich (uncredited)

Camera and Electrical Department

Josef von Sternberg ... lighting technician (uncredited)
Richard Walling ... still photographer (uncredited)

Costume and Wardrobe Department

Eugene Joseff ... costume jeweller (uncredited)

Music Department

W. Franke Harling ... music adaptor (uncredited) / music arranger (uncredited)
Bernhard Kaun ... music adaptor (uncredited)
John Leipold ... music adaptor (uncredited) / music arranger (uncredited)
Oscar Potoker ... music adaptor (uncredited)
Milan Roder ... music arranger (uncredited)

Other crew

Adolph Zukor ... presenter
Crew verified as complete

Production Companies




Special Effects


Other Companies



Plot Summary

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

Plot Keywords
Taglines The Reigning Beauty of the Screen! See more »
Parents Guide View content advisory »

Additional Details

Also Known As
  • Catherine the Great (United States)
  • L'impératrice rouge (France)
  • Die scharlachrote Kaiserin (Germany)
  • Die große Zarin (Germany)
  • Capricho imperial (Spain)
  • See more »
  • 104 min
Aspect Ratio
Sound Mix
Filming Locations

Box Office

Budget $900,000 (estimated)

Did You Know?

Trivia Marlene Dietrich's own daughter Maria Riva portrayed young Sophia at the beginning of the film. See more »
Goofs Catherine II is a woman of the 18th century, yet Dietrich depicts her with the depilated eyebrows and cupid-bow lips that were fashionable in 1934. See more »
Movie Connections Edited from The Patriot (1928). See more »
Soundtracks Symphony No.4 in F Minor, Op.36 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]
Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Your Imperial Majesty, something for the poor?
[Peter slaps him]
Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: That was for me. Now what have you got for the poor?
Grand Duke Peter: There are no poor in Russia! Get out!
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