• Some actors just emit a sort of magnetism through the camera - and Douglas Fairbanks Jr (Grand Duke Peter) does it in spades in this rather prosaic depiction of the early life of Catherine II of Russia. When Princess Sophie (Elisabeth Bergner) is chosen to marry the young Grand Duke by his aunt, Empress Elisabeth (Flora Robson) and the Kaiser, she arrives in a court where it isn't just the weather that is ice cold. Their relationship develops, in fits and starts, as she decides she is not going to simply be his trophy bride. Bergner depicts the young woman well, combining the personas of naive flightiness soon tempered by a steeliness of character. There is a strong, lively, performance from Robson as the Empress with her own coterie of lovers and a rather fun contribution from Gibb McLaughlin as Bestujhev. Overall, however, the film lacks the intrigue and the chemistry of Von Sternberg's "The Scarlet Empress" - It is a little dry; but the dark cinematography lends much to the integrity of the depiction of 18th Century Russian court life and the narrative does engender some sympathy for the young man who was in no way equipped for what destiny had in store for him.