Rasputin and the Empress (1932)

Passed   |    |  Biography, Drama, History


Rasputin and the Empress (1932) Poster

A prince plots to kill the mad monk Rasputin for the good of the czar, the czarina and Russia.


6.7/10
788

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  • Lionel Barrymore and Diana Wynyard in Rasputin and the Empress (1932)
  • Rasputin and the Empress (1932)
  • Rasputin and the Empress (1932)
  • Ethel Barrymore in Rasputin and the Empress (1932)
  • Lionel Barrymore and Diana Wynyard in Rasputin and the Empress (1932)
  • Ethel Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore in Rasputin and the Empress (1932)

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Cast & Crew

Top Billed Cast



Directors:

Richard Boleslawski , Charles Brabin

Writer:

Charles MacArthur (screen play)

Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


7 August 2010 | AlsExGal
7
| Great as dramatic history but as for Russian history...
...forget about it. This film is completely inaccurate in its portrayal of actual events in Russian history. As for the nature and character of the historical figures involved, the three Barrymores give good renditions. There is Ethel Barrymore looking every inch the empress and giving a convincing portrayal of a woman concerned for the welfare of her very ill son - and I would expect that. What I didn't expect is how weird it would be to watch a film in which John Barrymore is the shining hero and Lionel Barrymore is a truly diabolical villain, and each are spectacularly convincing in their portrayals. Lionel is really the center of attention here as he plays the evil Rasputin whose ability to sidestep assassination attempts is legendary, and here a few logical explanations are given to some of his alleged abilities. However, none can explain what happened at the end of his life - how he was poisoned, bludgeoned, shot, and finally thrown into an icy river and still managed to cling to life for awhile.

Although Tsar Nicholas is accurately portrayed as a rather weak willed man and the Romanov marriage is also accurately portrayed as one of the few royal arranged marriages that also turned out to be a love match, there is a mischaracterization of the Tsar as being progressive and wanting a Duma only to have Rasputin defeat that plan. In fact, Nicholas was autocratic in his outlook and distrusted any attempt to give the people more say in their government. This sets up one of the great ironic struggles in the film - that of aristocrat Prince Paul Chegodieff (John Barrymore) wanting more for the peasants in the way of both bread and democracy, and that of peasant mystic Rasputin (Lionel Barrymore) saying that it was God's will that the peasants were poor and powerless. Paul wants to save Russia, Rasputin wants to rule it.

Another piece of fiction shown in the movie for dramatic measure are the public proclamations about the illness of Tsaravich Alexai, the heir to the Russian throne. In fact one of the things that turned the Russian people against the royal family - besides the fact that they were starving during WWI - was that the people assumed that Rasputin's hold over the empress was because they were lovers. The Romanovs did not want it to be known that the only son in the family and heir to the throne had a serious disease - in this case hemophilia - that kept him in very delicate health and would likely lead to a greatly shortened lifespan. They felt it would leave them vulnerable to the overthrowing of their rule. Ironically hiding the truth and leaving Rasputin's relationship to the empress unexplained also led to exactly that.

Watch this one for the high production values and compelling performances by the members of Hollywood's royal family during its golden age, but as for a Russian history lesson, look elsewhere.

Critic Reviews


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Did You Know?

Trivia

The model for the character of Princess Natasha in the movie was Princess Irina Romanoff Youssoupoff. She filed a lawsuit against Thalberg and MGM, claiming invasion of privacy and libel in portraying her as a mistress and, later, a rape victim of Grigory Rasputin. She won an award of $127,373 in an English court and an out-of-court settlement in New York with MGM, reportedly $1 million. As a result of the success of Princess Youssoupoff's lawsuit against MGM over this movie, Hollywood studios began inserting the disclaimer "This motion picture is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental" in the credits of virtually every film released since.


Quotes

The Czarina: I need you.
Prince Chegodieff: Yes, your Majesty.
The Czarina: I've injured you. But, I've injured Russia more.
Prince Chegodieff: Your Majesty, I know how much you love Russia. Everything in your heart, everything that you've done, you thought was for Russia's good.
The Czarina: My heart is broken. What are we ...


Goofs

The fact that the Tsarevich was sick was not announced publicly as portrayed in the movie. It was kept a secret.


Alternate Versions

Upon its premiere "Rasputin and the Empress" ran approximately 132 minutes. Due to the famous lawsuits against it, a number of scenes had to be cut for legal reasons. One critical scene that was deleted was one which implied that Rasputin had raped Diana Wynyard's character of "Princess Natascha". The removal of this scene tended to make the character of Princess Natascha somewhat incomprehensible - initially she is a supporter of Rasputin; in the latter part of the film she is very afraid of him. Unless the viewer is aware of the cuts made in the film, there does not appear to be any explanation for the change in Princess Natascha toward Rasputin.


Soundtracks

Waltz of the Flowers
(1892) (uncredited)
from the "Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a"
Written by
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Played at Paul's party and danced by a ballet group

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Biography | Drama | History

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