The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Passed   |    |  Drama, History, Romance


The Scarlet Empress (1934) Poster

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.


7.6/10
5,386

Photos

  • Marlene Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress (1934)
  • Marlene Dietrich and John Lodge in The Scarlet Empress (1934)
  • Marlene Dietrich and John Lodge in The Scarlet Empress (1934)
  • Marlene Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress (1934)
  • Marlene Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress (1934)
  • Marlene Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress (1934)

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Cast & Crew

Top Billed Cast



Director:

Josef von Sternberg

Writers:

Catherine II (based on the diary of), Manuel Komroff (diary arranged by)

Awards

1 win.

Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


28 February 2000 | Ron Oliver
10
| Dietrich & Old Russia - A Fascinating Phantasmagoria on Film
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.

Critic Reviews



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Did You Know?

Trivia

During production, when director Josef von Sternberg's perfectionist style of film making proved to be too overbearing for Marlene Dietrich, Dietrich and her friend and purported lover, Mercedes de Acosta, hatched a plot to convince the director to abandon his grueling directorial style. In a particularly-frosty period of production, when Dietrich and von Sternberg had not talked to one another off set for three days, de Acosta told Dietrich to fake an injury by falling off of a horse. Dietrich did as her friend asked, toppling from a horse during filming and pretending to be unconscious. De Acosta had supplied a "doctor" for the situation and the doctor rushed to Dietrich's side. The doctor claimed she had passed out from overwork. The incredibly-contrite von Sternberg took it easy on his starlet for the rest of the shoot, and their working relationship was repaired.


Quotes

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Her Majesty is very ill, and her days are numbered. Soon, she will be no more, poor soul, and another maniac will become our emperor. It will be a bad day for Russia, and for me if I live that long.
Princess Sophia Frederica: Why are you telling this to me?
Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: I suppose you know...


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.


Soundtracks

Marche Slave
Written by
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Excerpts incorporated into the score often, but predominately when Catherine
is about to capture the throne at the end

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Drama | History | Romance

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