The Rise of Catherine the Great
Paul Czinner, director
with Elisabeth Bergner, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Flora Robson, Gerald du Maurier
A romanticizing of the early Catherine and her coming to power as Empress of all the Russias, this is a genuine Korda production: stately history beautifully mounted and a little too deliberately paced. But the black and white photography of the production design by Vincent Korda is impressive. The script, obviously from a play, has Catherine deeply in love with her dissolute, near-mad husband (Doug, Jr. in what must be his only role as pure sonofabitch). For the sake of her country Catherine must get beyond him personally (the viewer is glad for her) and set him aside politically.
That slightly cloying, clinging quality in Bergner’s acting works for her here as she portrays the young bride’s innocence, naivety and difficulty asserting herself. She is at times very moving.
An unusual opportunity the film affords is the chance to see veteran stage actor Gerald du Maurier in one of his handful of screen appearances made at the close of his career during his financially hard times. The original Bulldog Drummond and Captain Hook is perfect here as the Czar’s body servant.
It is not the policy of RICKSFLICKS — with occasional exceptions — to review and analyze mouth-watering films that my viewers and readers will have no opportunity to see. I saw The Rise of Catherine the Great (also known as Catherine the Great) on Turner Classic Movies in a superb print. This film should not prove one of their monthly or near-monthly repeats; but it will eventually appear again. Don’t miss the stunning black and white, and check out the great Du Maurier.
Screenplay: Lajos Biro, Arthur Wimperis, Marjorie Deans, from the play The Czarina by Biro and Melchior Langyel
Photography: Georges Perinal, Robert Lapresle
music: Ernest Toch (music direction MUIR MATHIESON)
editing: Harold Young
art direction: VINCENT KORDA
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See you at the movies,