Cast & Crew
In Paris in 1928, a downtrodden woman wandering the streets is approached by Gen. Bounine, a Russian exile who once served as an officer in the Russian Imperial Army, and who now runs a Paris nightclub. When asked by Bounine if she is the Grand Duchess Anastasia, the woman claims that her name is Anna Korov and adds that she has just been released from an asylum. Anna dodges her way through the streets to the banks of the Seine, and is about to jump when she is saved by Bounine. Meanwhile, in their cellar headquarters, Chernov and Petrovin, Bounine's partners in a business enterprise to produce the grand duchess and thus claim her ten million pound inheritance, worry that they will be unable to meet the deadline that their stockholders have given them. Just then, Bounine arrives with Anna, and although he discounts her authenticity, he is confident that he can mold her into the image of the grand duchess. Anna, haggard and suffering from bouts of amnesia, bears scars on her palms and forehead, similar to those inflicted on Anastasia during the massacre of her family at the hands of the revolutionaries. Anna, weak and susceptible, succumbs to Bounine's promises to help her find herself and agrees to become his Anastasia. Daily, Bounine tutors her on Romanov family history and schools her on royal comportment. With just three days left until the deadline, Bounine arranges for Anna to meet a few of the more gullible stockholders. When Anna is introduced to the Czarina's former lady-in-waiting, the woman breaks down in tears of disbelief when Anna addresses her by her nickname, a name known only to the royal family. Anna's next test occurs at a reception for Russian exiles. There, Bounine reminds the crowd that it is their duty to restore Anastasia to the living and asks them to sign a document vouching for her authenticity. The Czar's chamberlain calls Anna a great illusionist until she rebukes him for smoking in her presence, just as Anastasia once did. When only eighteen of the fifty-one present sign the document, however, Bounine decides he must introduce Anna to the Dowager Empress, Anastasia's grandmother, who resides in Copenhagen. Anna, now assured that she is the grand duchess, scorns her doubters and decides to go off on her own. Bounine convinces her to accompany him to Copenhagen, however, and the two travel to Denmark, where Anna, traveling under the name A. Anderson, is granted a fourteen-day visa. When the empress refuses to meet with Anna, Bounine arranges a rendezvous with Baroness Elena von Livenbaum, her lady-in-waiting. The baroness, infatuated with the dashing Bounine, tells him that the empress will be at the Royal Theater on Thursday. That Thursday night, Bounine escorts Anna to the theater and there introduces her to Prince Paul, the empress' nephew and Anastasia's betrothed. As Paul and Anna converse in the lobby, Bounine gains admittance to the empress' box. After coldly informing Bounine that she is weary of all her "spectral grandchildren," the crusty empress refuses to see Anna and deems Bounine's interest purely monetary. After he leaves, the empress intently studies Anna through her binoculars. Paul begins to squire Anna around town, and one night at the Tivoli Club, Anna, tipsy from champagne, giggles and kisses Paul. Bounine, jealous, intrudes and sends Anna home to bed. Paul, a womanizing fortune hunter, presses his aunt to meet Anna, and one day, the empress unexpectedly appears in her hotel room. The empress, imperious and unyielding, excoriates Anna for manipulating the Romanov legacy for financial gain. When Anna recalls a quarrel her grandmother and father once had over a necklace, the intimate memory distresses the empress and she offers to pay Anna to end her charade. The lonely empress secretly longs to reunite with her lost granddaughter, so when Anna coughs nervously from fright, as Anastasia once did, the empress embraces her as the grand duchess. Weeks later, Paul, the empress and Anna return to Paris amid rumors of Paul and Anna's impending engagement. When Anna is introduced to the press, Viados, a reporter, claims that she is really Anna Korov and that her wounds were incurred during a train explosion. Afterward, Bounine and Anna see each other for the first time since Copenhagen, and he accuses her of being seduced by the wealth and status of the grand duchess. On the night that the empress is to present Anna as her heir, Bounine informs the empress that he plans to leave before the presentation. Sensing that Bounine is in love with Anna, the empress asks him to wait in the green room. The empress then asks Anna if she really wants to marry Paul. Perceiving that Anna is in love with Bounine, she sends her to the green room where Bounine waits. As Chernov and the others prepare to present Anna, they discover that she has disappeared with Bounine. The empress then grandly proclaims that the play is over and everyone should go home.
Ina De La Haye
Harry M. Leonard
Edward B. Powell
Best Music, Original or Comedy Series
The performance - which won Bergman the second of her three Academy Awards - is touching at least partly because we're fortunate that it exists: Bergman almost didn't get the role for numerous reasons, but chiefly because she had fallen deeply out of favor with Hollywood, and with audiences, when she embarked on an affair with Roberto Rossellini, for whom she left her husband. The affair began when she went to Italy in 1949 to film Stromboli (1950); not long afterward, she became pregnant with Rossellini's child and decided to remain in Italy with him. The moral gatekeepers not just of Hollywood, but of America, were outraged. She was denounced from the floor of Congress as an "agent of evil." Though she'd become beloved for her roles in pictures like Gaslight (1944, for which she earned her first Oscar), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) and Casablanca (1942), it didn't seem possible she could ever again work in the United States.
Anastasia was a hot property to begin with. The story originated as a play, written by Marcelle Maurette and first staged in France in 1951; it was based partially on the story of the real-life Anna Anderson, a woman with a history of mental illness who became the toast of high society by somehow convincing the "right" people that she was indeed the lost Russian princess. Guy Bolton further adapted the play for Broadway, where it became a hit in 1954. Several studios were dying to get their hands on it, and 20th Century Fox won the bidding war, paying some half-million dollars for the property. (The lavish movie, shot on location in Paris, London and Copenhagen, would ultimately cost more than $3 million to produce.) Arthur Laurents worked on the script, and the charismatic Brynner, filming The King and I at the time, signed on to play Bounine. The Ukrainian-born Litvak - the man behind the 1936 French-made hit Mayerling -- would direct. As a young man, Litvak had worked at a theater in St. Petersburg. In 1925, he fled Russia for Berlin, working there until the rise of the Nazi regime; he later moved to France. After the success of Mayerling, Litvak received invitations to work in Hollywood. He became an American citizen and enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he began filming in Europe once again, so Anastasia would be something of a homecoming for him.
But who would play the title character? Fox president Spyros Skouras was pushing for Jennifer Jones. But Litvak and studio head Darryl F. Zanuck desperately wanted Bergman for the role, even though she hadn't made an American picture since Victor Fleming's Joan of Arc, in 1948. Skouras resisted, believing that U.S. exhibitors would be hostile to the fallen star. But Zanuck went to the board of 20th Century Fox, eventually persuading them to take a chance on Bergman -- who, it turns out, was chafing under the constraints of Rossellini's possessiveness and was more than ready to return to Hollywood.
The performance she gave as the just-maybe princess Anastasia is perhaps excessively melodramatic in sections, but at its best, it has a touching fragility. "Miss Bergman's performance as the heroine is nothing short of superb as she traces the progress of a woman from the depths of derangement and despair through a struggle with doubt and delusion to the accomplishment of courage, pride and love," wrote Bosley Crowther in the New York Times upon the film's release. "It is a beautifully molded performance, worthy of an Academy Award and particularly gratifying in the light of Miss Bergman's long absence from commendable films." There's a note of superiority in that compliment - Crowther had a rather stuffy notion of what made a film "commendable" - but he's right about the performance. Bergman really is royalty here, the kind that doesn't require any special birthright.
By Stephanie Zacharek
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Backstory: Anastasia, 2001 TV episode
The New York Times
Richard Corliss, "Top 10 Comeback Movies," Time, December 15, 2008
Producer: Buddy Adler
Director: Anatole Litvak
Screenplay: Arthur Laurents, based on the play by Marcelle Maurette and the Broadway adaptation by Guy Bolton
Cinematography: Jack Hildyard
Music: Alfred Newman
Film Editing: Bert Bates
Cast: Ingrid Bergman (Anastasia), Yul Brynner (Bounine), Helen Hayes (Empress), Akim Tamiroff (Chernov), Martita Hunt (Baroness von Livenbaum)
[color, 105 minutes]
We are most of us lonely, and it is mostly of our own making.- Dowager Empress
But oh please, if it should not be you, don't ever tell me.- Dowager Empress
The poor have only one advantage; they know when they are loved for themselves.- Anastasia
I will tell them that the play is over, now go home.- Dowager Empress
This film marked Ingrid Bergman's Hollywood comeback, after being effectively blacklisted in 1949 for having an affair with director Roberto Rossellini and having a child out of wedlock.
This movie was based on the story of Anna Anderson, a woman who claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. It was later discovered that, in fact, she was not who she claimed to be; the mystery was solved through DNA examination of a small piece of tissue cut from Anna in an operation years before.
The film opens with the following written prologue: "In 1917, the Romanov dynasty-rulers of Imperial Russia-were overthrown by revolution. Some of the nobility and their followers fled to safety but the Tsar, his wife and children were imprisoned and then shot, in 1918. Shortly after, there were strange whispers that one of the family had escaped and was still alive. In the weeks, months, years that followed, the whispers grew louder and louder. And then one woman appeared, a woman who was said to be the youngest daughter of the last Tsar, her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Only she, if she is still alive, knows the truth behind the story you are about to see." [Although most modern sources refer to the rulers of Russia as "Czar," the onscreen credits of Anastasia use the spelling "Tsar."]
At the time this picture was made, the identity of the woman known as "Anna Anderson" was in question. After the massacre of the imperial family, rumors arose that one or more of the children had survived. In 1921, a woman in a German mental asylum claimed to be Anastasia. The woman walked to Berlin to seek out her "aunt," Princess Irene, who, after meeting her, denied that she was Anastasia. The woman, who began calling herself Anna Anderson in the 1920s, attracted many supporters and detractors. One of Anastasia's aunts, Grand Duchess Olga, met with Anderson several times and finally declared that she was not Anastasia. Anderson brought suit in a German court in 1938 to prove her identity and claim her inheritance.
The case dragged out until 1970, when the court ruled that she had not proved that she was Anastasia. Anderson, who eventually moved to the United States, died in 1984 and was cremated. Recent DNA analysis of her hair and tissue samples prove that she was not Anastasia, but Franziska Schanzkowska. After the collapse of Communism in Russia, the bones of the imperial family were unearthed and DNA analysis proved that all members of the family had perished.
In September 1953, Warner Bros. bought the rights to a London stage production about Anastasia as a vehicle for Jane Wyman, according to a Daily Variety news item. That picture was never made. Although a January 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Darryl F. Zanuck was to personally produce Anastasia in Vienna, and a January 1956 Daily Variety article adds that Zanuck bought the rights to Marcelle Maurette's play, only Buddy Adler is credited as producer. Memos from Zanuck reproduced in a modern source indicate that he played a decisive role in getting the film made. Although modern sources state that it was Zanuck who insisted that Ingrid Bergman play the title role, publicity materials in the AMPAS production file on the film note that Adler paid $400,000 for the rights to the play and induced Bergman to return to the American screen after a seven-year absence. Scandal had driven Bergman from the United States in 1949, after she deserted her husband, Peter Lindstrom, and daughter Pia for Italian film director Roberto Rossellini, making her a box-office risk to play the leading role.
A May 1956 article in American Cinematographer states that shooting began on May 21, 1956 in Copenhagen, where background shots were taken of palaces, squares and restaurants. The company then moved to Paris, where locations were filmed in Montmartre, Montparnasse and the Alexander III Bridge. When the church denied permission to film at St. Alexander's Cathedral, one of three Russian Orthodox cathedrals in Paris, director Anatole Litvak ordered the cathedral photographed with a still camera and then reproduced it at the London studio. The film commenced shooting in London on June 11, 1956 at Borehamwood Studios. Studio publicity notes that the film cost $3,500,000 to produce, and at the time, was the most expensive motion picture ever made abroad by Twentieth Century-Fox. Many of the bit parts were played by members of the large Russian exile community that resided in Paris and London.
Although Hollywood Reporter news items place Boris Ranevsky, Vera Gretch, Gabriel Toyne, Linda Gray, Nicholas Bruce, Tamar Gilmore and George Mossman in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The Variety review misspells the names of actors Gregoire Gromoff and Katherine Kath. Bergman won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Anastasia, and returned to the United States for the first time since 1949 to accept the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actress. Alfred Newman was nominated for an Academy Award for Scoring of a Dramatic Picture. Following Anastasia's success, Bergman continued to make American films shot in Europe and the U.S. until her death in 1982.
Among other films based on the life of Anastasia are the 1932 M-G-M film Rasputin and the Empress, starring John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore and directed by Richard Boleslavsky (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40); the 1956 German CCC Production Is Anna Anderson Anastasia? starring Lilli Palmer; the 1971 Columbia production Nicholas and Alexandra, starring Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman and directed by Franklin Schaffner; Anastasia, The Mystery of Anna, a TV movie directed by Marvin Chomsky and starring Amy Irving, Olivia de Havilland and Omar Sharif; and the 1997 Twentieth Century-Fox animated film Anastasia, directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, with Meg Ryan providing the voice of Anastasia.
1956 Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress--Drama (Bergman).
Vote Best Actress (Bergman) by the 1956 New York Film Critics.
Voted Best Actor (Brynner) By the 1956 National Board of Review.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1956 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States on Video September 6, 1995
Released in United States Winter December 1956
Released in United States on Video September 6, 1995
Released in United States Winter December 1956