We Live Again
Cast & Crew
C. Aubrey Smith
In the spring of 1875, Russian servant Katusha Maslova awaits the arrival of her childhood playmate, Prince Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov, who is returning after six years of boarding school to visit his aunts, Marie and Sophia, for whom Katusha works. On the drive from the train station, Dmitri tells his conservative aunts that he does not wish to become an army officer. The writings of his idol, political reformer and writer Grigory Simonson, have inspired Dmitri to enter the civil service and improve the hard lot of the serfs. His aunts are dismayed by his revolutionary attitudes, especially when he declares that there is no difference between him and Katusha, even though she is a peasant. Dmitri is stunned by Katusha's beauty, and the young people happily spend the summer discussing Simonson's ideas. On the day he is to return to the army, Dmitri and Katusha bid each other a sad farewell, and Dmitri promises to visit her next summer. Two years pass, however, and Dmitri does not return to visit. Instead, he begins to lead the life of a cavalier military man, as he competes with his fellow officers and aristocrats in their frivolous games of riding, drinking and womanizing. When Dmitri finally returns for a visit on Easter, he lasciviously watches Katusha during a midnight mass celebration. Marie and Sophia are pleased with Dmitri's transformation, while the innocent Katusha is delighted that he is still interested in her. Later that night, the couple go to the greenhouse, where they spend the night after Dmitri's sweet blandishments overcome Katusha's hesitancy. Early the next morning, Dmitri leaves for maneuvers without saying goodbye to Katusha. The young woman is stunned that Dmitri is gone and becomes outraged when she opens the envelope that he left for her. In it is one hundred rubles, but no note of explanation. Katusha throws away the money, and as the months pass, her bitterness grows when Marie and Sophia fire her because she is pregnant. Hard-hearted Marie suspects that Dmitri is the father, but Katusha refuses to divulge her seducer's name. She attempts to find Dmitri when a military train passes through a nearby station, but he does not see her. Soon after, Katusha and her last friend, Matrona Pavlovna, bury her infant son, who died unbaptized. Katusha then goes to Moscow, where she spends the next seven years falling into a life of prostitution, poverty and degradation. Dmitri, who is now engaged to Missy, the daughter of the wealthy judge, Prince Kortchagin, is called up for jury duty in Kortchagin's court. The case being tried is that of the murder of a merchant, and Dmitri is astonished to see that Katusha is one of the defendants, along with the true killers, Simon Kartinkin and Euphemia Botchkova. As the trial progresses, Katusha admits that she is a prostitute, but states that she thought the powder Kartinkin and Botchkova gave her to give the merchant was sleeping powder rather than poison. The jurors agree that Katusha is not guilty of murder, but a mistake in the language of their written decision forces Kortchagin to sentence her to five years hard labor in Siberia. Dmitri obtains permission to see Katusha in Kortchagin's office, but at first she does not recognize him. When she finally recognizes him, Katusha angrily tells Dmitri about her ruined life, and Dmitri, overcome by guilt, promises to help her. Katusha scorns his overtures and reminds him of his lost idealism, but after she returns to her cell, she confides in her friend that Dmitri's visit has made her come alive again. After Dmitri is stymied in his efforts to free Katusha, he returns to the prison, where he asks her to marry him. She cries and begs him to go away, after which Dmitri tells Missy that he is giving up his decadent life to join Katusha in Siberia. On the day the prisoners are to be sent to Siberia, Katusha gives up hope that Dmitri will help her when he does not appear. Meanwhile, Dmitri splits his land among his servants and goes to the boundary of Siberia, where the prisoners are waiting to be processed. Dmitri finds Katusha and tells her what he has done, and says that he wants to "live again" with her forgiveness, help and love. Despite her protests that she is not worthy, Dmitri tells her that all innocent sufferers are holy, and the reconciled lovers, certain that the next five years will pass quickly, smile as they cross the border together.
C. Aubrey Smith
Anders Van Haden
George Burr Macannan
W. Wallace Jones
Gordon De Main
Edgar G. Ulmer
We Live Again
Fredric March to Anna Sten at the end of We Live Again
Having failed to sell Russian-born protégée Anna Sten to American audiences as a Frenchwoman of easy virtue in Nana (1934), producer Samuel Goldwyn gave her the chance to live again on screen in a film that hit closer to home, an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's Resurrection entitled We Live Again. Despite a solid leading man (Fredric March), strong direction by Rouben Mamoulian and the usual Goldwyn high class treatment, the 1934 film proved her second costly flop in a row.
Perhaps the Depression-weary public simply wasn't in the mood for another adaptation of Tolstoy's 1899 tale of a Russian nobleman who discovers the peasant girl he had seduced and abandoned years ago has now turned to crime. Or possibly the efforts to bring the tale of seduction and redemption within the guidelines of the newly powerful Production Code made it too moralistic for audiences who had recently been flocking to more debauched entertainment (Production Code enforcer Joe Breen praised the script as a model for treating illicit sex on screen). Goldwyn could hardly be slighted for choosing the property, however. It had been adapted to the stage as early as 1903, giving Herbert Beerbohm Tree a hit in London. D.W. Griffith had made a twelve-minute film version in 1909 with Biograph Girl Florence Lawrence as the wronged peasant girl. More recently, Dolores del Rio and Rod La Rocque had starred in a 1927 silent version, while Lupe Velez and John Boles had appeared in a 1931 sound era version for Universal (with Velez and Gilbert Roland starring in a Spanish-language version shot concurrently). But even though it had only been three years since the last adaptation, Goldwyn was convinced the earlier versions had missed the story's epic grandeur. In his own words, it "has not been made until I make it" (quoted in Goldwyn by A. Scott Berg). To underline the fact that this was his Tolstoy adaptation, he even changed the title to We Live Again, arguing that it meant the same thing as Resurrection but in simpler words.
Goldwyn hired a strong director who had recently worked successfully with the two actresses whose success had inspired him to groom Sten for stardom. Rouben Mamoulian had just directed Marlene Dietrich in The Song of Songs and Greta Garbo in Queen Christina (both 1933), and the latter film had opened to particularly strong reviews. After hiring writer Willard Mack, who had written Nana, to shape the material into a screenplay, Goldwyn heeded Mamoulian's advice and brought in playwright Maxwell Anderson (What Price Glory?) to make the piece more poetic. After deciding that Anderson's poetry had turned the characters into so many marble statues, Goldwyn brought in Preston Sturges, at $1,500 a week, to bring the script to life and add what the producer called "snappy nineteenth century dialogue." Happy as he was with Sturges' work, Goldwyn was happier to see the expensive writer finish his script polishing. He then hired Leonard Praskins to combine the best of Anderson's and Sturges' scripts. Somewhere along the line, playwrights Paul Green and Thornton Wilder and film director Edgar G. Ulmer may have made their own contributions to the script.
With Sten's box-office failure in Nana, Goldwyn had trouble getting the right leading man for We Live Again. MGM had just signed Fredric March, a recent Oscar®-winner for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), to a short-term contract, and Goldwyn convinced that studio's production head, Irving G. Thalberg, to give him one of the actor's options. March took a little more convincing, but for the sum of $100,000 he agreed to take second billing. Nonetheless, March was concerned the project could damage his status as a leading man. When Goldwyn visited the set and saw the actor looking morose, he tried to cheer him up with, "Freddie, you got the best part in the picture." Then he realized Sten was sitting next to her leading man and quickly added, "And Anna, you got the best part, too."
With his commitment to quality, Goldwyn used only the best talent behind the scenes, including pioneering cinematographer Gregg Toland, composer Alfred Newman and costume designer Omar Kiam. To give We Live Again a more sumptuous look, Goldwyn enlisted Sergei Soudeikin, set designer for the Metropolitan Opera, to work with his resident art director, Richard Day. And he sent a second-unit team to the Soviet Union to shoot background footage. Nonetheless, there was one noticeable error in the finished film. Goldwyn loved the music Newman had used for a Russian Orthodox church service so much that when his production team realized the music had been played backwards nobody dared tell him. The film went out to theatres that way.
We Live Again won strong reviews. Andre Sennwald of The New York Times praised Goldwyn for capturing the essence of Tolstoy's novel (proving the producer's claims more than just braggadocio), spoke well of all the production elements, but gave the lion's share of the credit to Sten: "Chiefly, however, it is Miss Sten's vitality, loveliness and dramatic skill which impresses the spectator." There was only one problem. Everybody but the ticket-buying public loved it. Despite the reviews, We Live Again died at the box office. Goldwyn would give his protégée one more chance by casting her opposite Gary Cooper in The Wedding Night (1935), or as some called it, "Goldwyn's Last Sten." When that, too flopped, he cancelled her contract and she, like her character in We Live Again, went into exile, albeit the metaphorical Siberia of Hollywood obscurity.
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Screenplay: Maxwell Anderson, Leonard Praskins, Preston Sturges, Paul Green, Talbot Jennings, Thornton Wilder
Based on the novel Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Art Direction: Richard Day, Sergei Soudeikin
Music: Alfred Newman
Principal Cast: Anna Sten (Katusha Maslova), Fredric March (Prince Dmitri Nekhlyudov), Jane Baxter (Missy Kortchagin), C. Aubrey Smith (Prince Kortchagin), Sam Jaffe (Gregory Simonson), Ethel Griffies (Aunt Marie), Jessie Ralph (Matrona Pavlovna), Leonid Kinskey (Simon Kartinkin), Cecil Cunningham (Theodosia), Halliwell Hobbes (Official). BW-85m.
by Frank Miller
We Live Again
The working title of this film was Resurrection. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, producer Sam Goldwyn attempted to borrow Mona Barrie from Fox and did borrow George Barbier from Paramount for unspecified roles, but they do not appear in the completed picture. According to the picture's pressbook, at Goldwyn's request, a Moscow film crew was sent to Siberia to film "atmospheric shots." Art director Sergei Soudeikin was the scenic artist for the Metropolitan Opera. We Live Again was English actress Jane Baxter's first Hollywood film. According to the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Joseph I. Breen, the Director of the PCA, was so impressed with the film that, in a letter to Will H. Hays, he wrote: "Though dealing with a sex affair and its attendant consequences, the story has been handled with such fine emphasis on the moral values of repentance and retribution, as to emerge with a definite spiritual quality. We feel that this picture could, in fact, serve as a model for the proper treatment of the Alement of illicit sex in pictures." Edgar G. Ulmer rewrote a scene in this film to comply with Hays Office regulations, according to an interview with his wife, Shirley Ulmer. According to modern sources, Thornton Wilder and Willard Mack contributed to the script.