Watch The Rise of Catherine the Great
- 1 hr 35 min
The Rise of Catherine the Great is an epic historical drama film released in 1934, directed by Paul Czinner and starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Elisabeth Bergner, and Flora Robson. The movie tells the story of Catherine II, Empress of Russia, and her rise to power during the 1760s. The film is an early example of a grand Hollywood production, showcasing lavish costumes, spectacular sets, and dramatic cinematography.
The plot follows the young Princess Sophia Auguste of Anhalt-Zerbst as she travels to Russia to marry the future Tsar, Peter III. The marriage is arranged by Empress Elizabeth, Peter's aunt, in the hopes of securing a Russo-Prussian alliance. Sophia, renamed Catherine, is initially enamored with her husband, but soon realizes that he is a weak and incompetent ruler, more interested in playing with his toy soldiers than running the country.
As Catherine becomes increasingly frustrated with Peter's ineptitude, she forms an alliance with the military and the nobility, who are equally disillusioned with their ruler. When a conspiracy to overthrow Peter is discovered, Catherine seizes her opportunity and leads a coup d'etat, declaring herself empress and ordering the execution of her husband.
From there, the film depicts Catherine's transformation from a naive German princess into a powerful and competent Russian ruler. She navigates the treacherous waters of court politics and international diplomacy, quelling rebellions and expanding Russia's reach into the Baltic states. She is aided by her loyal lover, Gregory Orlov, played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who provides support and guidance in her ascent to power.
The film's main themes revolve around power, ambition, and gender. Catherine is presented as a highly intelligent and capable woman, who is constantly underestimated and undermined by the men around her. She is able to outmaneuver them through shrewd political calculation and the support of her loyal followers.
The Rise of Catherine the Great is notable for its strong performances, particularly Elisabeth Bergner in the lead role. She brings depth and nuance to the character of Catherine, portraying her as a complex and multifaceted figure. Flora Robson is also excellent as Empress Elizabeth, capturing the character's regal bearing and cunning disposition.
The movie's visual style is equally impressive. The set designs and costumes are opulent and grand, reflecting the lavishness of the Russian court. The cinematography is also notable, employing sweeping vistas and dramatic close-ups to heighten the film's emotional impact.
While The Rise of Catherine the Great takes some liberties with historical accuracy, it provides an engaging and entertaining portrayal of one of history's most fascinating women. The film depicts Catherine as a trailblazing and visionary leader, who transformed Russia into a major power on the world stage. It is a testament to the enduring appeal of this iconic historical figure, and an early showcase of the grand-scale productions that would come to define Hollywood's Golden Age.
The Rise of Catherine the Great is a 1934 romance movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 35 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.3.