On TCM last night - The Scarlet Empress

For the one or two of you who care, this is a famous movie made in the 30’s starring Marlene Dietrich as young Catherine the Great brought to Russia to marry, and how she got her start and became Empress. This movie is as obscure as it is famous, I’ve read about it in books on film and seen photos, but still photos don’t do it any justice. Thanks to TCM, I saw it last night and I am speechless. It it AWESOME to look at - everything is SO over the top. I couldn’t look away for a minute. The settings, the huge rooms in the huge palaces, the grotesque sculptures and statues, the COSTUMES!

Here is a link if you want to read about it. www.imagesjournal.com/issue10/reviews/scarletempress/

Being a Russia-themed night, TCM showed “Rasputin and the Empress”, also made in the 30’s starring the Barrymores, and after “The Scarlet Empress”, poor old Ethel Barrymore looked like my grandma in a little mink-tail hat, and the budget for the Russian “palace” looked to be on a level with Plan 9 from Outer Space!

I personally love Shanghai Express the best of all of Dietrich’s & Sternberg’s films, but Empress is mesmerizing and truly one-of-a-kind. OTT in the best possible, unapologetic way. Irresistable fun, and more than a little goofy.

I watched the first hour of it and then had to do something else. Yes, wasn’t it wonderful? “Yes, your majesty,” over and over. And having to sleep with grotesque Sam Jaffe. But I thought Alexei was gross too.
The same year, The Rise of Catherine the Great was made in England, in which Douglas Fairbanks Jr., one of my movie boyfriends, plays Peter; he is portrayed as being much more mentally ill than mentally deficient. It is very well made, but The Scarlet Empress is a banquet.

I saw the end of it and was so impressed that I was going to start a thread about it myself, but wasn’t sure if I’d get any responses. The sets and cinematography were WCBB (wicked cool beyond belief).

I was wondering… might this movie have been an influence on the Witch’s castle scenes in The Wizard of Oz? (Even the classical music references in the soundtrack – “Night on the Bare Mountain” for WoO, “Marche Slave” and “1812 Overture” for TSE.)

I was luckily (?) sick last night and couldn’t go to work. I was mesmerized by this movie. What really stood out to me was the lighting effects. Events that happened in winter were darkly lit and shadowy. The acting was very weird but I attribute that to the movie being made only shortly after the advent of sound movies.

From the paintings I’ve seen, the actress who played Empress Elizabeth very much resembled Catherine in her later years

Damn. I wish I’d known. One of the most decadent films ever made.

Wikipedia quotes Robin Wood’s descripton of the palace set: