A ROYAL SCANDAL (aka: THE CZARINA)(director: Otto Preminger; screenwriters: Edwin Justus Mayer/Bruno Frank/ based on Lajos Biro and Melchior Lengyel’s play Czarina; cinematographer: Arthur Miller; editor: Dorothy Spencer; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Tallulah Bankhead (Catherine the Great), Charles Coburn ( Nicolai Illytch, the chancellor), William Eythe (Alexei), Anne Baxter (Countess Anna Jaschikoff ), Mischa Auer (Capt. Sukov), Sig Ruman (Gen. Michael Nicolai Vladimirovich Ronsky), Vincent Price (Marquis de Fleury), Eva Gabor (Countess Demidow), Henry Victor (Feodor Chaliapin); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ernst Lubitsch; Twentieth Century-Fox;1945)
“Preminger has no ear for comedy. It comes across heavy-handed, while the political intrigue comes only to a small boil.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s a remake of the 1924 silent Ernst Lubitsch directed in Berlin. Unable to direct because of a heart attack, Lubitsch secured Otto Preminger (“Laura”/”Saint Joan”/”Anatomy of a Murder”) to replace him, while he remained on as producer. Otto was never able to replicate the Lubitsch Touch in this comedy drama misfire, despite a hammy performance by stage actress Tallulah Bankhead and a good one by Charles Coburn. It’s based on Lajos Biro and Melchior Lengyel’s play Czarina, and is written byEdwin Justus Mayer and Bruno Frank. The farce, set in the Russian St. Petersburg court during the mid-eighteenth century, shoots for cheap laughs as Catherine the Great (Tallulah Bankhead, at 43), at age 37, is viewed as recruiting her soldiers to be lovers, while her corrupt shrewd chancellor (Charles Coburn) has fun playing along with the lusty ruler and her affairs. Preminger has no ear for comedy. It comes across heavy-handed, while the political intrigue comes only to a small boil.
The pic centers around the naive persistent loyal frontline cavalry officer Alexi (William Eythe), a bland character, who has ridden without stopping for days to warn the Czarina about two plotting generals and scores a nighttime interview with Catherine, emerging with a promotion to captain and soon will rise to general. The 24-year-old Alexi is engaged to Anna (Anne Baxter), a lady-in-waiting and Alexei’s 22-year-old fiancée. Meanwhile the chancellor is behind the scenes arranging a marriage between France’s Marquis de Fleury (Vincent Price), the French ambassador, to strengthen the alliance between the two countries.
The film flopped at the box office.
REVIEWED ON 9/10/2013 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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