An ambitious group of businessman attempt to pass off a mentally
ill commoner as the long lost Romanov Princess of Russia.
Directed by Anatole Litvak
Written by Arthur Laurents
Starring Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner, Helen Hayes,
Akim Tamiroff, Sacha Pitoëff, Martita Hunt, Ivan Desny
Based on the stage play by Guy Bolton and Marcelle Maurette
Oscar Wins - Best Actress (Ingrid Bergman)
Oscar Nominations - Best Original Score (Alfred Newman)
The conspiracy theory of Princess Anastasia's survival is legendary at this point. There's never been a shred of proof to support it, but many believe Anastasia somehow escaped her family's execution at the hands of the Bolsheviks, then wound up on the streets of Russia, various mental asylums, and vanished into obscurity. Or, if you buy into the story of Anna Anderson, she was discovered by opportunistic businessmen in order to secure a ten million pound inheritance. The truth is, she died, and her body lies in the same pit her family wound up in. But everyone wants life to be so much more mysterious and exciting than it is. This film was inspired by the Anna Anderson incident, and it really doesn't amount to much.
Ingrid Bergman won her second Oscar for her role as Anna Koreff, aka Anastasia Nikolaevna. Frankly, I think she's done much better work. Her character is just so empty, devoid of any personality beyond what General Bounine (Brynner) forces her to believe. Later on, these two characters run off together, despite him being aggressively verbally abusive the entire movie. We never really know who she was, but we know who she wasn't. There's just so much more that could've been done with this film. But it morphs into a generic love story before that potential can be utilized.
Bergman and Brynner are good together, but neither of them are great. And I've seen phenomenal performances from both of them before. Anastasia could've been the Dave of the 1950s, to reference a film I've recently enjoyed. Finding standouts in Hollywood before the 1960s is rare, mostly due to the cinematic castration that was the Hays Code. This one is pretty uneventful.