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The Scarlet Empress

The Scarlet Empress(1934)

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According to scripts in the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library, the working titles for this film were Her Regiment of Lovers, Catherine II and Catherine the Great. The film credits "a supporting cast of 1000 players." Narrative titles are used throughout the film to advance the plot. The film was not released until almost four months after the production was completed. According to modern sources, the reason why Paramount held up its release was that the studio wanted to avoid box office competition from the Alexander Korda production Catherine the Great, starring Elisabeth Bergner, which was released in the United State on March 16, 1934. The Scarlet Empress reportedly cost $900,000 to produce. In his autobiography, director Josef von Sternberg states that "about ten feet" of the film, which showed "an enormous number of Russians swarming through the streets," was borrowed from Ernst Lubitsch's 1928 film The Patriot, and Lubitsch, not recognizing his own scene, chastised Sternberg for "willful waste and disregard of costs," believing he had shot the elaborate scene himself. Sternberg states that he wrote a violin composition for one of the scenes and conducted the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra in playing the film's score. Modern sources credit Travis Banton with costumes; Gordon Jennings with titles and effects; Milan Roder as an additional music arranger; Hans Dreier, Peter Ballbusch and Richard Kollorsz as set designers; and attribute the gargoyles and other figures that were displayed throughout the Muscovian court to Ballbusch, a Swiss sculptor. Maria Sieber, who as an adult acted under the name Maria Riva, was Marlene Dietrich's daughter. Actor John Lodge, grandson of Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, later became governor of Connecticut and ambassador to Spain. In addition to the 1934 Korda-United Artists film mentioned above, Catherine the Great was the subject of a 1968 British film, Great Catherine, directed by Gordon Flemyng and starring Peter O'Toole, Zero Mostel and Jeanne Moreau.