Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Anastasia (1956)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Anastasia (1956)

In director Anatole Litvak's and 20th Century Fox's dramatic biopic - an accounting of the events following the Russian Revolution in 1917 and murder of the Romanov Imperial family of Nicholas and Alexandra. A few years later in the 1920s, an amnesiac woman named "Anna Anderson" appeared as an inmate in a Berlin asylum, and claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov (a surviving daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia). However, Princess Irene and Grand Duchess Olga (her "aunts") both denied that she was Anastasia and denounced her as an imposter. Anderson eventually brought suit in the German courts in 1938 to prove her identity and claim her inheritance - it became a legal fight that dragged on for many decades. At the time of Anderson's death in 1984, it was determined through DNA testing that she was not Anastasia but a Polish laborer named Franziska Schanzkowska.

The fictionalized film gained notoriety since it starred famous actress Ingrid Bergman, who had scandalously fled from Hollywood in 1949 seven years earlier to desert her husband and daughter (Peter Lindstrom and Pia) in order to marry famed Italian director Roberto Rossellini. After being blacklisted and having a child out of wedlock, her comeback film (for a Hollywood studio) became the most expensive motion picture ever made abroad by the studio, at $3.5 million. All of the film's footage was shot in Europe. Although she didn't attend the awards ceremony, Bergman won the Best Actress Academy Award for playing the title role, and didn't make another Hollywood film until Cactus Flower (1969).

Other films on "Anastasia" included MGM's Rasputin and the Empress (1932), RKO's Secrets of the French Police (1932), Columbia Pictures' Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), and the animated Anastasia (1997).

  • the film's slowly-scrolling opening prologue read: "In 1917, the Romanov dynasty - rulers of Imperial Russia - were overthrown by revolution. Some of the nobility and their followers fled to safety but the Tsar, his wife and children were imprisoned and then shot, in 1918. Shortly after, there were strange whispers that one of the family had escaped and was still alive. In the weeks, months, years that followed, the whispers grew louder and louder. And then a woman appeared, a woman who was said to be the youngest daughter of the last Tsar, her Imperial Highness, the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Only she, if she is still alive, knows the truth behind the story you are about to see."
  • in Paris of 1928 during the Russian Easter, Gen. Sergei Pavlovich Bounine (Yul Brynner) - both an ex-officer in the Russian Imperial Army and a Russian exile who was leading a group of exiled White Russians in Paris - was introduced as the manager of a fancy Parisian nightclub
  • Gen. Bounine was alerted to a coughing, destitute and sick amnesiac woman out on the street; he greeted her as "Anna Koreff," knowing that she had just been released from the St. Cloud asylum ("madhouse") where reportedly, the woman had told one of the attendant nuns that she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia from ten years earlier; the General followed her through dark, rain-slick streets and was forced to save her from suicidally jumping to her death into the Seine River
  • meanwhile, in a cellar office were two of Bounine's scheming acolytes-partners: ex-St. Petersburg banker Boris Adreivich Chernov (Akim Tamiroff) and former theological student Piotr Ivanovich Petrovin (Sacha Pitoeff); while grumbling about Bounine being late to their financial meeting, Chernov claimed it was his idea to form a business corporation - and sell shares to stockholders ("to pay for the search for the beloved Grand Duchess"); their ultimate goal in their scam was to acquire a £ 10 million pound inheritance - Anastasia's father Tsar Nicholas II's bounty money that was currently frozen in the Bank of England
  • the group discussed how they had already spent money on promoting two other possible "Anastasia's" but both had failed; now that they had tracked down a third "Anastasia," they had only eight days to try and prove that she wasn't a fraud to impatient stockholders; Bounine admitted that he was confident that they could groom and present Anna as the real "Anastasia" since she had "a rather intriguing strangeness"; he added: "You're examining her as if she was the real Anastasia. There is no Anastasia. The real Anastasia was shot to death ten years ago by a firing squad. We're not looking for her, gentlemen. We're seeking only a reasonable facsimile...Rouge will turn the mouth up a bit. Some powder. A new coiffure. Dresses from the other period. Walk, manner, voice, taught along with faces, names, places"; Bounine felt she was the perfect person to impersonate and be molded into 'Anastasia': "The important thing is that she fits"
  • first, however, they also had to help her recover from her weak and haggard condition and mental illness; most importantly, they had to convince others that she had miraculously escaped and hadn't been executed with the rest of the family in 1918 by the Bolsheviks; she had scars on the palms of her hands and forehead - similar to wounds inflicted during the revolution: ("On each palm, a scar as from bullets...above the left temple. A narrow depression extending almost to the forehead")

Was She A Perfect Anastasia Facsimile?

'Anastasia' Standing Next to a Silhouette Drawing of the Grand Duchess

The Group Examining Anna as a Possible 'Anastasia'
  • Bounine summarized how she was the perfect choice: "Add up the facts. One, she has a certain resemblance, which we can heighten. Two, she's obviously smart enough to learn what we teach. Discrepancies in her memory can be attributed to the head wound. Three, she has no identity whatsoever, which means it will be exceedingly difficult for anyone to prove she's someone else"
  • after repeating her intended identity: "I am Her Imperial Highness - the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaievna" - Anna laughed hysterically
  • Anna was quizzed, tutored and prepped by Bounine to answer questions a certain way about her past life and the Romanov family history, to convince her that she was someone else, but they realized that they only had three days left until the deadline; she was scheduled to meet a committee of investors and stockholders; Anna was hopeful: "Maybe one memory will convince someone. Even if it's only me"; Chernov told him there was no more time: "The eight days are finished. The play is finished. We are finished"
  • one of the individuals introduced to 'Anastasia' was the Tsarina Alexandra's former lady-in-waiting, Madame Irina Lissemskaia (Natalie Schafer); when Anna remembered her nickname as "Nini," the Madame broke down and cried, and kissed "Her Imperial Highness's" hand; the next morning, Anna was taught "royal etiquette" by walking while balancing a book on her head, and trained to play the piano and strum a guitar; she also danced the polonaise with Bounine until tiring
  • later in the middle of the night, she awoke screaming about her lack of an identity: "I don't know who I am any more! I don't know what I remember or what I've been told I remember! What is real?! Am I?...Am I Anna?...Oh, I can't any more. I don't want this. I want to be me, whoever I am"; the General answered her questions about who she was: "I don't know"
  • during an elegant party-reception for over 50 exiled Russian aristocrats and emigres; after Anna was again tested and displayed, Bounine hoped that the attended would offer signed testimonal statements (to be presented to the Bank of England) vouching for Anna's authenticity; however, one of the attendees verbally doubted Anna's veracity and claimed she was a great illusionist: ("For the purpose of acting is not only to imitate reality, but to create illusion. I'm not being sarcastic when I say that you are an excellent actress, Madame. Extremely well-trained. My compliments"); at the end of the evening, only 18 out of the 51 present signed a statement
  • the General proposed they must "go to the top" - and introduce Anna to Anastasia's grandmother the Dowager Empress, Maria Feodorovna (Helen Hayes) who resided in Copenhagen, Denmark, to further confirm her identity and legitimacy: ("One word from her and they will all grovel"); Anna was angered by Bounine's continued manipulation of her as a "puppet" to make money: ("You enjoy playing with people, making fools of them. That's why you're doing it, as a joke. To prove you are great and alive and the others are small and dead. Yes, and for money")
  • with only a 14 day visa, Anna reluctantly agreed to join the General, traveling by train to Denmark; after being predictably refused a meeting with the highly-skeptical Empress, the General was allowed a meeting in the Tivoli Gardens with Baroness Elena von Livenbaum (Martita Hunt), her lady-in-waiting; the Baroness insisted that the Empress would never meet Anna: "She's playing solitaire with her memories...The Empress will never receive you or that woman. You know her - an unmeltable icicle"
  • however, the Baroness, who had always been enamoured by Bounine, hinted that the Empress would be going out to attend the Royal Theater on Thursday for a Tchaikovsky ballet
  • to facilitate a possible meeting with the Prince at the Royal Theater, Bounine escorted Anna to a private box to view the ballet; there during the intermission in the lobby, Anna was introduced as the "Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaievna" to Prince Paul von Haraldberg (Ivan Desny), the Empress' nephew and Anastasia's betrothed when she was 16 years old

Baroness Elena von Livenbaum (Martita Hunt)

Prince Paul von Haraldberg (Ivan Desny)

The Dowager Empress, Maria Feodorovna (Helen Hayes)
  • while Anna was getting reacquainted with Prince Paul in the lobby, Bounine was able to speak privately to the Empress in her box, where she stated that she had grown tired of having imposters presented to her: "I am as weary of these spectral grandchildren as I am of false hope. I have lost everything I have loved - my husband, my family, my position, my country. I have nothing but memories. I want to be left alone with them"; the Empress bluntly told the General: "You know perfectly well this woman is not my granddaughter"; he replied: "Quite honestly, I don't know who she is. But there is so much that cannot be explained unless she is the woman she believes she is"
  • the Empress refused to see Anna: "There are not enough years remaining for me to see every madwoman with a royal obsession. If she must see me, show her my photographs again...Go back to Paris. You are wasting your time"; however, later, the Empress intently studied Anna through her opera glasses once the ballet recommenced
  • Anna had successfully established a contact with the Prince who would be calling on her the next evening; it was a means to get to the Empress, and Anna was upset again: "So now the route is through Paul, via me. You don't hesitate to use anybody for anything, do you?"
The Prince and Anna Having Champagne and Dinner at the Tivoli Club
  • the womanizing Prince and Anna had dinner and champagne at the Tivoli Gardens Club under fireworks, where he insisted on kissing her; after Anna became visibly drunk, the jealous Bounine whisked her away to have her retire early to their shared hotel room; the two men spoke briefly at the bar, where Bounine suggested to the Prince that his romantic interest in Anna might be due to an inheritance of £ 10 million pounds; both men were interested in Anna for similar reasons - "for beauty and money"; the pushy Bounine pressured the Prince to have his Aunt (the Dowager Empress) receive Anna before her 14-day visa expired
  • as expected, after speaking to his Aunt, the stubborn-minded Empress thought that Anna was an imposter being promoted by the General: "How easily he swallows the tricks she performs. And what do they prove? That she can memorize the teachings of Bounine. What if there is a resemblance? What if she does think she is Anastasia? Wanting a dream does not make it true. She's a fraud. She must be"
  • however, the Empress unexpectedly appeared to speak to Anna in her hotel room, but she remained highly skeptical: "I have received too many appeals from resurrected Romanovs"; the Empress also admitted being lonely, but still couldn't accept Anna as her true grand-daughter: "We are most of us lonely, and it is mostly of our own making, but no masquerade of any kind can fill the emptiness"; she accused Anna of only being interested in money (the inheritance) and the dealings of her business associates; Anna denied wanting any financial gain
  • during their emotional conversation, Anna's memory of a past quarrel between her mother and grandmother over an emerald necklace stirred up the Empress' emotions, and she blurted out: "Impostor!...If you have any decency, end this charade at once. I will pay you, I will give you more than whatever Bounine promised you"; Anna pleaded that she wasn't melodramatically faking her identity as the Empress' lost grand-daughter; the Empress' feelings were stirred but she was still reticent to believe: "You are too clever for me. I am an old woman"; as they parted, Anna told the Empress that she didn't want her to have regrets, and it would be better if she was rejected: "You have softened towards me but later you'll regret it. You'll say it was all acting. She was some cheap little actress they hired for money"
  • as their meeting was concluding, Anna explained away her nagging cough due to being frightened: "I cough only because I'm a little frightened"; the Empress remembered how young Anastasia had also coughed when frightened; she embraced Anna and accepted her as the true Grand Duchess: ("You are safe, Anastasia. You are with me. You are home...I thought you were gone, but you have come back, Anastasia"), but then requested that she should never tell her if she wasn't Anastasia: ("But, oh please, if it should not be you, don't ever tell me")
  • after returning to Paris a few weeks later, there were marriage-engagement rumors (between Prince Paul and Anna); the Dowager Empress and His Highness Prince Paul had arrived by train and were residing in a luxury hotel; they were planning to attend a formal presentation ceremony to announce the engagement in the hotel's lobby sometime after 10 pm
  • beforehand the same evening at 7:30 pm in the hotel's lobby, Anna was scheduled to hold an informal press conference; she descended stairs in a stunning white dress with a red sash to a small group of reporters; during the revelatory, semi-disastrous questioning by reporter Mikhail Vlados (Karel Stepanek), he claimed he was also a convalescing patient in a Bucharest hospital in 1920, and had taken her home after her discharge when she was named Anna Koreff; she had suffered head wounds in a train explosion outside Bucharest and not during the revolution; the press conference interview was abruptly halted
  • afterwards, Anna asked Bounine: "Was it a disaster?"; Anna sensed that Bounine was now jealous of her new-found identity as the Grand Duchess: "You pushed me at Paul, and now you are against him"; Bounine told her that he didn't care about the money: ("I don't give a hang about the money"), but had very strong reservations about her uncaring "subjects": ("Your loving subjects? Those embalmed skeletons? They don't care about you. They don't care who is Anastasia so long as they get some money and a better position in a world that is dead and buried..."); Anna agreed with him that all she had ever wanted was to find out who she was; Bounine also had harsh and sarcastic words about the fortune-hunting Prince Paul: "Be a Grand Duchess. Make it really royal, and marry a man who wouldn't come within ten feet of the altar if you were not an heiress"
  • an expected announcement was scheduled for later that evening by the Empress, to introduce her nephew Prince Paul's engagement to Anna - her true heir and grand-daughter; in the interim, a grand-ball dance was held in the hotel's lobby where Anna waltzed with Prince Paul; as they danced, Anna suggested that he might not marry her if she was only 'Anna Koreff': "Suppose I have no title, no inheritance, nothing...But what if I can't get the money? Or if I make no claim to it?" - he refused to take her remark seriously
  • behind the scenes, Bounine met with the Empress and told her that he planned to depart before the pronouncement of the engagement: "I want no further part in it"; she thanked him for bringing everyone together: "You performed an enormous task, restoring my granddaughter to her rightful position. And you even effected her reunion with her childhood sweetheart"; but Bounine answered honestly and bluntly that he was personally "not pleased" with the outcome
  • the Empress called Anna aside, while she ordered that Bounine was to wait in the nearby green-room; she directly asked Anna if she truly loved the Prince ("Are you sure about Paul?...Do you want this with Paul?"); Anna's equivocating and indecisive answer convinced the Empress that Bounine was the only one who was truly in love with Anna, not the Prince: ("You don't really want to marry Paul...because you really want someone else"); Anna gave the Empress her heartfelt thanks: "You have given me what no one else in the world could. Myself. Thank you"
The Empress To Anna:
"Are you sure about Paul?...You don't really want to marry Paul..."
  • the Empress facilitated their escape and the two vanished from the green-room before Anna was to be presented to everyone; Paul seemed to realize that Anna was not the true Anastasia: ("She was not Anastasia after all"); as the Prince escorted the Empress to appear before the many awaiting ballroom guests, he asked her: "What will you say?"; the Empress replied to him: "Say? Oh, I will say, 'The play is over. Go home.'"

Prince Paul to the Empress: "She was not Anastasia after all"

The Empress Escorted by the Prince: "I will say, 'The play is over. Go home.'"

Gen. Sergei Pavlovich Bounine (Yul Brynner)

Boris Adreivich Chernov (Akim Tamiroff)

Piotr Ivanovich Petrovin (Sacha Pitoeff)

"Anna Koreff" (Ingrid Bergman)

Picture of the Romanov Tsar's Family - Pointing to Anastasia

Anna - Laughing Hysterically

'Anastasia' - Being Coached, Tutored and Prepped by Bounine

Anna With Madame Irina, the Tsarina's Lady-in-Waiting (Nicknamed Nini)

Teaching Anna How to Walk With a Book on Her Head

Anna Taught to Dance the Polonaise with Bounine

Anna Begging: "I want to be me...!"

Anna Appearing at an Elegant Party to Obtain Signed Testimonial Statements

Anna Angry at the General For Making a Fool of Her, All For Money

Anna at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen

The Dowager Empress Spying on Anna Through Opera Glasses

The Dowager Empress in Her Castle - Suspicious of the Prince's Request to Meet with Anna

The Empress' Meeting with Anna in Her Hotel Room

Anna Pleaded to the Empress That She Was Authentic and Not an Imposter

A Tearful Embrace of Recognition for Anna

Anna's Appearance in the Hotel for a Press Conference

Anna with Bounine After the Press Conference

Anna Waltzing with Prince Paul

Bounine to the Empress: He Was "Not Pleased" with Anna's Planned Engagement


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