The Scarlet Empress

Miami Beach Cinematheque. Feb 25th, 2010. 8:30 p.m.

The Scarlet Empress is a 1934 historical drama film made by Paramount Pictures about the life of Catherine the Great. It was directed and produced by Josef von Sternberg, with Emanuel Cohen as executive producer, from a screenplay by Eleanor McGeary, based on the diary of Catherine arranged by Manuel Komroff.

The film stars Marlene Dietrich as Catherine, with John Davis Lodge, Sam Jaffe (in his film debut), Louise Dresser, and C. Aubrey Smith. Dietrich’s daughter Maria Riva plays Catherine as a child.
Sophia Frederica (Marlene Dietrich) is the daughter of a minor German prince and an ambitious mother. She is brought to Russia by Count Alexei (John Lodge) to marry the half-wit Grand Duke Peter (Sam Jaffe). As if her marriage is not torment enough, she must endure the excesses of her husband’s aunt, Empress Elizabeth (Louise Dresser). Elizabeth renames her Catherine and awards her the Order of St. Catherine.

Catherine finds solace with Count Alexei, but he begins wooing the much-older Elizabeth. Catherine finds lovers among the Russian army. When the old Empress dies, Catherine ascends to the Russian throne, knowing full well that her addled husband would kill her at the slightest provocation. Soon her power outstrips Peter’s, and the opportunistic Alexei now comes back into her life. The finale finds Catherine emerging triumphant over all her enemies and the new Empress is shown astride a horse, to whom she displays far more affection than any of her human compatriots.

Miami Beach Cinematheque
512 Española Way
Miami Beach, FL 33139

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