Anastasia (1956): Litvak’s Historical Romantic Melodrama, Starring Ingrid Bergman in her Oscar-Winning Comeback Performance, and Yul Brynner

After being blacklisted (due to her desertion of husband Petter Lindstrom and their daughter Pia and subsequent affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini), Ingrid Bergman received her second Best Actress Oscar for her big Hollywood comeback  performance.

Bergman plays the title role, an amnesiac refugee chosen by a scheming conman (Yul Brynner) as the woman to be passed off as the last surviving daughter of Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra of Russia.

Up to a point, Anatole Litvak’s picture blends skillfully mystery, romance, and melodrama–grand Hollywood style.

In Arthur Laurents’ script, based on a popular play by Marcelle Maurette and Guy Bolton, Russian exiles in Paris conspire to present someone as Anastasia, the daughter of Czar Nicholas in order to collect the 10 million pounds held in her name by the Bank of England.

General Bounine (Brynner, credibly looking and acting) finds a destitute girl on the verge of suicide, takes her under his care and grooms her in all of Russian royal ways. In due process, in this Pygmalion-like saga, the more Bounine learns of her, the more he begins to believe that she is the real Anastasia.

Mystery persists up until the end, when she is presented to the Empress (poorly cast Helen Hayes), whose task is to identify her as “true” heiress in a series of tests and rituals.

However, by that time, Bounine is in love, and money is no longer important.

The international cast also includes Akim Tamiroff as Chernov, Martita Hunt as Baroness von Livenbaum, Sacha Pitoeff as Petrovin, Natalie Schafer as Lissenskaia, and Gregoire Gromoff as Stepan.

Running time: 105 minutes

Oscar Nominations: 2

Actress: Ingrid Bergman

Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture: Alfred Newman

Oscar Awards: 1

Actress

Oscar Context

This was Bergman’s second Best Actress Oscar, after winning one in 1944 for Cukor’s psychological thriller, Gaslight.  By that time, audiences were ready and willing to “forgive” Bergman; besides, her marriage to Rossellini had already been annulled.

In 1956, which was Yul Brynner’s best year in Hollywood, the actor won the Best Actor Oscar for the musical movie, The Kind and I.

Alfred Newman lost the Scoring Oscar to Victor Young, who composed the Oscar-winning adventure, Around the World in 80 Days.

Cast:

Anastasia (Ingrid Bergman)

Bounine (Yul Brynner)

Empress (Helen Hayes)

Chernov (Akim Tamirov)

Baroness von Livenbaum (Martita Hunt)

Russian Chamberlain (Felix Aylmer)

Petrovin (Sacha Pitoeff)

Prince Paul (Ivan Desny)

Lissesnkaia (Natalie Schafer).

Stepan (Gregoire Gromoff)

L-R: Sacha Pitoeff, Ingrid Bergman, Akim Tamiroff, Yul Brynner

Credits:

Directed by Anatole Litvak
Screenplay by Arthur Laurents, based on Anastasia, French play by Marcelle Maurette
Produced by Buddy Adler
Cinematography Jack Hildyard
Edited by Bert Bates
Music by Alfred Newman
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date: December 13, 1956
Running time 105 minutes
Budget $3.52 million
Box office $4.3 million (US and Canada rentals)

Written in 2007.