Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)
Director: Franklin Schaffner.
Starring: Michael Jayston (Tsar Nicholas), Janet Suzman (Tsarina Alexandra), Roderic Noble (Alexis), Ania Marson (Olga), Lynne Frederick (Tatiana), Candace Glendenning (Marie), Fiona Fullerton (Anastasia), Tom Baker (Rasputin), Harry Andrews (Gen. Duke Nicholas -- aka Nikolasha), Irene Worth (Queen Mother Marie Fedorovna), Jack Hawkins (Count Fredericks), Timothy West (Dr. Botkin), Katherine Schofield (Tegleva), Laurence Olivier (Count Witte), Michael Redgrave (Sazonov), Alexander Knox (American ambassador), Curd Jürgens (German counsel), John McEnery (Kerensky), Michael Bryant (Lenin), Vivian Pickles (Mme. Krupskaya), Brian Cox (Trotsky), James Hazeldine (Stalin).
British film about the fate of Russia's last Tsar and his family.
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Tsarina Alexandra has recently given birth to a baby boy, after having four girls. Tsar Nicholas is extremely happy about having a son. They name him Alexis. Tegleva is the name of the baby's nanny. Nicholas has put off reading the latest dispatches from Port Arthur (where the Japanese launched a surprise attack). The four girls play out in the snow with their new French tutor, Gilliard. Nicholas has to excuse himself for he must talk with his prime minister, Witte. Alexandra tells her husband not to be so gentle with the prime minister, for all in the government really work for the Tsar. Nicholas notices a bad bruise on Alexis, but Alexandra says it's nothing important.
The prime minister tries to talk Nicholas out of continuing the war against Japan. Port Arthur has been under siege for six months and the Russians have suffered 30,000 dead. He says if Port Arthur falls to Japan, a third-rate power, Russia will be disgraced and there will be an insurrection in the country. Nicholas asks his uncle Gen.Duke Nicholas, if the war is un-winnable? Uncle responds: "Get out now, Nicky, while there's still time." Nicky says Russia will fight on to victory. He believes, after all, that God Himself made him the tsar. Therefore, whatever happens is God's will. Witte urges the Tsar to be more flexible, to give the people a little of what they want. Nicky says that whatever he has been given to him from his father, he will give to his son Alexis.
In England at a meeting of leftists, Stalin, Lenin and Mrs. Lenin sit near the back. Comparing notes, both men realize that they just recently returned from Siberia. They were both sentenced to three years, but Stalin escaped after a month of captivity. As Trotsky walks in, Lenin grabs him. He wants to know if Trotsky will vote for his motion, but Trotsky says he will vote against it. Lenin wants the motion to split the party. Now he turns to Martov to ask the same question. Martov also is voting against the motion. Lenin is disappointed. He tells a news reporter that he is about to see the birth of the Bolshevik party.
Nicky and Alexandra are going out to attend Nicky's mother's birthday. Mother and daughter-in-law do not get along and Alexandra really does not want to go. Alexandra tells Nicky that she does not like parties because no one there likes her and make her feel still like a foreigner from Germany. At the party, Nicky's mom tells him that Russia cannot afford to fight Japan because Russia is an 18th century nation in a 20th century world.
Alexandra sits waiting for her husband in another room. She is quite bored. Uncle Nicholas tells her that just now this "fantastic holy fellow" has arrived at the party. The man supposedly can cure people by the laying on of hands. Straight from the fields, he is an authentic starets (a charismatic spiritual leader that is an elder of a Russian Orthodox monastery who functions as venerated adviser and teacher). His name is Gregory Rasputin. The Tsar comes into the room with Alexandra and Uncle Nicholas.
Rasputin comes in and kneels before the Tsar. He then tells the Tsarina that she is afraid of people. Rasputin then lightens the mood by telling a story of a woman who he knew from Siberia, where is is from. The tsar and his uncle go back to the party, but Rasputin remains with Alexandra and they talk. Alexandra enjoys talking about spiritual manners with the starets. When the Tsar comes to her to tell her they can leave, Alexandra says: "Already? But we haven't danced yet." They go into the main ball room and dance.
When the two royals get back home, they find out from the doctors that Alexis suffers from hemophilia (where the blood doesn't clot very well) that is transmitted genetically from mother to son. This is shocking enough, but the doctor tells him there are no medicines, no cures, for hemophilia. Cuts themselves are no as worrying as internal bleeding.
University student lead Kerensky speaks out to the other students against the Tsar's decision to send more troops to die after the fall of Port Arthur. The police arrive and Kerensky convinces them to fight the law enforcers. Kerensky is knocked to the floor with a bloody nose.
The working conditions at a factory are terrible and the wages are very low. Even though they work, these people still live miserable lives of poverty. Petya is somewhat of an activist and he speaks to the local priest about the working conditions. The priest says that they will march to see the Tsar. Thousands will march to the Winter Palace to see the Tsar. The priest will read a plea for assistance for the working poor.
In Petersburg, a train moves out with troops, probably headed east to the Pacific coast. The Tsar and Tsarina are there to bless the troops as they prepare to leave for the east. Suddenly, they receive the message that they must return to Tsarkoe Selo because the Tsarevitch is bleeding. Alexandra wants to go home immediately, but Nicky tells her they must wait for the next train which will arrive in a half hour. He also tells Alexandra to think of anything else besides the baby and they will get through this half hour peacefully.
The royal pair arrive back home. They coolly march past the people so as not to alarm them. But as soon as they are past the people, the couple runs up the stairs to see their son. Dr. Botkin opens the bedroom door for them. Alexandra is really upset and wants to fight this affliction. She doesn't find much help from her husband, because, as she says, he is too submissive and won't fight the affliction with her.
Alexandra waits for the arrival of Rasputin. Rasputin comes into the room. He tries to comfort Alexandra, but she is to jumpy and nervous that she can't calm down. She tells the mad monk that her child will die if she does not pray to God with him right now and beg for her son's life. Alexandra says he still must go, so Rasputin tells her that he knew Alexandra was going to call for him; that the child was sick; and he knows what's wrong with the boy. He adds that he can cure the sick. He has spoken to God and saves souls. He even says he is the voice of God.
Thousands of workers start marching toward the Winter Palace.
The child recovers making Alexandra and Nicky very happy.
The workers push on. Kerensky watches them from the sidelines. When the people near the Winter Palace they are met by a detachment of soldiers. The commander tells the marchers to go back, go back. The protestors come forward. The commander orders his men to fire once in the air and then again. The people continue marching forward. The commander falls from his horse and the protestors trample him into the snow. Without their commander, one or two soldiers start getting afraid and fire their rifles into the crowd. People go down. Now all the rest of the soldiers join in the firing. Lots of people fall dead, dying or wounded. The crowd turns around and runs in panic away from the Winter Palace. In the firing Petya loses his wife. Kerensky looks at the remnants of the confrontation and moans: "Slaughtered like cattle!" The protest priest calls the Tsar a bloody murderer.
The Tsar is shocked by the bloodshed. He demands to know what happened from Witte. Witte says hundreds were killed. The prime minister is maddened by the Tsar's accusatory tone and says to him: "So, make war on your own people. How long do you think they'll stand and let you shoot them?"
Trotsky is running off the party's newspaper. He is furious over the hundreds who were killed and adds that Russia has lost the war to Japan and has to settle the peace treaty of Japanese terms. Lenin reiterates that he wants power. He adds: "Terror and power."
At Livadia on the Crimean, the Tsar's girls play a ball game with their tutor Gilliard. The ball gets away from them and Alexis runs to retrieve it. A sister tells him he must be careful. Alexis answers her with a poem: "Alexei, Alexei, mustn't run and mustn't play! Mustn't jump and mustn't climb. Must be careful all the time." A sailor named Nagorny watches after Alexis.
Alexandra tells Nicky that she sent Rasputin around to speak with the prime minister. She says Rasputin can tell who supports the Tsar and Tsarina and who doesn't. Nicky gets mad at her for this.
Stolypin arrives. Nicky takes him down to the beach on the Crimea with the whole family. Stolypin has planned the three hundred years of the Romanovs celebration and he tells Nicky about it. He show Nicky a picture of a sitting Rasputin with the Tsarina sitting in his lap. The next pictures show a half-naked picture of the Tsarina sitting in his lap. Nicky tells Stolypin to close the Duma. Stolypin doesn't believe that is possible. He says it's far better to send that Rasputin away. They are interrupted by the screams of the Tsarina because Alexis is climbing up the side of a rock cliff. Nagorny chases after him and grabs Alexis as he falls backwards.
Nicky complains to Alexandra that he doesn't see her much anymore. She is always with Alexis.
Rasputin comes to say good-bye to the Tsar. He says he doesn't like St. Petersburg anyway, because it makes him drink and drinking then brings on the women. After he is gone, Alexandra tells Nicky to bring him back. For once, says the Tsar, he is going to stand up to this wife. He refuses to call Rasputin back.
Lenin reads the latest messages. Stalin has been sent to Siberia again. The Okrana has infiltrated the Bolshevik cells in Moscow. Lenin thinks that one of the men with him is a double agent for the Okrana.
The Tsar makes his anniversary tour for the celebration of 300 years of the Romanovs. He loves to see the people stand and wave at him as his train passes by.
At the opera, an assassin shoots and seriously wounds Stolypin. This both frightens and angers the Tsar. He order a crack down of dissidents in Russia. Soon men are being hung. They raid the factory where Petya works and discover that he has been printing those half-naked drawings of the Tsarina. Kerensky says in the Duma that the Tsar will not shut downs the Duma.
The Tsar and his family are at the hunting lodge in Poland. Alexei hurts himself while diving under the railing of a bridge. He doesn't say anything to his mother about it until later. Mother has the carriage turn around and go back to Spala. Doctor Botkin says the injury is serious. Alexei is in serious pain that comes and goes in waves.
Witte comes to tell the Tsar of the many problems facing the government. 200 strikers were shot at Lena. Soon there will be a million workers on strike. He says the Duma must be reconvened. The Tsar becomes angry and tells Witte to give them back their Duma and he hopes they rot in it. Dr. Botkin ends the session when he comes to tell the Tsar that he and the other doctors have decided to not operate on the boy, but wait for further "developments". Alexandra tells her husband she wants Rasputin back. He gives in to her and will send the letter she has written to Rasputin.
Rasputin writes back to the Tsarina saying he is on his way to her side. She is delighted at the news. Rasputin writes over the steppes. He is drinking while riding and when he sees three pretty women collecting the hay, he has a little affair with them in the back of the giant hay wagon.
Rasputin arrives at the side of the Tsarina.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated and sets off a chain of consequences that results in World War I. Alexei has a nightmare about it.
A Russian officer named Volkov says to his colleagues: "They won't last a week. We'll bury the German army and that pansy of a Kaiser and be home for Christmas."
Witte informs the Tsar that they cannot run a modern war. All they have is men, but without supplies and ammunition the men will be slaughtered. The Tsar still orders the general mobilization of troops. The military officers seem very pleased at the news. Witte still tries to urge the Tsar not to mobilize. Then a messages arrives. At ten minutes pas seven in the evening, Germany declared war on Russia. Witte is very downcast at the news, but Kerensky says that the members of the Duma stand united in defense of Holy Russia.
World War I starts and off go the troops.
Russian troops move out to fight many carrying not rifles, but scythes and axes.
Alexandra tells Nicky that Nikolasha is a bad man because Rasputin has said so. Nicky must replace him at the front. Nicky tells her that all his ministers advised against this move. They say that the government will fall. Alexandra doesn't care about that. She insists that Nicky stand up to them and go to the front anyways. And again Nicky tells his wife that virtually all his life he has done what she wanted. He also bemoans the fact that his soldiers only get three bullets a day to shoot (if they are lucky enough to have a rifle).
The Tsar says tells his ministers he is going to Stavka to take command, regardless of what they say. Starving soldiers kill an officer who tells them to get up because they are moving out. Nikolasha greets the Tsar on his arrival. Nikolasha tells the Tsar that this is a great relief for him. He has a million corpses for which he is responsible.
The Foreign Minister comes in. He says to Rasputin that he put three men in his department who can neither read or write. Rasputin says all the ministers are against the Tsar. The Foreign Minister says Rasputin is ruining Russia. Grand Duke Dmitry and Prince Yussoupov come in. The Prince invites Rasputin to a special little party at his place.
The Tsar's mother arrives at Stavka by train. She criticizes his governance and tells him his place is in Petersburg. Mother also tells her son to hang Rasputin or at least send him to Siberia. Nicky says he can't.
At the Prince's place, Rasputin watches as the Prince and the Duke get high on opium smoking and giggle and laugh. He tells the fellows that he won't live to see the new year. The butler serves Rasputin some poisoned food. The Duke says that Rasputin needs a woman to cheer him up. So he goes and gets a handsome young man with a pretty face. The young man dresses up as a woman and then dances for Rasputin. Rasputin is filled with lust and goes after the fellow. They spin around and Rasputin falls on a sofa. He tells the butler: "I've been poisoned." He starts disparaging the conspirators against him. The Prince shoots Rasputin in the back using a pistol. Rasputin, however, is still not dead. He has walked out of the room and into the carriage house. The Prince follows him and shoots Rasputin three more times. Rasputin crawls his way to the door. The Duke beats Rasputin with iron chains.
Alexandra is very upset about the death of Rasputin and she cries over her loss. She wants the Prince and the Duke arrested, but only the Tsar can order the arrest of the members of his own family. The Duma is very happy over the death of Rasputin. Kerensky scolds the representatives. He says chaos is coming to Russia and Russia is being ruled by a German Tsarina. There are bread riots and people raid the storage areas for goods.
The Tsar is informed that there is a general strike in Petersburg and chaos reigns in the city. And the army refuses to fire on the street demonstrators. The Tsar gives orders to stop the strike and protests and close the Duma. He is going to Petersburg immediately.
The children are all sick with the measles. The Tsarina is not able to get through to her husband. She says that he must come back. Nicky's way is blocked by soldiers with artillery on the railway line, so he is going to have to take a long way around in order to get himself closer to Tsarkoe Selo where his family stays. The Tsar is informed that the Duma has appointed a provisional government and all Nicky's ministers have been arrested. The Duma also insists that the Tsar abdicate. Moreover, the army and navy will not do the Tsar's bidding.
Alexandra is very scared and especially so, when the electricity goes off while she is using the elevator. A train comes out and stops in front of the Tsar's train. Two men bring the paper of abdication and the Tsar signs it. The Tsar thinks they will send him to Livadia. He adds that he would like to be a country gentleman. The date is March 15, 1917.
The Tsar arrive in Tsarkoe Selo by car. He goes past a group of people waiting on the first floor and goes to where his family are living. Alexandra is very happy to see him, but Nicky drops to his knees and cries that he is sorry and so ashamed. "I didn't mean to do it" he cries to his wife. Alexandra is shocked at how distraught he is.
The German counsel talks with Lenin. Lenin says if Germany will help him get to Sweden and from there he can get to Russia, he will start the Bolshevik revolution and then they will take Russia out of World War II. Basically, Lenin is offering peace between Russia and Germany. The Germans will back Lenin.
Kerensky is head of the provisional government. He speaks with Nicholas. He says Russia will fight on in the war. And the former royal family will be sent to Siberia to a village near Tobolsk. There they will stay for a week and then be sent abroad. Kerensky describes what a mess Russia is at this moment and he has no real power to change the situation.
Lenin arrives to a hero's welcome. Stalin is there to greet him along with thousands of others. Lenin calls for revolution, land and peace with all power to the soviets. The Allied countries are worried that Russia is going to pull out of WWI. Their representatives speak with Kerensky about this matter. They will offer Russia $300 million dollars if they will continue to fight.
The former royal family finish packing and are ready to go to Siberia. Alexei says he hates this place and is glad to leave it. Kerensky introduces Col. Kobylinsky to the former Tsar and says he will be the commander for the trip. Kerensky tells "Mrs. Romanov" that she is lucky to be leaving here with her head.
The Bolsheviks wait for the signal to start the revolution. The phone call comes and Trotsky tells each of the section commanders which sectors of the city they will take over. Kerensky learns of the revolution. He tells his ministers that they can still smash the revolution. The ministers say the situation is hopeless.
Lenin say to a large group: "The government has fallen." There is a big cheer from the crowd.
The family is now in Siberia. Outside the temperature is 21 degrees below 0. The soldiers under Kobylinsky are building a palisade around the cabin of the former royal family. Kobylinsky says that the loyalty of the soldiers to him is very much in question. There are rumors of civil war. Kobylinsky says he can't answer for the former Tsar's safety and adds: "I can't do my job."
The girls and the soldiers flirt with each other. Two guards shoe the young ladies a chalk drawing of a naked woman. Alexei, wanting to protect his sisters, rushes over, grabs some snow and starts erasing the drawing. One of the guards throws Alexei to the ground and his sisters scream. Kobylinsky slaps the guard to the ground. The other guard holds his rifle on Kobylinsky. Kobylinsky tells the guard to put the rifle down or he will shoot him with his pistol. Other soldiers point there rifles at Kobylinsky in a stand-off. Nicholas soothes the situation by telling his girls and Alexei to go into the cabin because Gilliard is waiting for them to give them a history lesson. The soldiers lower their rifles and walk away as the young people go to the cabin.
In the evening some of the soldiers dance around the fire. The girls ask permission to go out to dance. The soldiers and the girls dance together. As they dance a Bolshevik band comes into the palisaded area. The Central Committee in Moscow has given the commissar of the group the order to take over from Kobylinsky. The prisoners will be transported out of the area as the Whites move toward the area. The commissar tells Nicholas that the Ural Soviet has order his arrest. He will go to a prison just for him in Ekaterinburg. It is the commissar's duty to make sure he brings Nicholas to the Ural Soviet.
Alexei asks his father to confirm that there is not hope for them now. Nicholas will not do so. Nicholas has his photo taken by the commissar and his men. Other family members are also photographed. While the family has a good laugh over the photographs of themselves, Alexei tries to kill himself by riding his sleigh down the stairs until he crashes into the closed door below. Dr. Botkin tells the family that Alexei will be all right. Alexei bitterly criticizes his father for getting the family into their present terrible situation. He is also mad that his father abdicated both for himself and for his son. Nicholas says: "It all went wrong. I don't know why or how."
The family goes with the commissar and his men. The family is put on a train. They are taking the family to Moscow. The commissar says that the former Tsar is responsible for the deaths of some 7 million people. All of a sudden the trains stop abruptly and everyone goes flying around in the train cars. Representatives of the Ural Soviet has orders to take the Romanov family. It looks like there is going to be a confrontation between the two groups, but the commissar realizes that his situation is hopeless, so he turns over his prisoners.
The family arrives at its destination. Gilliard and Tegleva are separated from the family to be sent to Switzerland because the two are Swiss neutrals. The family is placed in a small complex surrounded by walls.
The decision has been made to execute the family. The jailors are only waiting for the official decree.
The family go outside to enjoy the sun. They hear the cries of Alexei from inside the prison. One of the men is trying to steal some things from the young lad. Nagorny intervenes by socking the thief in the mouth, causing the fellow to bleed. For this Nagorny is shot by the jailors, despite Nicholas's attempt to save the faithful servant.
The final order comes in for the execution. The family is allowed to read the letters they have received.
The family is taken down to a small room. There are two chairs in the empty room. Nicholas holds Alexei in his lap while sitting on one chair, while Alexandra sits in the chair next to them. The four girls and Dr. Botkin are standing behind the parents. Seven men suddenly come into the room with their hands behind their backs. Suddenly they bring their hands forward and they shoot and kill the Romanov family and Dr. Botkin.
The story follows the lives of Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia beginning with the birth of their hemophiliac son, Alexis. The Tsarina became desperate and brings the Mad Monk Rasputin in to help heal her son. This merely complicates the Tsar's task of fending off revolutionary fever in Russia. The mini-series "The Fall of Eagles" makes the Tsar and his wife very unsympathetic people. But in this movie, concentrating on the problems facing the couple, one does have a certain empathy for them.
Historical forces were so much stronger than anything the monarchists could prevent. Shortly before the start of World War I, who could have known that the world war would prove to be so devastating that it eliminated four monarchies/empires: the Kaiser of Germany, the Tsar of Russia, the Emperor of Austria, and the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire? And given the isolated position of the monarchs, how could they foresee what would happen? If they had any real understanding of the events that were overwhelming them, I'm sure they would have been more compromising, but since they could not see into the future, they stubbornly defended their every monarchial privilege and duty.
It was sad to watch the ending of the film. Kaiser Wilhelm was given sanctuary in the Netherlands, but it was claimed by the new Russian governors that no country would receive the Tsar. I really doubt that. Russia broke out into a civil war and the Bolsheviks wanted to eliminate the Tsar and his family to prevent any rallying point for the anti-Bolshevik forces.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
1868, May 18 -- Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov born to Tsar Alexander III and Empress Marie Fedorovna of Russia.
1894 -- upon the death of his father, Nicholas II becomes Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias. Later in the same month, he marries the unpopular German Princess Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstadt, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of Britain, a genuine love match rather than a political one. 1895 January -- Nicholas gives a speech in which he, an opponent of the westernization of Russia, denounces the supporters of those who favor democratic reforms.
1899 -- Nicholas was devastated by the early death from tuberculosis of his younger brother Georgy.
1904 -- the start of the Russo-Japanese War when the Japanese Navy launches a surprise attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur (in today's China). The Tsar had previously made plans to seize Constantinople and expand into Manchuria and Korea.
1905 Jan -- Tsarist troops open fire on a peaceful demonstration of workers in St Petersburg, an event that came to be known as Bloody Sunday.
1905 (June) -- revolt of sailors on the battleship Potemkin. the mutiny spread to other units in the army and navy.
1905 (September) -- Russian loses the Russo-Japanese War and has to recognize Korea as part of the Japanese sphere of influence and to evacuate Manchuria.
1905 October -- a General Strike forces the Tsar to promise a constitution for the nation.
The son of Nicholas and Alexandra suffered from hemophilia. This allowed them to come under the influence of the alcoholic peasant priest, Rasputin.
1905 -- the Tsarina asked her best friend Anna Vyrubova to to secure
the help of the Rasputin. Rasputin alienated the court and they sought to
get rid of the man. Later conspirators poisoned, shot, stabbed
and threw Rasputin's body into the river.
1906 -- the parliament, the Duma, is dissolved because of its anti-government majority.
1907 -- Although Germany was ruled by the Tsar's cousin, Kaiser Wilhem II, Nicholas joined Britain and France in forming the Triple Entente.
1911 -- a new wave of worker unrest begins.
1914 -- outbreak of World War I. Russia faces off against Germany.
Russia attacks East Prussia with Königsberg as the goal.
1914 (August 17-September 2) – Germany defeated Russia in a series of battles collectively known as the Second Battle of Tannenberg. Under generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff, the Germans drove the Russians back from East Prussia by victories at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes.
The German 8th Army's Chief of Operations, Max Hoffmann, made a plan to defeat the Russians: he left a screening force to delay the Russian 1st Army (under General Paul von Rennenkampf) approaching from the east, and set a trap for the Russian 2nd Army (under General Alexander Samsonov) moving up from the south. German General Hermann von Francois let the Russian 2nd Army to advance and then cut them off from their supply route. This led to the almost complete destruction of the 2nd Army near Frogenau with 130,000 soldiers killed and 100,000 captured.
1914 (August 29) -- rather than report the loss of his army to the Czar, Samsonov committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
1916 (December 16) -- Rasputin killed in Youssoupov's Petrograd palace.
1917 Feb -- government troops fire on demonstrators in Petrograd (formally St Petersburg); the troops mutiny the next day; Moscow joins the revolt; Tsar Nicholas abdicates. A provisional government set up under Lvov. Nicholas and his family arrested. They were later moved to the remote Siberian city of Ekaterinburg where the Bolsheviks held the family captive.
1917 July -- a new provisional government in a series of such governments is set up under Kerensky.
1917 Oct -- the Bolsheviks overthrow the Provisional government.
1918 Feb 18 -- the Germans invade Russia which is virtually defenseless as
almost the entire army has deserted.
1918 March -- the Bolsheviks accept the dictated peace of Brest-Litovsk.
1918 July -- Nicholas and his family executed.
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