Nicholas and Alexandra
|Nicholas and Alexandra|
original movie poster
|Directed by||Franklin J. Schaffner|
|Produced by||Sam Spiegel|
|Written by||James Goldman
Robert K. Massie (book)
|Music by||Richard Rodney Bennett|
|Editing by||Ernest Walter|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release date(s)||30 December 1971|
|Running time||189 minutes|
It won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (John Box, Ernest Archer, Jack Maxsted, Gil Parrondo, Vernon Dixon) and Best Costume Design, and was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Janet Suzman), Best Cinematography, Best Music, Original Dramatic Score and Best Picture.
The story begins in 1904 with the birth of the Tsarevich Alexei during the Russo-Japanese War. Tsar Nicholas (Michael Jayston) is warned by Count Witte (Laurence Olivier) and Grand Duke Nicholas (Harry Andrews) that the war is futile and costing too many lives. They tell him the Russian people want representative government, health care, voting and workers' rights, but Nicholas wants to maintain the autocracy his predecessors (ex. his father, Alexander III) left him. Meanwhile, underground political parties led by Vladimir Lenin (Michael Bryant), Joseph Stalin (James Hazeldine) and Leon Trotsky (Brian Cox) have formed.
Alexei is diagnosed with hemophilia. The Tsarina Alexandra (Janet Suzman), a German princess who is not highly thought of by the Russian royal court, is isolated, but is befriended by Grigori Rasputin (Tom Baker), a Siberian peasant who describes himself as a holy man. He has become a curiosity at court. Alexandra calls upon him to help her pray for Alexei, and believes in his healing abilities.
Working under ghastly conditions, the people are encouraged by Father George Gapon (Julian Glover). Gapon leads many peasant workers in a peaceful procession to the Winter Palace to present a petition to the Tsar. Hundreds of soldiers stand in front of the palace. There is panic, and the soldiers fire randomly into the crowd. Nicholas is horrified when he hears of the massacre (Bloody Sunday), but admits he wouldn't have granted the people's requests.
Eight years later, on the 300th anniversary of Romanov rule, the family holidays at the Livadia Palace in the Crimea. Alexei (Roderic Noble) is a lively boy who is prevented from leading a normal life. A close bond exists between Alexei and his bodyguard/protector, the sailor, Nagorny (John Hallam). Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin (Eric Porter), who succeeded Witte, has granted some of the people’s requests in order to preserve the Russian Empire. Stolypin presents Nicholas with police reports about Rasputin's dissolute behaviour, which is giving the Tsar a bad reputation. As a result, the Tsar dismisses Rasputin from the court. Alexandra demands his return. She knows Alexei’s haemophilia was inherited from her, and is racked with guilt. She believes that only Rasputin can stop the bleeding attacks.
The Tercentenary celebration occurs with much partying and festivities, but takes a turn for the worse when Stolypin is shot at the opera in Kiev. Nicholas retaliates by uprooting the conspiracy and executing the killers. He also closes the Duma and allows the police to terrorise the peasants.
Alexei has a fall at the Spala Hunting Lodge, which leads to his worst bleeding attack. It is presumed that he will die. The Tsarina writes to Rasputin, who soon responds with words of comfort. The Tsarevich recovers and Rasputin is allowed to return.
World War I begins in 1914, a few weeks after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, part of Austria-Hungary. Germany declares war on Russia after Nicholas ordered the mobilisation of Russia’s forces on Germany's border. Nicholas decides to command the troops himself in 1915 and leaves for the front, taking over from his more experienced cousin, Grand Duke Nicholas. This leaves Alexandra in charge at home. Under Rasputin's influence, she makes unwise decisions. Few people have been told about Alexei's illness or how Rasputin appears to help him. It appears that the Tsarina is losing control and having an affair with Rasputin. At the front in late 1916, Nicholas is visited by his mother the Dowager Empress Maria Foeodorovna (Irene Worth), who is critical of her son's lack of leadership abilities. She scolds him about not attending to domestic issues and implores him to eliminate Rasputin as well as to send Alexandra to Livadia Palace in the Crimea. Grand Duke Dmitri (Richard Warwick) and Prince Felix Yusupov (Martin Potter), invite Rasputin to a party where they kill him in December, 1916.
Deprived of Rasputin, Alexandra is unable to cope. The army is ill supplied. Starving and freezing, the workers revolt (February Revolution) and St. Petersburg is overrun. Nicholas decides to return to Tsarskoye Selo, but is forced to abdicate on 15 March 1917 in his train at Mogilev, not only for himself but for Alexei.
The family with Dr. Botkin (Timothy West) and attendants are forced to leave the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo by Kerensky and are brought to Tobolsk in Siberia in August 1917. They live in the Governor's Mansion under less grand but decent conditions with rough but decent guards. In late 1917, Russia falls to the Bolshevik Party. The family is transferred to the grim Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. Under harsher conditions they are controlled by the cold-blooded Yakov Yurovsky (Alan Webb). One of the guards is cruel to Alexei and Nagorny leaps to his defense. Nagorny is taken away and shot, leaving Alexei bitter and withdrawn. In a near-final tragic scene, the family is shown laughing as they read formerly-withheld letters from friends, relatives and teachers. The Bolsheviks are frantically deciding what to do as the White Army is on the verge on capturing Yekaterinburg. In the early hours of 17 July 1918, the Bolsheviks awaken the Romanov family and Dr. Botkin telling them they must leave. The family wait in the cellar. Their keeper Yurovsky and his assistants enter the room and open fire. The end scene shows the wall covered in blood and dissolves into the final credits.
Producer Sam Spiegel tackled "Nicholas and Alexandra" when he was shut out from working with director David Lean on "Doctor Zhivago" which was also set against the backdrop of revolutionary Russia. Spiegel had alienated Lean when the two worked together constantly dogging the perfectionist director in order to get the film "Lawrence of Arabia" on time. Spiegel initially tried to make "Nicholas and Alexandra" without buying the rights to the book by Robert K. Massie's claiming the story was in public domain but, eventually, Spiegel purchased the rights and hired writer James Goldman to do the adaption of Massie's book.
Goldman, who had written the popular play and film "The Lion in Winter", labored on draft after draft as directors came and went (George Stevens, Anthony Harvey, Joseph Mankiewicz and Charles Jarrot were all attached to the project at one point). After seeing "Patton", Goldman recommended Franklin J. Schaffner (who would go on to win his Best Director Academy Award while working on "Nicholas and Alexandra").
Producer Spiegel turned to former collaborators John Box to do the production design and cinematographer Freddie Young ("Lawrence of Arabia")to work on the film so as to give the production the epic touch he felt it needed.
Spiegel had to work with stricter budget constraints from Columbia than before preventing him from achieving his first choices for the leads (Peter O'Toole as Rasputin and Vanessa Redgrave as Alexandra)and, while well known actors such as Lawrence Olivier and Jack Hawkins appeared in the film, actor Rex Harrison turned down a supporting role because he felt it was too small.
Despite the detailed production design, photography and strong performances from the cast, "Nicholas and Alexandra" failed to find the large audience it needed to be a financial success. 
"Nicholas and Alexandra" was nominated for three Golden Globes including Best Supporting Actor and Most Promising Newcomer for actor Tom Baker (who was recommended to the producer and director by Lawrence Oliver for the role) and Best Actress for Janet Suzman.
The film received three nominations from BAFTA including Best Actress and Most Promising Newcomer for Janet Suzman and Best Costume Design.
"Nicholas and Alexandra" was recognized by the National Board of Review as one of the Top 10 Films of 1972.
The score by Richard Rodney Bennett was nominated for a Grammy.
The film was nominated six Academy Awards including Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction however the film won only two Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction.
Home Video Release 
"Nicholas and Alexandra" received a home video release on DVD on 27 July 1999 from Sony. The DVD featured a vintage 14 minute featurette on the production of the film. The film received a Blu-ray release in February 2013 from Twilight Time. The Blu-ray featured three featurettes on the production of the film covering the make up, costume designs and the actresses playing the Tsar's daughters in the film. The original theatrical trailer as well as an isolated music score. The isolated music track was presented in stereo even though the sound on the Blu-ray was presented in mono. The Blu-ray release was limited to only 3000 copies.
This soundtrack was written by Richard Rodney Bennett.
- Overture (02:19)
- Nicholas and Alexandra (01:26)
- The Royal Children (01:23)
- The Palace (01:00)
- Sunshine Days (03:21)
- Alexandra (01:18)
- The Romanov Tercentenary (00:52)
- Lenin in Exile (01:21)
- The Princessess (02:20)
- The Breakthrough (02:35)
- The Declaration of War (02:55)
- Extracte (02:40)
- The Journey to the Front (01:02)
- Military March (02:40)
- Rasputin's Death (01:28)
- The People Revolt (01:19)
- Alexandra Alone (01:11)
- Farewells (02:30)
- Dancing in the Snow (01:11)
- Departure from Tobolsk (01:30)
- Elegy (01:38)
- Epilogue (01:50)
Fact vs. fiction 
||This article may contain original research. (January 2013)|
Some elements of the movie take creative license:
- Stolypin's assassination is portrayed accurately, but actually took place in 1911; he is shown attending the Tercentenary, which occurred in 1913.
- The party at which Rasputin is poisoned is based on evidence left by Prince Felix Yusupov. Rasputin is seen surviving the poisoning and numerous gunshot wounds, but there is evidence to suggest that Rasputin died from drowning after his body was pushed under the ice of the River Neva.
- The Tsarina Alexandra's German heritage is blamed for some of the family's unpopularity, but Alexandra was never really popular with the Russian people; her German background particularly burdened her during World War I when Russia was at war with Germany.
- When the Romanovs are executed, not a word is spoken to them prior to their death. Historical accounts indicate that an execution order was read to them beforehand.
- The house where the Romanovs were imprisoned in Tobolsk is depicted as very austere, when in fact they were housed in the former governor's mansion in great comfort. It was only in Yekaterinburg that their living conditions became much worse.
- Only Nicholas, Alexandra and Marie arrived together at the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg; Olga, Alexei, Tatiana and Anastasia arrived later due to Alexei's illness in Tobolsk.
- The Romanov family was executed together with four faithful servants: doctor Eugene Botkin, chambermaid Anna Demidova, cook Ivan Kharitonov, and footman Alexei Trupp. However, in the film only the family and the doctor are finally executed; the other characters do not appear in the film.
- There is no evidence that the scene with Grand Duchess Tatiana exposing her breasts to a Bolshevik soldier ever occurred.
- Alexander Kerensky informed Nicholas in summer 1917 that the United Kingdom would not accept him and the royal family as refugees. Britain did not wish to accept the Romanovs as they were seen as bloody tyrants; King George V in particular feared for his own throne if his Russian cousins came to Britain. When it was made public that the Romanovs would be sent abroad, the public outcry against it was so overwhelming that the provisional government decided to keep them as prisoners, as its own future was on shaky ground. It is claimed MI6 had proposed an idea of a covert extraction of the Tsar and his family, but this is considered speculation as no such a mission could be accomplished.
Historical sources 
Although Robert Massie wrote the book upon which this film was based, he did not have complete information, for the Soviet government (in power at the time) would not permit the release of all relevant records. Twenty years after the film debuted, the Soviet Union fell and the records of the Romanovs were released. Massie later wrote a continuation, The Romanovs: The Final Chapter.
- "NY Times: Nicholas and Alexandra". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
- Kirgo, Julie "Nicholas and Alexandra" booklet, Twilight Time, 2013
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