(1956 c 105')
Based on Marcelle Maurette’s play, a woman is prepared to show that she is the Grand Duchess Anastasia, and she manages to convince the Empress Dowager and a Prince.
In 1928 in Paris the Eastern Church is celebrating Easter at night. Stepan (Gregoire Gromoff) pays a messenger, who leaves in a car. At a party General Sergei Pavlovich Bounine (Yul Brynner) is told of a messenger. He goes and sees a woman (Ingrid Bergman) who claims to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. She walks and runs to the street by the river and coughs. She sees her face in the water, but someone stops her from falling in.
Boris Adreivich Chernov (Akim Tamiroff) and Piotr Ivanovich Petrovin (Sacha Pitoeff) are told to wait for the General at the usual place. Chernov says it was his idea to search for the Grand Duchess and form a corporation. The General comes in and calls the meeting to order. Chernov gives the financial report. Piotr shows the General a painting of Anastasia’s figure. Chernov reviews how the General asked for money because he found Anastasia. Chernov says they have been given eight days to prove she is not a fraud. Chernov asks where she is. The General says they tracked her down, but she admits nothing. The General says she can be used. The General has Stepan bring her in. She accepts a glass of vodka and asks where she is. The General says they are friends. Chernov tells her to stand up, and they watch her walk. The General says the real Anastasia was shot to death ten years ago. He says they will present her as Anastasia. The General has her stand by the drawing of the princess. The General says she said she was Anastasia and that she was in Berlin. The General tells them to look at the scars on her hands and head. Chernov questions her, and she says she was in a madhouse. The General says she has no identity. Chernov says there are ten million pounds at stake. She wants to leave and says why she told her story to a nun. She says she was wounded. She is frustrated and cries. The General asks her if she wants to know who she is. He says he will help her. He shows her photos of her with the family of the Czar. He introduces the banker Chernov from St. Petersburg, Petrovin, and himself as General of the Turkish regiment. She says she is Anastasia and laughs and cries.
In a bedroom the General questions her about the facts of her life as Anastasia. Petrovin shows her an icon and questions her too. Chernov comes in with the General and says they have only three days left. While a woman handles her hair, she answers more questions. Chernov tells the General that the play is nearly finished.
The General brings in several people and introduces them to Anastasia. She asks a woman if she was a lady in waiting to her mother. She remembers her name Nini, who says she is her and cries.
Later the General reprimands her for speaking to them. He says he or someone told her about Nini. They make her walk with a book on her head to learn the carriage of a princess. She plays piano exercises. He plays a guitar and says her tutor wanted her to learn this. She says she likes it. The General dances with her, and they do the Polonaise and a waltz. He asks her about her first love at a ball. She says she does not know.
At night she wakes up screaming and runs to the piano. The General comes in and asks what she is doing. She says she does not remember who she is anymore. She says she wants to be her and have someone accept her. She says she is leaving, but he commands her to go to bed. She says her father was very strict. She asks Bounine who she is.
At an elegant party for Russian aristocrats Chernov says he is nervous. Anastasia is introduced and walks in. The General asks them to sign testimonials before they leave. He says they must restore this person to the world of the living. Anastasia is their only hope. Anastasia tells a former dancer that she does not like her, and she tells her to go. An older gentleman doubts her, but he is struck when she reprimands Chernov for smoking in her presence.
Petrovin counts eighteen testimonials. The General says they must go to the Dowager Empress. Anastasia is packing, and the General asks where she is going. She says no one will ever be sure. He says her grandmama could, and he could get her to see her. He asks her to go with him to see her in Copenhagen. She says she had a dream of puppets. She says he knew she would go.
They take a train. Anastasia tells the General that the Empress always wore black. She looks at a photo of the man she was engaged to at sixteen, but she does not remember him. The General is using the name Anderson for her visa.
From a car the General and Miss Anderson see a marching band pass in front of them. In a room Chernov tells the General that the Empress refuses to see her, but they have an appointment to meet the Baroness Elena von Livenbaum in a garden.
At Tivoli the General asks the Baroness (Martita Hunt) to sit down at his table. She is glad to see him, but she misses Russia. She says they are performing a Tchaikovsky ballet on Thursday.
At the ballet the General tells Anastasia that he wants her to look beautiful and tells her to sit in the balcony box. The Baroness sits in the box opposite them, and they look at her with opera glasses. He says the Empress is behind her. Anastasia says she is frightened. During an intermission people mingle. The General says hello to Prince Paul von Haraldberg (Ivan Desny), and he introduces him to the lady who is traveling as Miss Anderson. She says he was frightened and has changed. The General goes to see the Baroness and kisses her hand. She is going to get water for her majesty. The General goes in and talks to the Empress Dowager Maria Feodorovna (Helen Hayes). She says he knows that she is not her granddaughter. She suggests he can show her photographs to her, but she refuses to see her. He leaves, and the Empress tells the Baroness that Bounine is attractive.
In their box the General asks Anastasia to make the prince like her. In the other box the Baroness asks the Prince if the woman is married.
At the hotel the General tells Chernov to put the fake jewelry in the safe. The General tells her that the Empress will see her.
Anastasia drinks champagne with the Prince during fireworks. They have been together three times, and she wants to have a good time. He kisses her. The General appears and says she must retire early. She laughs, and at the hotel she feels like Cinderella. She takes the elevator, and the General asks to speak to the Prince. The General says her visa expires in four days, and the Prince says he pushes too hard. He says his aunt reacts negatively to pressure.
Anastasia is happy in her room, and the General says she has had too much to drink. She asks him to make a confession. He comes into her room and finds her asleep in bed. He turns out the lights.
The Empress returns in a coach, and she greets the Baroness and tells the Prince to come in. The Prince comes out, and the Empress calls in Livenbaum. The Empress is playing solitaire and says he has swallowed her tricks. The Empress says she is stubborn, but she asks her hotel.
The General answers the phone and says the Baroness is coming up with a lady. He tells Chernov and Petrovin to go away. The General tells Anastasia to get ready. The Empress comes in alone, and she asks him to bring her in. Anastasia comes in slowly and asks if she recognizes her. The Empress asks where she was born. Anastasia says for a long time she did not know who she was. She calls her grandmama, and the Empress says she did not give her permission to call her that. She says that the love she wants belongs to one who is dead. Anastasia says she cares nothing about the money. She says the Empress is hard, and she says she quarreled over a necklace. Anastasia talks about her sisters, and the Empress calls her an imposture. Anastasia refers to the pain she went through from the flies in the cellar. The Empress stands up and says she failed to win her over. Anastasia kneels before her and pleads with her to stay. She coughs, and the Empress asks if she is ill and if she has seen a doctor. Anastasia says she has changed little, and she is strong. The Empress appears confused and says they should meet when her mind is clearer. Anastasia talks about her running, and she coughs. She says she coughs when she is frightened. The Empress says that when she was a little girl, she coughed when she was frightened. She embraces her and looks forward to celebrating with her. She tells Anastasia that she has come back. She says if it is not her, never to tell her.
At a restaurant Chernov talks with Maxime (Katharine Kath) and Petrovin. The General plays guitar, and Chernov learns that they have all arrived and tells Petrovin. The General sings, and he tells Chernov that Prince Paul expects them in the morning. They ask if they will be married.
In the morning they call in the press for the press conference. The General says they cannot attend the presentation that evening, but Anastasia will see them for a short time. Chernov reads the schedule of the events. The General introduces Anastasia, who comes down stairs in a beautiful dress. They asks her questions. She says she spent much time with the Empress. She says she will be surprised if she receives an inheritance. She admits she was in a hospital in Bucharest. Mikhail Vlados (Karel Stepanek) says he took her home from there, and her name is Anna Koreff. She admits that she was wounded but says it was in the revolution. The press conference ends, and the reporters leave. She asks the General if it was a disaster. They smoke and have not seen each other lately. She says he pushed her. He says he does not care about the money. He says when they began, she only wanted to find out who she is. He says they do not care about her, just the money. She says the Prince would not marry her unless she was an heiress. He asks her to admit he is right.
At the ball Anastasia dances with Paul, and she remembers her first waltz. She says she is Anna Koreff. She asks him to announce their engagement. She asks what he will do if she cannot get the money or does not ask for it. He does not take this seriously. Petrovin tells the General that the Empress is ready. The General tells the Baroness she looks well. He asks her to see if the Empress will see him. He goes in, and the Empress says she was going to send for him. She wants to give him her statement for the press. He says he is leaving. She says the evening belongs to him. She commends his success for restoring her granddaughter and arranging the marriage. The Empress asks him what he wants to ask. The Baroness comes in and says it is time. The Empress orders the General to wait for her; he agrees, and she goes out. Chernov asks the Empress if she wants to discuss the ceremony. Anastasia comes in, and the Empress asks to speak to her alone. The Empress asks Anastasia if she is sure about Paul. She says she likes him. The Empress says she will announce their engagement, and she asks if she wants to marry him. Anastasia says she does not know. The Empress asks if she wants someone else. The Empress says the world has moved on, and she likes the past. She says Anastasia must consider the future. The Empress says she wants to give her emeralds to her. Anastasia stops her and thanks her for what she has already done. The Empress tells her to prepare. Anastasia goes out, and the Baroness comes in and says the gentleman is no longer waiting alone. Chernov and Petrovin come in, and Chernov asks where Prince Paul is. Paul comes in and kisses the hand of the Empress. Chernov sends Petrovin to tell the Grand Duchess they are ready. The Baroness says what will happen. Petrovin comes back and says she is gone. The Empress says she left with the General. Paul says she was not Anastasia after all. Paul asks the Empress what she will say. She says she will say that the play is over.
This drama is a fictionalized version of the story of Anna Anderson who claimed that she was Anastasia. However, she never met the Empress, and many years later DNA disproved her claim. The story reflects a questioning of one’s personal reality and whether one can convince oneself one is someone else as when one acts in a play. As Stanislavski said, if one believes one is the character, that person is crazy. Yet by finding the character within oneself one is able to play the character with belief. Like Pygmalion, the student realizes that she is in love with her teacher.