Monday, March 30, 2009

Danila Cooper at the Russian Nobility Ball in New York

Unfortunately I will never go to this, but watching Russian dancing on You Tube is very enjoyable!
Danila Cooper

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Posts

Two new posts today: Marie-Antoinette's Music and Rasputin and the Empress.

Rasputin and the Empress: Yussoupoff v. Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

When Thalberg, the producer of a new movie about Rasputin, ordered the scriptwriter, Mercedes de Acosta, to write a scene in which the mad Russian monk seduces the niece of the Tsar, it horrified her. Thalberg wanted the scenes to be ‘violent and terrific’, according to the article, Tatars and Moguls in Atlantis Magazine. She had met Prince Yussoupoff, the principal conspirator in the murder of Rasputin, and it was obvious to her that the fictional character in the movie, Princess Natasha, was meant to represent his wife, Princess Irina. She wrote to the Prince about the movie. He threatened to sue. When Thalberg found out he fired her.

He promptly found another more agreeable scriptwriter and achieved the coup of getting three Barrymores to star in the movie: Ethel played Empress Alexandra; Lionel starred as Rasputin; and John played Prince Chegodieff (really Prince Yussoupoff). The film cost $1 million to produce, an enormous sum in 1932.

When Princess Irina found out about the new film it upset her very much. She had never even met Rasputin and she felt that the scenes in which she was seduced or raped by him destroyed her reputation. It was obvious that Princess Natasha was meant to be Princess Irina because she was betrothed to Rasputin’s murderer, she was the niece of the Tsar, and there were other similarities.

She met the famous lawyer, Fanny Holtzmann, who decided to sue in spite of the many risks involved.

MGM argued that Princess Natasha was a lady-in-waiting in the film and didn’t represent Princess Irina. It also argued that even if it were, the movie wasn’t libellous. Even if it was assumed to be Princess Irina, the princess in the film was raped so she wasn’t responsible and hadn’t been defamed.

Slessor, L.J. said that the film was defamatory whether the princess was raped or seduced:

“...When this woman is defamed in her sexual purity I do not think that the precise manner in she has been despoiled of her innocence and virginity is a matter which a jury can properly be asked to consider.”

After a law case involving such luminaries as Sir Patrick Hastings, graphic evidence of Rasputin’s murder, and sympathetic testimony from Princess Irina, the plaintiffs won. The jury awarded them 125,000 pounds, an enormous sum in those days.

MGM lost the appeal. Eventually a huge settlement was reached, in order to prevent law cases all over the world.

Today practically all movies use the disclaimer “...the characters in this movie are fictional and bear no resemblance to real persons living or dead...”

Romanoff Gold by William Clarke

Clarke describes Imperial Russia vividly and delves into the money trail meticulously.

The first part of this book is the most interesting. Certain images stayed in my mind: beautiful Meriel Buchanan's Russian admirer visitin>g her in a panic after the Revolution, the Tsar's daughters enjoying their first dances and balls, and the final terrible journey and end of the Royal family. (NB)

Reading how Clarke traced the money of the Romanovs is like reading a detective story, but it becomes a little dry and complicated at times. He does dispel long-held myths about Queen Mary and money and jewels spirited away during the First World War.

This is a book well-worth reading if you enjoy reading about the Romanovs.

NB: Meriel Buchanan was the British Ambassador's daughter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Marie-Antoinette's Music

Marie-Antoinette may be ridiculed for lack of intelligence, but she was extremely talented and played the harp beautifully. She also played the spinet and the clavichord. She was a patron of many famous musicians, such as Gluck and invited him to present operas at Versailles. Taught by Philippe Hinner, she actually played well enough to accompany Salieri. She also wrote songs. One of these is probably C'est Mon Ami.

You can see a picture of her harp and some of her other possessions here:
Marie-Antoinette Antiques

The French Queen also loved the ballet. She danced with her sisters in Il Parnasso Confuso by Gluck when she was a young girl and brought a painting of her performance to Versailles. She arranged performances of the ballet, including Hungarian and Flemish country dances for the reception of her brother, Maximilian.

You can read much more about the fascinating French queen and listen to C'est Mon Ami at this wonderful website: Marie-Antoinette's Home Page

Monday, March 2, 2009

Site of the Week: Eljen

Eljen is an excellent site for those interested in the fascinating Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Here you can find a long biography, reviews of most of the books written about her, and information on the famous Austrian musical.
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