An opportunistic Russian businessman tries to pass a mysterious impostor as the Grand Duchess Anastasia. But she is so convincing in her performance that even the biggest skeptics believe her.
The film “Anastasia” is based on both historical truth and on a play. Anastasia was the daughter of the Russian czar. He led his people into war against Germany and as the casualties piled up, his once-huge popularity took a nose-dive. The famous Rasputin is said to have taken an interest in the politics of Russia and in the czar’s wife. He was assassinated by the czar’s house but soon the Bolsheviks began to take control and the czar abdicated the throne. Eventually in 1918 the Communists murdered the czar and his family, including the family physician. But did Anastasia survive? That is the basis of the film in which Anastasia (Ingrid Bergman) is trained by Russian General Bounine (Yul Brynner), who begins to groom the beautiful but destitute woman to play the part of the surviving Anastasia. However, the evidence soon seems to suggest that the lady previously known as Anna Anderson is indeed Anastasia. Her grandmother (Helen Hayes), though skeptical at first, embraces her as her long lost grand-daughter.
Interestingly, Anna Anderson indeed lived and did claim to be Anastasia. She had the same ears, eyes, scars, and fallen arch condition that Anastasia had in life. Her handwriting was almost perfectly identical. Yet a DNA test on a distant relative seemed to contradict her story. But how is it that nine of the eleven bodies of the family were recently unearthed in Yekaterinburg, and confirmed by forensic experts to be the czar’s family, but oddly enough one of the two missing bodies is that of Anastasia? This 1956 film is family friendly and Ingrid Bergman won an Academy Award for playing Anastasia. Brynner is, as always, a pleasure to watch. The film still holds up well today, although I found the ending to be rather abrupt.