|Helen Hayes, Yul Brynner, Ingrid Bergman|
In Europe in the 1920's rumors are circulating that Anastasia (Ingrid Bergman), the youngest daughter of the Tsar Nicholas, may have survived the purge that killed the rest of her family. General Bounine (Yul Brynner) finds a woman, fresh out of mental hospitals and contemplating suicide, whom he thinks resembles Anastasia, and guides her -- like Henry Higgins -- to act more like royalty. But as she is about to meet the Dowager Empress (Helen Hayes) and seal her fate, she wonders if she could really be who everyone says she is. Anastasia is a wonderful, absorbing film that is not true to historical facts but to their spirit, and works beautifully as a kind of fairy tale. Bergman deservedly won a Best Actress Oscar for this, and she is matched in excellence by a powerful Hayes, and a rather sexy and dynamic Brynner. There is also fine work from Martita Hunt [Becket] as the Empress' peppery lady-in-waiting [to whom the Empress says "to a woman of your age, sex should mean nothing but gender"]; Ivan Desny as her nephew, Paul; Akim Tamiroff [The Vulture] as Boris Chernov, one of the co-conspirators in this matter of the "phony" Anastasia; and Natalie Schafer [The Other Love] as one of the group of Russian exiles who embraces Anastasia as their own; among others. The ending is contrived but effective, and the movie still manages to maintain an air of ambiguity. In real life, the Empress completely rejected "Anastasia's" claim, and the woman lived her life as Ana Anderson, protesting all along that she was the real daughter of the Tsar. Decades later, DNA proved conclusively that Anderson was lying. Filmed in stunning DeLuxe color and with a nice score by Alfred Newman.
Verdict: A true classic with superb performances. ****.