AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Crime and Punishment
Director: Josef von Sternberg (Dir)
Release Date:   21 Nov 1935
Production Date:   14 Aug--14 Sep 1935
Duration (in mins):   85 or 88-89
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Cast:   Peter Lorre (Roderick Raskolnikov)  
    Edward Arnold (Inspector Porfiry)  
    Marian Marsh (Sonya)  
    Tala Birrell (Antonia "Toni" Raskolnikov)  
    Elisabeth Risdon (Mrs. Raskolnikov)  
    Robert Allen (Dmitri)  
    Douglass Dumbrille (Grilov)  
    Gene Lockhart (Mr. Lushin)  
    Charles Waldron (The university president)  
    Thurston Hall (The Editor)  
    Johnny Arthur (The clerk)  
    Mrs. Patrick Campbell (The pawnbroker [Leona])  
    Rafaela Ottiano (Landlady)  
    Michael Mark (Prisoner)  
    Edith Arnold (Nastasya)  
    Nana Bryant (Madam)  
    Gene Morgan (Drunk)  
    Cecil Weston (Secretary)  
    Rita Owin (Reception clerk)  
    Russ Powell (Reporter)  
    Robert Wilber (Waiter)  
    Robert Middlemass (Cop)  
    Davison Clark (Cop)  
    Frank G. Fanning (Cop)  
    Peter Seal (Cop)  
    Al Ferguson (Cop)  
    Harry Nielman (Cop)  
    Harry Semels (Porter)  
    Hal Price (Porter)  
    M. Arshansky (Clerk)  
    A. Gest (Clerk)  
    Lieutenant George Blagoi (Clerk)  
    A. Gest (Clerk)  
    George McKay    
    George Lloyd    
    Lorimer Johnston    
    Sheldon Jett    
    Jack H. Richardson    
    Kathryn Sheldon    

Summary: In Russia, university student Roderick Raskolnikov graduates with honors. Even though he is hailed as an authority on crime, Roderick lives in poverty. When Roderick learns that his family is coming to visit, he decides to pawn the heirloom watch he received for graduation. At the pawnbroker's, Roderick sees an unfortunate street urchin, Sonya, receive only one ruble for her valuable Bible, and when she is pushed out the door by the pawnbroker, she loses the ruble. When Roderick learns that Sonya supports her family, he gives her the rubles he receives for his watch. Later, Roderick's mother and sister, Toni, arrive at his apartment, and he learns that Toni lost her job because her employer's husband, Grilov, tried to force himself on her. With the family in dire poverty, Toni has agreed to marry the pompous, aging Lushin. Angry at Toni for selling herself to Lushin, and desperately in need of money, Roderick kills the cruel old pawnbroker, and rummages through her room for valuables. The next day, Roderick is arrested, not for the pawnbroker's murder but for overdue rent. Inspector Porfiry is eager to meet the criminal expert, and he has Roderick observe the interrogation of an innocent prisoner suspected of the pawnbroker's murder. Porfiry, who has solved all crimes assigned to him, confides to Roderick that he is willing to send an innocent man to prison in order to maintain his record. Later, Roderick goes to the office of the Current Review and the editor, excited over the response to Roderick's last article, agrees to give him 1,000 rubles for another article. Certain that he is not suspected of the crime, Roderick returns to see his family, where he mocks Lushin, and in doing so, ends Toni's engagement. Meanwhile, Sonya is questioned by Porfiry, and his suspicions about Roderick are aroused. Roderick then shows up at the police station, and Porfiry invites himself to meet his family, who he questions vociferously until Roderick forces him to apologize. Later, Grilov arrives and tells Roderick that he is now a widower, then offers Toni 500 rubles as compensation for his actions. Now wracked by his conscience, Roderick visits Porfiry, who admits that he suspects him; however, the innocent man confesses, thus causing Roderick to feel more guilt. Roderick goes to Sonya, and terrifies her with crazy talk, and she begins to read the Bible to him. No longer able to endure his guilt, Roderick confesses while Grilov listens outside the door. Grilov then tries to blackmail Toni, but relents when he sees her hatred of him. Meanwhile, Roderick returns to his apartment and finds Porfiry, who accuses him of the crime and threatens to send the innocent man to Siberia and leave the injustice on Roderick's conscience. Roderick goes to Toni, who is now engaged to his friend Dmitri, and asks her to look after their mother and Sonya in his absence. As Roderick leaves, Sonya asks him to leave the country with her, but he asks her to wait for him, and they go to Porfiry's office together. 

Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Production Text: A B. P. Schulberg Production
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Director: Josef von Sternberg (Dir)
Writer: S. K. Lauren (Scr)
  Joseph Anthony (Scr)
Photography: Lucien Ballard (Photog)
Art Direction: Stephen Goosson (Art dir)
Film Editor: Richard Cahoon (Film ed)
Costumes: Murray Mayer (Cost)
Music: Louis Silvers (Mus dir)
Sound: Lodge Cunningham (Sd eng)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Prestuplenie i Nakazanie ( Crime and Punishment ) by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (Russia, 1866).
Authors: Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. 20/11/1935 dd/mm/yyyy LP5940

PCA NO: 1625
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

 
Genre: Mystery
Sub-Genre: Crime
 
Subjects (Major): Conscience
  Criminologists
  Murder
  Police inspectors
  Poverty
  Russia
 
Subjects (Minor): Attempted rape
  Authors
  Bible
  College students
  Engagements
  Family relationships
  Pawnbrokers
  Pride and vanity
  Prostitution
  Religion

Note: The film opens with the following prologue: "The time of our story is any time, the place any place where human hearts respond to love and hate, pity and terror." The film's opening credits list Dostoevsky, whose name is spelled Dostoievsky onscreen, with story credit. His name is followed by an asterisk, with a note at the bottom of the card reading, "Feodor Dostoievsky, Russia's foremost author/wrote Crime and Punishment in 1866." According to the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Production Code officials first viewed the Victor Wolfson stage production of the novel in 1935. Vincent G. Hart of the Eastern Studio Relations Office of the MPPDA noted that "serious thematic difficulties will be encountered because of the characterization of the heroine as a prostitute. This characterization is a definite part of the plot." He goes on to note "the failure of the police to arrest and prosecute the young college student for murder." Both of these plot developments were changed for the screen version. The MPAA/PCA file also includes a script written by Sy Bartlett and Charles Belden, entitled Untitled Outline No. 1 . The plot of that script bears little resemblance to the released film. The extent of Bartlett and Belden's contribution to the final film has not been determined.
       In his autobiography, Josef von Sternberg wrote that he regretted the selection of the actors, particularly Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the famous British stage star, but noted that he had no control over her selection. Sternberg thought that Peter Lorre was inappropriate, but noted that he was the only cast member who read the Dostoevsky novel. Sternberg generally believed the project was doomed from the start. In a NYT interview, Lorre said that he had been brought over to the United States from England by Columbia and placed under contract, with ten months of idleness following. Rejecting a role in a Jack Holt vehicle, Lorre suggested Crime and Punishment , and finally agreed to a deal whereby the picture would be made and directed by Sternberg, if Lorre agreed to a loan to M-G-M to appear in Mad Love . The Columbia film was released almost simultaneously with a French version, Crime et Chatiment , directed by Pierre Chenal and starring Pierre Blanchar as "Roderick." The American adaptation generally suffered by contemporary critical comparison. A contemporary Philadelphia newspaper review noted that the French version stayed true to the novel, in that "Raskolnikov" killed both the pawnbroker and her sister. Several reviews noted Chenal's use of silent film technique. The New Theatre Magazine wrote, "The film possesses many of the virtues of the silent movie and few of the vices, if any, of the talkie era." Other versions of Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment include a 1917 Arrow production directed by Lawrence McGill and starring Derwent Hall Caine (see AFI Catalogue of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.0839), a 1923 German film entitled Raskolnikov , directed by Robert Wiene and starring Grigori Chmarna, a 1946 Monogram production entitled Fear , directed by Alfred Zeisler and starring Warren William, and a 1959 Allied Artists film, Crime and Punishment USA , directed by Denis Saunders and starring George Hamilton. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   6 Nov 35   p. 2.
Daily Variety   13 Nov 35   p. 3.
Film Daily   22 Nov 35   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Nov 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Dec 35   p. 6.
Motion Picture Daily   13 Nov 35   p. 11.
Motion Picture Herald   30 Nov 35   p. 64.
New York Times   13 Nov 35   p. 20.
New York Times   22 Nov 35   p. 18.
Newsweek   30 Nov 35   p. 27
Time   2 Dec 35   p. 39.
Variety   27 Nov 35   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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