AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Anna Karénina
Director: Clarence Brown (Dir)
Release Date:   6 Sep 1935
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 30 Aug 1935
Production Date:   21 Mar--mid-May 1935
Duration (in mins):   83, 90 or 95
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Greta Garbo (Anna [Arkadyevna] Karénina)  
    Fredric March ([Count] Vronsky)  
    Freddie Bartholomew (Sergei)  
    Maureen O'Sullivan (Kitty)  
    May Robson (Countess Vronsky)  
    Basil Rathbone ([Alexei Alexandrovitch] Karenin)  
    Reginald Owen (Stiva)  
    Reginald Denny (Yashvin)  
    Phoebe Foster (Dolly)  
    Gyles Isham ([Konstantin Dimetrievitch] Levin)  
    Joan Marsh (Lily)  
    Ethel Griffies (Mme. Kartasoff)  
    Harry Beresford (Matve)  
    Sarah Padden (Governess)  
    Cora Sue Collins (Tania)  
    Mary Forbes (Princess Sorokina)  
    Joseph Tozer (Butler)  
    Guy D'Ennery (Tutor)  
    Buster Phelps (Grisha)  
    Sidney Bracy (Vronsky's valet)  
    Harry Allen (Cord)  
    Ella Ethridge (Anna's maid)  
    Constance Collier (Lidia)  
    Helen Freeman (Barbara)  
    Carlos J. de Valdez (Butler)  
    Olaf Hytten (Butler)  
    Dickie Walters (Child)  
    Mischa Auer (Mahotin)  
    Carrie Daumery (Sick woman)  
    Pepi Sinoff (Fat woman)  
    Joe North (Doorman)  
    Otto H. Fries (Gendarme)  
    William Orlamond (Train inspector)  
    Davison Clark (Station master)  
    Georges Renavent (Attaché)  
    André Cheron (Attaché)  
    Henry Mowbray (Husband, first couple)  
    Claudelle Kaye (Wife, first couple)  
    Sarah Edwards (Wife, second couple)  
    Sam Flint (Husband, second couple)  
    Stanley Andrews (Husband, third couple)  
    Claudia Coleman (Wife, third couple)  
    Robert Warwick (Colonel)  
    Mahlon Hamilton (Colonel)  
    Francis McDonald (Officer)  
    Pat Somerset (Officer)  
    Leonid Snegoff (Major-domo)  
    Keith Kenneth (Mr. Kartasoff)  
    Betty Blythe    
    Barry Norton    

Summary: In Moscow, during the late 19th century, Anna Arkadyevna Karénina, the wife of distinguished statesman Alexei Alexandrovitch Karenin, arrives from St. Petersburg by train. Stiva, Anna's brother, greets Anna at the train station, where he introduces her to his friend, Count Vronsky, a young officer of the guards. Although he is aware that Anna is married and has a child, Vronsky immediately falls in love with her. Before leaving the station, Anna and Stiva witness the accidental death of a railroad inspector when he is swept underneath the wheels of a moving train, a tragedy that Anna calls "an evil omen." Soon after arriving at her brother's house, Anna makes peace between Stiva and his wife Dolly, who was angry with him for being a philanderer. Then, Kitty, Dolly's sister, confides in Anna that she is secretly in love with Vronsky and that she has become disenchanted with her sweetheart, Konstantin Dimetrievitch Levin. Later, at a ball, Kitty despairs when Levin proposes to her and she is asked to dance the mazurka by undesireable men. When Anna leaves Moscow for St. Petersburg, she soon discovers that the smitten Vronsky has followed her. Despite her attempts to dissuade him from making entreaties for her affections, Vronsky persists in courting Anna and disembarks with her in St. Petersburg. Anna is met at the St. Petersburg train station by Karenin, and because Vronsky is at her side, she is forced to introduce him to her husband. Anna adores her young son Sergei and asks about his well-being. Later, when Vronsky visits Anna and she tells him that she loves him, Lidia, a friend of Karenin, informs Karenin of his wife's affair. Karenin, who is mostly concerned about the effect that the publicity of Anna's affair will have on his career and his son, angrily accuses Anna of destroying their family. In response, Anna accuses Karenin of being concerned only with appearances and not loving her. News of Anna's affair soon reaches Vronsky's superior in command, who urges him to end the affair at once or face dismissal from the army. When Vronsky returns to Anna's, he forces her to choose between him and Karenin, but she finds the decision too difficult to make. Later, at a horse race in which Karenin's horse is racing against Vronsky's horse, Vronsky takes a fall and Karenin prevents Anna from rushing to his side. When they return home, Anna tells Karenin that she loves Vronsky. Karenin then informs Anna that he will not give her a divorce and orders her to remain his wife or face banishment and humiliation. Following Kitty's marriage to Levin, Anna and Vronsky elope to Venice, although Anna says that they will be "punished for being so happy." Meanwhile, back in St. Petersburg, Karenin tells Sergei that his mother is dead. When Vronsky and Anna return to Russia, Vronsky learns that his regiment is preparing to fight in the Serbo-Turkish war, and he eagerly rejoins the regiment. Karenin denies Anna's request to visit Sergei on his birthday, but she goes anyway. When Karenin finds Anna in the house, he orders her to leave. Anna returns to St. Petersburg only to learn that Vronsky has left to fight in the war. Anna desperately tries to see Vronsky one last time before he goes into battle and follows him to Moscow. In Moscow, Anna visits Dolly, Kitty, Levin and their new baby. Afterward, Anna rushes to the train station to see Vronsky off, but as she approaches his car, she realizes he is bidding farewell to his mother and a young woman whom she does not know. Despondent, Anna ends her life by throwing herself under a moving train. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Production Text: Clarence Brown's Production
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Clarence Brown (Dir)
  Charles Dorian (Asst dir)
Producer: David O. Selznick (Prod)
  William Wright (Prod asst to David Selznick)
Writer: Clemence Dane (Scr)
  Salka Viertel (Scr)
  S. N. Behrman (Dial adpt)
Photography: William Daniels (Photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Frederic Hope (Art dir assoc)
  Edwin B. Willis (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Robert J. Kern (Film ed)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
  Russian Symphony Choir (Vocal and choral eff)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Dance: Margarete Wallmann (Ballet staged by)
  Chester Hale (Mazurka staged by)
Production Misc: Count Andrey Tolstoy (Consultant)
  Erich von Stroheim (Tech adv on military seq)
  Howard Dietz (Press agent)
Country: United States

Music: Selections from the ballet Eugene Onegin by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Source Text: Based on the novel Anna Karénina by Leo Tolstoy (Moscow, 1876).
Authors: Leo Tolstoy

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. 20/8/1935 dd/mm/yyyy LP5748 Yes

PCA NO: 1015
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Society
  Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Family life
  Infidelity
  Marriage
  Mothers and sons
  Nobility
  Ostracism
  Russia
  Suicide
 
Subjects (Minor): Ballet
  Balls (Parties)
  Croquet (Game)
  Depression, Mental
  Diplomats
  Divorce
  Drunkenness
  Elopement
  Horseracing
  Officers (Military)
  Moscow (Russia)
  Russia. Army
  Soldiers
  St. Petersburg (Russia)
  Trains
  Venice (Italy)

Note: According to a DV pre-production news item, M-G-M announced plans to market this picture as "Garbo's Tenth Anniversary Picture." In a letter dated 7 Jan 1935 from producer David O. Selznick to Greta Garbo (as quoted in a modern source), Selznick told Garbo that he preferred a George Cukor-directed Dark Victory to Anna Karenina as a starring vehicle for her, and urged her to agree with him. One week later, in a letter to M-G-M director J. Walter Ruben, Selznick stated that he would do Dark Victory if he succeeded in purchasing the rights to the play at a reasonable cost and if Philip Barry consented to write the screenplay. Selznick pointed to the box office disappointments of Queen Christina and The Painted Veil as evidence that Anna Karenina would be an unwise choice for Garbo, and noted that actor Fredric March, who was "fed up with doing costume pictures," made it known that he would do Anna Karenina only if required to by his studio. Despite Selznick's best efforts to convince Garbo to do Dark Victory , she insisted on doing Anna Karenina , a story she had already done in 1927 as a silent entitled Love . According to a biography of Garbo, Garbo was determined to do Anna Karenina because she did not like what she had heard about Dark Victory , and because she "had immersed herself in Anna Karenina and it was now too late to make an abrupt turnabout." Furthermore, a clause in Garbo's contract gave her the option to refuse to make a film if she disliked the script.
       Following Selznick's failed attempt to star Garbo in Dark Victory , the producer, in a letter to Clemence Dane (the assumed name of English playwright and author Winifred Ashton), suggested that he would assign a new director to Anna Karenina , someone "more enthusiastic than George [Cukor]." According to a 10 Jan 1935 HR news item, production on the picture, which was originally scheduled to start that week, was postponed indefinitely due to story changes. A DV pre-production news item noted that M-G-M had planned to rush production on the film so as to finish with Garbo before 1 May and avoid having to pay "heavy overages" for her services. In an undated rough draft of a letter to M-G-M studio head Nick Schenck, Selznick stated that Anna Karenina "cost much less than Queen Christina , [but the] same as Painted Veil ." Selznick also wrote: "I begged for [Clark] Gable, but I got [Fredric] March." HR pre-production news items note that Alan Mowbray, who was originally cast in the part of Stiva, was replaced by Reginald Owen because he was tied up in Becky Sharp . HR production charts and news items list actors Kathleen Howard, Forrester Harvey, Antoinette Lees, Mara Borisova, Richard Lancaster, Brenda Fowler, Bess Stafford, Helen Wood and David Worth in the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library contains a memo, dated 6 Nov 1935, from PCA Director Joseph I. Breen, who suggested that Selznick alter the scene in which "Vronsky" returns to Moscow from Italy, to show that "Vronsky" is "definitely punished as a result of his sinful alliance with Anna." According to the memo, when Breen suggested that "Vronsky" be denied reinstatement in the Russian army and be banished from his native land, "Mr. Selznick agreed to this change." Breen also raised a number of objections to specific scenes that showed "Anna" and "Vronsky" carrying out an "adulterous" affair with impunity. In Mar 1935, Selznick wrote a letter to Breen, in which he sharply criticized new objections raised by the PCA to the script, claiming that Breen's "change of heart...will jeopardize a million dollar investment." Selznick went on to say that Breen's comments left M-G-M with no alternative but to make a "completely vitiated and emasculated adaptation of Tolstoi's famous classic." Following the film's release, the PCA received a letter from the Chicago Legion of Decency, which stated: "We are thoroughly disgusted to hear that you have passed Anna Karenina and Barbary Coast and shall boycott these and all others like them."
       According to studio publicity records, cinematographer William Daniels, who had photographed all but one of Garbo's first twenty pictures, made it a rule never to photograph Garbo with unflattering intermediate or full-figure shots--only closeups and long shots. A HR pre-release news item notes that the Russian ballet sequence was shot in shades of black and white only. No color was permitted in either the costumes or the makeup. According to a DV pre-release news item, because Garbo refused to work at night, M-G-M was forced to build a stage over the St. Petersburg railroad station set on the back lot to simulate darkness. DV also noted that the steeplechase scenes were filmed in Del Monte, CA. Actor Joseph Tozer's name is spelled "Joe E. Tozer" in the onscreen credits. Modern sources indicate that former Russian army officer Count Andrey Tolstoy, the grand-nephew of Leo Tolstoy, was the technical adviser on the regimental drinking scene in the film. Modern sources list Val Lewton as Selznick's production assistant on the picture.
       Anna Karenina was named one of the ten best pictures of 1935 by FD 's nationwide poll of American film critics. The picture also was named the best foreign film of the year and was presented the Mussolini cup at the International Motion Picture Exposition at Venice, Italy. Garbo received the New York Film Critics award for "best feminine performance" of 1935.
       Among the many films based on Tolstoy's novel are a 1915 Fox silent directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starring Betty Nansen and Edward Jose (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.0115); M-G-M's 1927 silent, Love , produced and directed by Edmund Goulding and starring Greta Garbo and John Gilbert (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.3208); a 1948 British film directed by Julien Duviver and starring Vivien Leigh and Ralph Richardson; a Masterpiece Theatre/BBC television film directed by Basil Coleman and starring Nicola Pagett and Eric Porter, which aired on the PBS network on 5 Feb 1978; and a Colgems Productions/Rastar television film directed by Simon Langton and starring Jaqueline Bisset and Christopher Reeve, which aired on the CBS network on 26 Mar 1985. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   1 Mar 35   p. 2.
Daily Variety   16 Mar 35   p. 1.
Daily Variety   4 Apr 35   p. 2.
Daily Variety   25 Apr 35   p. 2.
Daily Variety   29 Jun 35   p. 3.
Film Daily   7 Mar 35   p. 10.
Film Daily   31 Aug 35   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Jan 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Mar 35   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Mar 35   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Mar 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Mar 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Mar 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Mar 35   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Apr 35   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Apr 35   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Apr 35   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Apr 35   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Apr 35   p. 30.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Apr 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jun 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Sep 35   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   1 Jul 35   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald   8 Jun 35   p. 94.
Motion Picture Herald   6 Jul 35   p. 72.
New York Times   31 Aug 35   p. 16.
Variety   4 Sep 35   p. 14.

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