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Tovarich 1937
Description: Ousted from their homeland by the Bolshevik revolution, a royal Russian couple search themselves impoverished and living in Paris. They take positions as butler and housemaid in a wealthy household and, owing to their impeccable breeding and manners, excel in their fresh jobs. But once they are recognized for the royal couple they are, they gotta face fresh -- and formidable -- responsibilities.
Released: 25 Dec 1937 Director: Anatole Litvak Writers: Jacques Deval (play), Casey Robinson, Robert E. Sherwood (play) Actors: Claudette Colbert, Charles Boyer, Basil Rathbone, Anita Louise Genres: Comedy
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Tovarich Reviews:

Delicious sophisticated `continental' comedy (kind of a `reverse' Ninotchka), so entertaining indeed, that when it ends you have the feeling that it moved along too swiftly, keeping you wanting at least 30 mins more of film!French born actors, Charles Boyer and Claudette Colbert work together wonderfully well, under Anatole Litvak's very nice direction, in this engaging comedy, based upon a french enjoy adapted by Robert E. Sherwood himself, about two penniless members of the highest rank Russian nobility (escaped from the 1917 Russian Revolution) currently living in Paris, who masquerade as commoners in order to be hired as servants of an aristocratic household, full of sort-of-zany and bizarre characters.Isabel Jeans and Melville Cooper are perfectly cast as the aristocratic couple, Mr. and Mrs. Dupont, who hire them, absolutely unaware of their fresh butler's and maid's pedigrees. Basil Rathbone, as always, gives an perfect performance as Comissar Gorotchenko, a very `special' guest at a lavish dinner party arranged by the Duponts, one of the funniest (and at the same time, most dramatic) sequences of the movie.Boyer and Colbert are so utterly charming that one does not wonder why the Duponts and both, their daughter and son, are fully conquered and taken by the `undercover' Royal Russians, Prince Mikail Alexandrovitch Ouratieff (Boyer) and Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna Romanov (Colbert), known by them as Michel & Tina.This was the third and last pairing of its leading stars, who had previously worked together successfully at Paramount Pictures, in `The Boy From Yesterday' (1932) and `Private Worlds' (1935).


Adapted from a French enjoy authored by Jacques Deval, Tovarich had a successful run on Broadway the year before the movie came out for 356 performances. Robert Sherwood did the adaption and for the screen, the talents of Casey Robinson were brought in to adapt Tovarich to other medium. Usually these collaborative efforts tend to dilute, but in the situation of Tovarich, it's bright sophisticated comedy that gives both Charles Boyer and Claudette Colbert two of their greatest screen roles.Boyer and Colbert enjoy a couple of exiled Russian nobles living in genteel poverty in Paris as so many did after the Russian Revolution. She's a bit more noble than he, Colbert is now a blood Romanov and Boyer only married into the royal family. Before he and the family were overthrown, Nicholas II gave Boyer a lot of Russian gold, smuggled out of the country which Boyer laundered to test the modern term and deposited in a French bank under his name. Although no one should have blamed him for occasionally dipping in just for the bare necessities, Boyer and Colbert have refused to do it.What they're sitting on it for, who can tell. They refuse an a request for cash from other exile Morris Carnovsky for some wild scheme to restore the Romanovs. Boyer and Colbert have woke up and smelled the coffee, the Romanov restoration just ain't happening. But what to do with that money, especially when you're living one food to the next.Colbert and Boyer take jobs as butler and maid to a wealthy Parisian family consisting of Melville Cooper, Isabel Jeans, Anita Louise, and Maurice Murphy. Reasoning after all that their former status has acquainted them somewhat with the finer things and how that life could be lived. It takes a bit of getting used to as far as the reversal of stations, but gradually they ingratiate themselves with the family.The large use comes when a dinner party is given and a Commissar from the Soviet Union played by smooth Basil Rathbone is invited. He's got some history with the Romanovs and things receive both funny and tense at the same time. A true achievement for director Anatole Litvak.Tovarich was also the source of a Broadway musical from 1963 in which Vivien Leigh starred in the Claudette Colbert role.If you think you've figured out who the nice and terrible folks are than you are in for a surprise. Tovarich takes no sides in the politics, it presents the Bolsheviks and Romanovs with all the warts showing. It does it with sparkling humor as well. Test to catch it when broadcast next.


This great tiny comedy (based on a French enjoy that Robert Sherwood rewrote) deals with a matter that was of interest around the whole globe after 1917 - 1921. What happened to the remnants of the Russian aristocracy left in tatters by the hurricane of the Bolshevik Revolution? The fact was that for most of them who fled or escaped Russia there was only poverty left to face - the nice estates and the jewelry and wealth had been confiscated by the revolutionary government of Lenin and Trotszky. A several had been smart enough to have funds and wealth in lands outside the borders of old Russia, but most never thought of it.Charles Boyer is Prince Mikhail Ouratieff and Claudette Colbert is Grand Duchess Tatiana Romanoff. You have to receive that straight first, because although Boyer is a Prince he is not of the royal blood (as Colbert is - being of the Tsar's family). They are married (and quite loving) but Colbert is of higher social rank - so in many scenes Boyer is forced to accept to her mission of view. However, Boyer has one thing that is more important. As an aide to the Tsar (one of his duties was to say Nicholas II what the weather was every day) he was entrusted before the end of the Empire with over 20 million francs of Romanoff cash kept in a French bank. This was a sign of the Tsar's nice faith in Boyer's devotion, but it was a mixed blessing. He and Colbert were caught, and she was tortured by a leading Commissar, one Dimitri Gorotchenko (Basil Rathbone). However they managed to escape.Now in Paris some dozen years after fleeing Russia they are living in poverty. All Boyer has is a sword and a flag. But French bankers are aware that he has legal game to test the million of francs in the Romanoff accounts and hope he will. Several have the illusion that the Soviet regime is going to collapse. But, as Boyer keeps insisting, the cash is not his to spend - it's the Tsar's. He was entrusted to hold it for the day of return to Holy Russia. As Boyer keeps saying, he won't spend anything: "Not a billion, not a million, not a thousand, not a sou!"But he and Colbert have to survive. They begin looking at the wish adverts and search a job for a butler and maid at the home of a Mr. and Mrs. Dupont, a wealthy banker and his wife (Melville Cooper and Isabel Jeans). There are also a daughter and son (Anita Louis and Maurice Murphy). Boyer and Colbert figure that their service to the Russian Royal Family in St. Petersburg's Court prepares them for being servants. After an initially terrible moment or two (particularly as the four Duponts are all somewhat selfish and demanding), Boyer and Colbert gradually victory the family over by their charm, their physical attractions, and their ability to figure out how to satisfy the needs of the employers and to do the different activities in the house. But they also explore the secret of labor unions, and (horrible though it may seem) how it may behoove to join one for servants.Then comes the critical point: a huge oil deal is being set up by a consortium from Britain, France, and the Netherlands, to develop two Russian oil fields. This is unheard of - and now Stalin's Russia is not too thrilled about having foreigners control their oil. So they send their greatest boy to deal with this trouble and meet Dupont and his associates. You got it - it's Rathbone. TOVARICH has now not aged too badly, even though the old Soviet Union is a thing of the past too. Boyer and Colbert create a sweet, lovable pair - willing to do anything to be successful as servants. Cooper, Jeans, Louise, and Murphy eventually present more human features, such as Cooper's momentary lapses (at one mission the banker can't recall his own name). And Rathbone, although capable of governmental viciousness (in his off-screen torturing of Colbert) now wins our respect in the end - he turns out, like Boyer and Colbert, to be as patriotic as they are. With NINOTCHKA and COMRADE X, TOVARICH makes up a trilogy of movie comedies that do paint a picture of the plight of a mighty nation struggling to regain it's feet, in the face of internal disarray and rivalries, and foreign hostility. Certainly a worthy film.



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