Nicholas and Alexandra

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Nicholas & Alexandra is a 1971 drama about the rule and family life of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Imperial Russia, and the eventual rise of the Soviet Union.

Directed by Franklin Schaffner

The man who lost an empire because he could not say no to his wife

First lines of film

[Tsarista Alexandra has just given birth to her fifth child; Tsar Nicholas is sitting by a family portrait of himself and his four daughters when Count Fredricks, his chief of staff, enters the room]
Count Fredericks:<Showing tears of joy>: 'Mon cher!' (My good man!)
Tsar Nicholas II:"A son? I have a son?"
Count Fredericks: "Eight pounds."
Tsar Nicholas II:"And Sunny? Is she all right?"
Count Fredericks: "Oh yes. Shall I make the announcement?"
[Nicholas II nods in the affirmative. Count Fredericks exits room; Nicholas II is musing to himself]
Tsar Nicholas II:"It is incredible. I have a son!"

Tsar Nicholas II

[A moment alone with his wife after she has given birth to a baby boy]
  • The boy will bring us luck. It has all changed. I have a son to fight for now. We will smash the Japanese and drive them from Korea and I do not care what the cost will be!
[After hearing the advice of his prime minister and supreme commander that the Russo-Japanese War is costing too many Russian lives and recommended a troop withdrawal]
  • The Russia my father gave me never lost a war. What shall I say to my son when his time comes? That I was weak? That I had no pride? We shall fight on to victory.
[Considering the fact that Russia is the last European nation, and the only European country during the 20th Century, to still have an autocracy, or absolute monarchy]
  • The Windsors have a parliament. Our British cousins gave their rights away. So did the Hapsburgs, and the Hohrenzollens too. The Romanovs will not. What I was given, I will give my son.
[On his train car riding through Russian villages during the 300th anniversary of the Romanov family ruling Russia. Russian peasants are seen waving at the royal family's train as it passes by their villages.]
  • I did not want to come on this tour. But by God, I do so love it when they stand and wave!
[At an opera performance in Kiev; Prime Minister Stolypin has just been assassinated. A woman screams and a panic ensues. The Tsar is taken to an upper level floor where an aide briefs him on the current developments of the situation. Although the aide is listening, it appears more that the Tsar is talking to himself as his men are moving rapidly.]
  • Stolypin is a good man. They always kill the good ones. I cannot find a match. Does anyone have a match? [The Tsar is nervously fumbling trying to light a cigarette. One of his aides lights the cigarette, then tells him the assassin has been apprehended, and informs him it was a revolutionary] It happened with my grandfather too. He helped the serfs; he freed them. So how did the peasants express their gratitude? They threw a bomb at him. Damn those revolutionaries. You try to help them by giving them what they want and what do you get for it? Bombs, gunshots, assassinations! I want them rooted out. I want something done, do you understand me? I want them paid in kind!

Tsaritsa Alexandra

[After her doctors have concluded that her son Alexei has hemophilia; she tells her reaction to her husband]
  • Tell them they are mistaken. Tell them we shall go to other doctors. Tell them to get out! My son is perfect! He will lead a long life, and grow up to be a great Tsar, like his father!

Tsarevitch Alexei

  • Alexei, Alexei, must not run and must not climb. Alexei, Alexei, must not jump and must be careful all the time!
[Alexei is seen climbing rocks. Everyone runs in shock when they see the hemophiliac boy attempt such a dangerous stunt. Nagorny, the Russian sailor assigned to protect the Tsarevitch, climbs up the rocks after him. Alexei suddenly falls, but is immediately caught in a bear hug by Nagorny]
  • It is all right Nagorny. You caught me. You will always be there to catch me.

Prime Minister Witte

  • The people want more schools and health clinics, laws to protect the workers, and the right to vote for an elected Duma. They are angry sir, and they are serious. Imagine sire, imagine if you would, that you are a factory worker living in Vladivostok or Saint Petersburg. You are really poor; meals almost never fill your belly. You freeze eight months out of the year. Your children have no school; no doctors. Your country taxes you, and sends the men a continent away to die for a piece of land on the Pacific Ocean. Imagine all that you have to deal with. You must give your people a little of what they want. Not everything mind you; just a taste.

[The Russian flag officers are all celebrating and congratulating themselves on their war plans and believe their entry into the First World War will be quick and painless for Russia. Witte, now retired, is trying in vain to convince them and the Tsar of the dire consequences of what World War One will do. It seems Witte is prophetic in predicting the rise of the Soviet Union, the rise of Nazi Germany, and the eventual coming of the Second World War]
  • None if you will be here when this war ends. Everything we worked to build will be destroyed. There is no question another great war will come. The societies and kingdoms of Europe we knew will crumble, and out of the wreckage madmen and lunatics will come to power. And the world will grow old.

Grand Duke Nicholas

[Describing to Nicholas II the logistics problems of the Russo-Japanese War; holding a bullet]
  • Well, Nicky, let me put it this way. This is a bullet, munitioned in Saint Petersburg. I send it off to war. How does it get there? On a single spur of railroad track four thousand miles long, and in the middle, no track at all. God help us, it spends three days packed on sleds. It works the same way for every pair of boots, first aid kit, or pound of tea we send. Get out now, Nicky. While there is time!

[An unnamed forest on the front lines. Grand Duke Nicholas, who has been the longtime supreme commander of the Russian military, has been relieved of duty and replaced by the Tsar. His passdown to the Tsar is to retreat and preserve as many Russian lives as possible. When the Tsar mentions the Tsaritsa sends her love, the Grand Duke shares the same anger at the Tsar having a German wife as do many of his soldiers]
  • I could have won this war if I was only fighting one enemy in front of me, the Germans, but I had two enemies ready to stab me in the back. Your wife and her monk! You know, he actually wrote a letter to me requesting permission to come to the front lines so he could bless the soldiers. I wrote back telling him if he ever showed his face here I would hang him. I was an idiot to say that. Should have let him come; we would have hung him when he got here!

the new

Grigori Rasputin

  • I studied late to be a starets (faith healer). I was twenty when this vision came. We peasants get them all the time. The Virgin Mary appears to us, she tells us when to sell our sheep when we want to make a profit. She told me to start walking, so I did. I kept walking throughout Europe and I waited for Her to tell me when to stop walking, but she did not. When I got to Greece I could walk no more, so I resided in a monastery for two years and then proceeded to walk back to Russia again. Sometimes people ask me "What do I need to become a starets." and I respond "Good feet".
  • All saints were sinners once. God loves sinners.

Vladmir Lenin

  • You must understand that you are free to say whatever you like. You must also understand that I am free to shoot you for saying it.
[Lenin is living in a squalid apartment in France. The Bolshevik party is in big trouble; having been infiltarted by the Ohkrana and is near ruin. Lenin is not faring well himself having to go into exile. He is confirming his depression to his wife.]
  • In my ten years of exile, I have only been to Russia three months. I speak, no one listens to me. I write, no one bothers to read what I publish. I am out of style, no one is wearing me this season. I know what happens to expatriates; they go mad or they fade away in lands they are not native to. Is this all there is. I mean, three hundred years of Romanovs. What is there to say there will not be three hundred more?

Leon Trotsky

[At an a secret location printing out copies of Pravda, a Bolshevik party newspaper, which at this time is an underground publication. Lenin chides him on an article criticizing him]
  • Lenin thinks freedom is something you write on a wall but you do not actually practice. I do not understand you. You hate anyone who is not your kind of Bolshevik more than you hate the Tsar. No wonder why they call you Robespierre. Everybody has got to think like you are they are out!
[Commenting on the Bloody Sunday massacre and Russo-Japanese War]
  • Look at this, a massacre in Saint Petersburg! People were shot by the palace guards and Russia is in a riot! This time the Tsar has outdone himself. There is raw, naked power in the streets, just waiting for us to claim it! On top of that, the Japanese have forced Nicholas to accept peace on their terms. He has lost the war and all for nothing!

Father Gapon

[Addressing a group of peasants about taking their grievances to the Tsar]
  • The Tsar is here in Saint Petersburg to bless the troops. He is staying at the Winter Palace. This Sunday, hundreds of us will walk to the palace in a peaceful parade. I will meet him on the balcony and read this: Your Majesty, we the working men and women of Saint Petersburg come to you seeking justice and protection. Only you can hear our grievances. If you do not help us, we will stay here and die, right in this very courtyard.
[Soldiers have opened fire on the peasants, culminating in the infamous Bloody Sunday. Ambulance drivers are taking away the killed and wounded; Petya's wife Sonya is among the dead. His toddler is crying for his mother and he is in shocked having been now widowered by the massacre. Father Gapon is dishevled and his idealism in peaceful reform is shattered]
  • He did not come. He never came. Nicholas the murderer. The bloody, bloody murderer!

Colonel Volkov

[At a war gaming scenario discussing Russia's impending involvement in the First World War. Colonel Volkov and other military officers are convinced their war plan is flawless and show great overconfidence, which was also common in all other nations involved in World War One]
  • They will not last a week. We will bury the German Army and that little pansy of a Kaiser and be home in time for Christmas!


[Nicholas & Alexandra are going to a birthday ball in honor of his mother; the Empress Dowager]
Tsarista Alexandra: "Oh Nicky, do we have to go? Can't we just say I have a headache."
Tsar Nicholas II: "It is my mother's birthday. You are too old for that now."
Tsaritsa Alexandra: "You never see unpleasant things. You drift away. I even wonder if you hear me half the time."
Tsar Nicholas II: "Just now I find you all too audible."
Tsaritsa Alexandra: "Nicky, guess what?"
Tsar Nicholas II: "You have got your headache."
[Both chuckle]

[The Empress Dowager has a moment alone with her son, the Tsar, at her birthday party]]
Empress Dowager Marie: "Witte had tea with me today."
Tsar Nicholas II: "Oh, did he?"
Empress Dowager Marie: "He ate all my sturgeon but he never stopped talking. Clever man! He talked about the war like everyone else. He thinks..."
Tsar Nicholas II<cutting her off>: "I know what he thinks."
Empress Dowager Marie: "Nicky, will you please let me finish. I know I am not as clever as everybody makes me out to be but I do know this. Witte thinks we cannot afford wars. They are too ambitious. I very much agree with him. We are an 18th Century nation trying to make it in a 20th Century world. Get out of Korea and forget about Japan. We need all our strength, resources, and money to look after Russia. Do not waste it on those little yellow Buddhists, pagans, or whatever the heck they are called. You only encourage them by taking them seriously."
Tsar Nicholas II: "I am 36 years old, Mama. You must let me look after this war on my own."
Empress Dowager Marie: "It is as your father always said..."
Tsar Nicholas II<again cutting her off as she has hit a sore point>: "Thank you for your kind advice."

[At the Empress Dowager's birthday ball. The Tsar and Tsaritsa are performing a solo dance in front of all the guests]
Tsaritsa Alexandra: "May I say something intimate?"
Tsar Nicholas II: "In public?"
Tsaritsa Alexandra: "I will whisper it."
Tsar Nicholas II:"Well, if you must."
Tsaritsa Alexandra:"Nicky, I adore you."

[At a chapel in the Tsarskoe Selo palace. Tsaritsa Alexandra, dressed in black, is arranging wood carvings of saints on a table. Her baby boy has suffered a hemophilia attack and she is beggging for the recovery of her son. Rasputin enters.]
Tsaritsa Alexandra: "I know there is supposed to be a proper arrangement of the saints. Now I cannot even remember all their names."
Rasputin: "It does not matter Matushka (Mother of the Russian people), they know you."

Rasputin: "God works in mysterious ways, Matushka. There was a man in Prokovskoe. He did not work or wash himself. He drank, he stole, he lied, he chased after all the peasant girls. Why then, of all people, did the Virgin Mary come to him?
Tsaritsa Alexandra: "Maybe he lied. You said he was a liar."
Rasputin: "No, Matushka', she came. I saw her. God is here. Pray with me, Matushka.
[A large open area. Alexander Kerensky is with a group of men protesting the Russo-Japanese War]
Men (shouting in unison): "NO!"
Alexander Kerensky: "More men! Port Arthur falls and Nicholas is sending more men!"
Men (shouting in unison): "NO!"
Alexander Kerensky: "I say we students lead the way!"
Men (shouting in unison): "YEAH!"
Alexander Kerensky: "I say we give Nicholas a Port Arthur right here!"
Men (shouting in unison): "YEAH!"
[Russian soldiers march into the area to draft the men into military service]
Alexander Kerensky: "They are coming for us. Now, do we run or do we fight?"
Men (shouting in unison): "WE FIGHT!"
[Kerensky and the men rush the soldiers; who proceed to club the men for their resistance to conscription. Kerensky is knocked to the floor]

[A ghastly textile factory in Saint Petersburg. People are toiling, harvesting fiber. The factory also doubles as squalid living quarters for the peasants. An old lady is lying on a wooden slab which serves as her deathbed. Petya, a peasant man, is leading Father Georgi Gapon his dying mother, as Sonya, his wife, looks on]]
Petya: "This way Father, please hurry!"
Sonya: "It is too late Petya. She has died."
[Petya then appears clearly upset at the loss of his mother, Sonya places his arm around him while Father Gapon kneels to give his now-decased mother Extreme Unction and say a prayer of the dead for her]]
Petya: "My mother spent her whole life here. She was born in this factory, grew up here, took her classes here, played here, got married here. I was born, Father died, I got married here and had children. And now it is all over for her. The other people here just keep on working. Well, I cannot blame them, they have to work to feed their families. Father, I have a confession to make. I want to kill somebody. The other factory workers come visit me sometime, they tell me we ought to make bombs, blow things up. Well, I want to fight back for once!"
Father Gapon: "The only thing violence produces is more violence. They will beat you and throw you in jail. There is a better way. We will go to see the Tsar with our grievances."
Sonya: "You know the saying Father. God is too high and the Tsar is too far away."

[The "Bloody Sunday" massacre has just occurred. Tsar Nicholas II furiously storms into his office to see Prime Minister Witte]
Tsar Nicholas II: "How many dead?"
Prime Minister Witte: "Sir, we are still counting, but it is estimated to be in the hundreds."
Tsar Nicholas II: "Who gave the order to fire upon them?"
Prime Minister Witte: "Your Majesty, nobody ordered it."
Tsar Nicholas II: "You run this government. Somebody had to have ordered something!"
Prime Minister Witte: "Would you have gone out to meet them?"
Tsar Nicholas II: "Of course not."
Prime Minister Witte: "Would you have given them a Duma? Allowed them to have elections? Had schools and hospitals built for them?"
Tsar Nicholas II: "How could I?"
Prime Minister Witte: "THEN WHY BOTHER TO INFORM YOU ABOUT THIS?! You would not have done anything!"

[The Tsar is meeting with Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin (Witte's successor) at the Livadia Palace by the Crimean Sea]
Prime Minister Stolypin: "One finds these in Saint Petersburg everywhere. The drawings are crude, but you get the idea of what they mean."
[Stolypin shows the Tsar vulgar cartoons of himself and the Tsaritsa sitting in Rasputin's lap. Another cartoon shows the Tsaritsa topless with Rasputin]
Tsar Nicholas II: "Damn it! What is wrong with the Ohkrana? Cannot 10,000 secret agents find a printing press? I want it stopped!"
[The Tsar angrily crumples up the cartoons and throws them over the rocks into the Crimean Sea]
Prime Minister Stolypin: "It is not just one printing press. The agents cannot find them all. Nobody knows why you have allowed Rasputin into the palace."
Tsar Nicholas II: "You know why."
Prime Minister Stolypin: "Yes, but the people do not."
Tsar Nicholas II: "I suppose I should tell them, shall I. Very well, I shall make the annoucement. <Somewhat stately voice> "Citizens, your Tsarevitch could have a nosebleed and die from it."
Prime Minister Stolypin: I have these as well." [Stolypin hands the Tsar a dossier] "Police reports on Grigori Efifmovitch Rasputin. Drunk half the time. Chases after all the women of Saint Petersburg. Oh, he is generous with himself, I will give him that, it is his only Christian virtue. Whores, officer's wives, the list goes on. You have to banish him from the palace; away from Saint Petersburg. I cannot control the situation if you do not. People are spreading rumors that he goes to bed with your wife and daughters!"

[Following the murder of Prime Minister Stolypin, the Tsar orders a string of crackdowns. The conspirators behind Stolypin's assassinations are convicted and executed; but various crackdowns on civil liberties occur and police brutality is left unchecked. The Tsar also orders the dissolving of the Duma. Russian police are standing by to escort the Duma members out. Alexander Kerensky, now a member of Duma, is protesting this]
Alexander Kerensky: "Tell the Tsar that he can close this building, but he cannot close the Duma or the concept of the Russian people being represented in government!"
Members of the Duma<in unison>: "HEAR, HEAR!"
Duma President: "Mr. Kerensky, I have the floor. You will not speak out of turn!"
Alexander Kerensky: "The Duma is not a street corner. We are not rebels and bombmakers. Most of us want a system like the English do. Let there be a Tsar. But let there be representative government and the rule of law as well. Bring the Tsar here and let him be told that."
Members of the Duma: "HEAR, HEAR!"
Duma President: "The Tsar is not here right now. He is at his hunting lodge in Poland."
Alexander Kerenksy: "I do not care if he is in Scotland shooting wild grouse! Go tell the Tsar that by dissolving the Duma he is bring ruin upon his head and that he cannot silence the voice of the Russian people. Tell him now! Tell him, while there is still a Tsar left to tell!"

[Rasputin is in his home village in Siberia. He is riding on a horse and drinking liquor straight from the bottle. He sees three beautiful peasant girls shoveling hay into a horse drawn cart and approaches the ladies. The cart is then seen moving as a nun is walking by]
Nun: "Good day, and the Lord be with you."
[The nun is then shocked to see the three peasant women emerge from the hay cart in the nude and giggling. Rasputin then also emerges shirtless, still seen drunk and guzzling from his liquor bottle]
Grigori Rasputin: "And the Lord be with you!"
[Rasputin laughs in a drunken manner; the nun crosses herself at seeing such a spectacle]

[Sarejevo, Serbia. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Crown Prince of Austria, and his wife are riding in a motorcade waving to spectators. A man comes out of the crowd and guns them both down. Scene changes to Tsarskoe Selo. The Tsarevitch Alexei awakens screaming as it was a nightmare of his. The Tsar, Tsaritsa, and their four daughters are awakened by the screaming and run to Alexei's room to see what is the matter.]
Grand Duchess Olga: "What is it Alexei, what is wrong?"
Tsaritsa Alexandra: "It is all right darling, we are here"
Tsarevitch Alexei: "There were royals in a car; a man shot them..."
Tsar Nicholas II: "You were dreaming about Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This is what happened..."
Tsaritsa Alexandra<interrupting him>: "Nicky, please do not tell them those horrible things."
Tsar Nicholas II: "Sunny, they are not children anymore. They have to know these things. Franz Ferdinand's assassination is bad for the royal family of Austria. It is also an unbelievable burden and sadness for the family of the assassin. You see, sometimes governments do things their people do not like. So the people react in different ways. The British vote. The Americans frequently remind their leaders they must be loyal to the U.S. Constitution. And the Serbs throw bombs. You see, Serbia wants its independence. But Austria will not grant it to them. So the Serbs resort to violence. It has happened in this country too sometimes. Your great-grandfather was killed by a bomb, so was Uncle Sergei. But Serbia is a long way away. Our foreign ministry will write some angry letters to the Serbian leaders, our generals will go on exercise and everything will be right again. And we do not need have bad dreams about archdukes. All over Europe kings and queens are sleeping safely in their beds, and that is what we are going to do too."

[The Tsar is meeting with his flag officers to discuss troop movements as the Austrians have engaged in a military exercise near the Russian border. It looks imminent that Russia will be hurtled into the First World War. Retired Prime Minister Witte is trying to convince the Tsar not to agitiate any other nation. He is sending a receiving telegrams to Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, the so called "Willy & Nicky" correspondences]
Military Aide: "Your Majesty, good news. I have a personal telegram from the Kaiser offering to mediate between us and Austria!"
Tsar Nicholas II: "I knew I could count on Willy! You see?"
Prime Minister Witte: "With all due respect to your cousin sire, the Kaiser is a deceitful megalomaniac. If he is offering to help, then it is really time for us to start praying."

[The overconfident flag officers have concluded their operations plans and have started drinking champagne. Suddenly the Tsar enters with his ministers and Grand Duke Nicholas. All the soldiers immediately stand at attention as the Tsar enters. A somber looking Tsar orders the men at ease and prepares to deliver shocking news]
Tsar Nicholas II: "Gentlemen, Germany has declared war on Russia.
Grand Duke Nicholas: "God save Russia."
Flag officers (in unison): "God save the Tsar."

[In an unnamed nation, presumably Poland, Belarus, or Austria. Ragged Russian soldiers are lined up in formation. Colonel Volkov, his mood now much more depressed and realistic from his prewar overconfidence a couple of years ago, is inspecting soldiers, who are poorly equipped. The Imperial Russian Army, unable to afford being selective, has drafted many types of men to become soldiers, from teenage boys just barely finishing puberty to old men with white beards. Volkov confers with an inferior officer.]
Colonel Volkov: "The men have orders to be on the front line tonight. Do we have any horses or motor transport?"
Russian Major: "No sir, there is none available for our unit."
Colonel Volkov: "Very well, then they have to walk."
Russian Major: "Right face!" <Soldiers face right> "Forward, march!" <Major leads the soldiers marching down the road>
[Colonel Volkov walks off in the opposite direction and reclines under a tree. He takes one last look at the clouds, sky, and falling leaves from the trees as he unholsters his pistol and places it in his mouth. Camera zooms off screen as the sound of a gunshot is heard, indicating Colonel Volkov has taken his own life]

[Another unnamed combat zone. Two ragged enlisted men have just killed a rabbit for their meal and are skinning it and cooking it over a fire; their only source of food as they are not regularly fed. A Russian captain orders them to stop what they are doing and get themselves in gear]
Russian Captain: "We have orders to deploy. Pick up your rifles and get going!"
Russian Private: "Bug off! We're eating!"
Russian Captain: "I said move! NOW!"
[One of the enlisted men picks up his rifle, loads it and without the faintest fear of a court-martial, aims it at the superior officer and opens fire. This scene is indicative of the rampant mutiny and lack of discipline in the Russian military during World War One]

[A military hospital. The Tsaritsa and her daughters are volunteering as candy stripers to aid in the care of wonunded Russian soldiers. The Tsaritsa's German heritage is heavily damaging the reputation of the royal family, despite the fact she is loyal to Russia and has been doing a lot to aid the war wounded. A bedridden Russian soldier growls as she passes by]
Russian Medical Officer: "Quiet! She will hear you!"
Russian Corporal: "Like I care." (more muffled tone)"German bitch."

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