As with my Suicide Squad article, you can watch the video below for all the information, or read the article below if videos aren't your thing. Either way, the information is 100% the same, though the video has a lot more images.
A Family Friendly Family Execution!
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who will tell you that Anastasia is one of the best non-Disney animated films out there, and those who thought the movie was actually made by Disney. Back in 1997, 20th Century Fox and Don Bluth brought the world Anastasia! A magical, animated feature film based on the real life mystery of the grand duchess who supposedly went missing back in 1918 and that many hoped had survived when her family was executed. This movie became a critical and commercial success and is even seen by many as a classic that can easily stand toe-to-toe with some of Disney’s best efforts.
The Movie In a Nutshell
Just to recap briefly, this movie takes place in early 20th century Russia where Tsar Nicholas II is hosting a grand ball and his mother, Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, is visiting from Paris. Marie gives a music box and necklace to her youngest granddaughter Anastasia as a parting gift. However, Rasputin interrupts the event. He places a curse on the Tsar and his family for banishing him and tells them they will all be dead within the fortnight.
Rasputin’s curse sparks the Russian Revolution that sees an end to the monarchy and the demise of the royal family, with the exception of Marie and Anastasia who managed to escape. They almost break free completely, but Anastasia fails to board a train with her grandmother, and is left behind, hitting her head and losing her memories...
Ten years later, Russia is now under communist rule and Marie is offering ten million rubles (Soviet currency) to anyone who could reunite her with her granddaughter. The now older Anastasia meets Dimitri and Vladimir – two con men that want to use her resemblance to the lost duchess to get the reward money from Marie.
It is only through their travels together that they discover that she really is the missing Anastasia and then go on to eventually reunite her with her grandmother in Paris. Rasputin attempts to kill Anastasia, but fails and in the end is destroyed. Dimitri and Anastasia elope, giving the movie a happy ending that families everywhere could enjoy.
Doesn’t that ending make you feel all happy and fuzzy inside? Then you better grab a flashlight, because things are going to get real dark..
I feel like this should be more widely known, but I’ve met a fair share of people who didn’t know that Anastasia and the rest of the Tsar’s family actually existed!
Anastasia Romanov was born on June 8th, 1901 and was the fourth daughter to Tsar Nicholas II. The Tsar and his extended family were all disappointed that she was born a girl since they had all hoped for a boy that could become heir to the throne. The Tsar’s children, despite being royalty, were all raised as simply as possible. They slept on hard cots with no pillows, took cold baths, cleaned their own rooms, and even did needlework that would be sold for charities.
Anastasia grew up a happy and energetic child and Margaretta Eagar – a governess to the four duchesses – even remarked that Anastasia had the greatest personal charm of any child she had ever seen. She was a bright and gifted child, but she was also as mischievous as they come. In fact, the son of the court physician is quoted saying that “she undoubtedly held the record for punishable deeds in her family.” Not only did she trip her servants and play pranks on her tutors, but she would also climb trees and refuse to come down. The young duchess was not one to bother much about her appearance like her three other sisters and was definitely a wilder spirit.
During World War I, Anastasia and her sister Maria would visit wounded soldiers. Though they were both too young to become official Red Cross nurses like their mother and older sisters, they would play games of billiards and checkers with the soldiers in an effort to lift their spirits and Anastasia became recognized there for her squirrel-like laugh.
In February of 1917, Anastasia and the rest of her family were placed under house arrest at the Alexander Palace during the Russian Revolution. The stress of captivity began to take its toll on the duchess and she wrote to a friend saying “Goodbye” and “Don’t forget us.” Anastasia and her other sisters would also regularly sew jewels into their dresses to hide them from their captors.
While in captivity, Anastasia always tried to find ways to enjoy herself. She and other members of the household would perform plays for the enjoyment of her parents. Her tutor, Sydney Gibbes, would say that it was Anastasia’s performances that made everyone howl with laughter.
One night, the family was awakened and told to get dressed because they were being moved to a new location to ensure their safety. After doing so, the family, some servants, and their physician were all moved into the house’s basement and told to wait for further instruction. A few moments later Yakov Yurovsky and a handful of guards entered the room and informed the Tsar that they were all going to be executed. The Tsar only had enough time to say “What?” and look at his family before he and everyone else in the room was riddled with bullets.
Once the smoke had cleared. It was revealed that Anastasia and her sister Maria were both still alive due to the jewels they had sewn into their clothes. The two girls had crouched up against a wall, covering their heads in terror. The soldiers shot them again, this time killing them both.
Unlike in the animated film, Anastasia’s grandmother did not live in Paris, but instead was in Russia. She received the reports that her son and his family were all executed and publicly rejected this as nothing but a rumor. She refused to believe this news and in her diary wrote, “I am sure they all got out of Russia and now the Bolsheviks are trying to hide the truth.” She could never come to accept the reality of what happened to her son, and always had hope that they survived. She never put out a reward for her missing family like the movie suggested, and continued to be a heartbroken old woman.
Marie remained in denial until her own death ten years later at the age of eighty.
Contrary to what the animated film makes you think, Grigori Rasputin was actually a dear friend of the Romanov family. He was no sorcerer, he did not betray them and he was never banished. Rasputin would write several letters to the Tsar pleading with him to seek peaceful solutions in times of turmoil and was an overall spiritual and peaceful man.
When the Tsar finally gave birth to a son, he was born with Hemophilia B, a hereditary disease that prevents blood from clotting properly. Many Russian doctors and medics attempted to treat the Tsar’s son but the bleeding only got worse. Desperate, the Tsar’s wife Alexandra called Rasputin as a last resort who told her that God had heard her prayers and to not let the doctors trouble her son because he would not die. Coincidentally, the hemorrhaging stopped the next day and the young heir began to recover. It is from this moment on that Alexandra believed in Rasputin and defended anyone that would speak ill against him.
Rasputin was also very close to the four duchesses and would often talk to them about religion and spirituality. In December, 1916 – Rasputin was assassinated.
The four grand duchesses appeared cold and visibly upset by the news of their friend’s death. Rasputin was buried with an icon signed on the back, made by Anastasia, her mother and sisters. The royal family had intended on building a church over the site of Rasputin’s grave before they themselves were killed. After the royal family was executed, it was found that Anastasia and all her sisters wore amulets bearing Rasputin’s picture and a prayer.
There are those that are very critical of his close ties to the Romanov family, while there are others that just see Rasputin as loyal friend to the family and a man of peace. What he was NOT, however, was a man who sold his soul to the Devil and had a personal vendetta against the family, wanting them all dead.
I understand that the source material behind the movie was very complex. I also know that the possibility of a long-lost duchess that survived her family’s execution builds the foundation for an interesting tale. What I don’t understand though is why Don Bluth and company had to necessarily title the movie 'Anastasia.' They could have made this movie based in almost any country, changing the names of the characters and it would have still been a good movie.
I admit, I liked this movie quite a bit when I was younger, but as I grew older and learned the actual history behind the movie, it started to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Rasputin was a dear friend to the family and in the animated film, he’s reduced to a two dimensional villain that is directly responsible for the family being killed.