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Jules Verne's oft-filmed 1870 historical romance Michael Strogoff: The Courier of the Czar gets the RKO treatment in this sweeping epic produced by Pandro S. Berman. While it may seem that the studio spared no expense to bring Verne's classic novel to the big screen, the backstory is as fascinating as the film itself: Berman spent $75,000 to obtain the rights to a preexisting German adaptation of the tale, produced by Russian expatriate Joseph N. Ermolieff in both German and French, both starring Austrian actor Adolf Wohlbrck (a disciple of German theatrical impresario Max Reinhardt) as a dashing servant of Czar Alexander II who helps to quell the Tartar Revolt. To bring the material to American moviegoers, Berman adopted the labor-saving tack of lifting battle scenes and other exterior shots from the foreign language versions of the film and imported Wohlbrck to the States to appear in new footage, supported by a cast of Hollywood character actors - among them Akim Tamiroff, Fay Bainter, and Ward Bond (as a Tartar chieftain). Retitled The Soldier and the Lady (1937), the film only broke even at the box office. Anton Walbrook drifted to Great Britain, where he took the lead in the original film adaptation of Gaslight (1940), though he was replaced by Charles Boyer in the 1944 MGM remake. Co- producer Ermolieff later shopped his original footage to Mexico, where it was folded yet again into an entirely new adaptation, this time starring Julin Soler in the title role.
By Richard Harland Smith