Cast & Crew
In Russia in 1918, Count Alexander Volsky goes to the office of the Kharkov Times to offer his old friend Anton Kalenin, the paper's editor, a manuscript. The count has been suffering financial hardship ever since the Soviets confiscated his estates and henceforth, hopes to sell the manuscript. Upon learning that Anton has died and his daughter Nadina has taken over the paper, Volsky hands the document to her and explains that it was written by Fedja Michailovitch Petroff, Nadina's former fiancé. After Volsky confides that Fedja is unaware that he has taken the manuscript, he admits that he is unable to read the document because his glasses were destroyed during the revolution. Taking pity on her old friend, Nadina gives Volsky twenty rubles. After Volsky departs, Nadina opens the document and begins reading Fedja's memoir of his life seven years earlier: In a summer resort near Kharkov, Fedja, the magistrate of the district, is engaged to Nadina. One day while visiting the count's estate, Fedja strolls into the garden with Volsky. When a summer storm strikes, they take refuge in the garden house and find Olga, the woodcutter's daughter, napping there. Startled, Olga awakens and soon after, Urbenin, the overseer of the count's estate, appears and sends her home to her father. In the squalor of her father's dwelling, Olga dreams of marrying royalty and living in luxury. Later, Urbenin visits the woodcutter's cottage and tries to woo Olga with the gift of a pair of boots. Nadina, meanwhile, is uncomfortable with Fedja's friendship with the count, who she criticizes as decadent, the embodiment of all that is wrong with Russia. While riding home from church one afternoon, Fedja meets Olga walking along the road. Enchanted by her beauty, he offers her a ride home, and when she mounts his horse, he kisses her. Soon after, Fedja visits the count and is shocked when Urbenin enters the parlor to announce his engagement to Olga. On a whim, the count offers to hold the wedding at his private chapel, and Fedja cynically suggests inviting the surrounding aristocracy to the event. Nadina attends the ceremony with Fedja, and under her plate, she finds a dance card on which Fedja has written "I love you." After the ceremony, Fedja finds himself alone with Olga, and realizing that he is madly in love with her, passionately kisses her. Nadina, witnessing their embrace, leaves the party and breaks her engagement to Fedja. As Nadina departs for Kharkov to work on her father's paper, Fedja continues his affair with Olga, who begins to accept the attentions of the count as well. While in the woods on a hunting expedition with Olga and the count, Fejda finds Olga lounging alone in the grass and confesses that he cannot live without her. In response, she declares that she is going to marry the count for his money and begins to taunt Fedja. As the count rings the dinner bell to call Olga to a picnic, Clara, a maid on the estate, finishes a swim in the lake and begins dressing in a shed. Peeking through a crack in the wall, she sees a man's hands dropping a dagger into the lake. While wandering through the woods, Urbenin finds Olga's nearly lifeless body and notifies Volsky, who rushes her to his house. Soon after, Fedja is summoned to the count's, where Olga lies dying, stabbed by her own dagger. When Olga dies before she can reveal the name of her assailant, Volsky accuses Urbenin of killing her out of jealousy. Later, Fedja is on the verge of resigning his judgeship when he learns that Clara has found the murder weapon and can identify Olga's killer. When Fejda questions Clara, she states that although she did not see the murderer's face, she can identify him by his hands. As she begins to describe the ring that he was wearing, she recognizes it as Fedja's and panics. Promising never to betray Fedja, Clara remains silent about the ring. When, at the trial, she incriminates Urbenin by testifying that the hands she saw were those of a peasant, Fejda rises to confess, but his courage fails him. Found guilty, Urbenin is sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor in Siberia. As Nadina closes the manuscript, she tucks it into an envelope and addresses it to the police. When Fedja learns that Volsky has given his work to Nadina, he rushes to the newspaper office. After confessing the torment of his guilty conscience, Fedja begs Nadina to start life anew with him. Refusing, she hands him the manuscript, offering him one last chance at redemption. He accepts it, crosses the street and drops it into a mailbox. A moment later, however, Fedja decides to retrieve his manuscript from the mailman. When the mailman refuses to surrender the envelope, a fight ensues and the police are called. Shot, Fejda dies in Nadina's arms. The only identification found on his body is Nadina's dance card from the wedding with the words "I love you" written on it.
Edward Everett Horton
Richard De Wesse
The working titles of this film were The Moon, Their Mistress, Strange Confession and Goodbye My Love. The viewed print was incomplete, and consequently, the onscreen credits and the summary were partially reconstructed through a cutting continuity. Although a Hollywood Reporter production chart places Richard Bailey in the cast, his participation in the released film has not been confirmed. According to a pre-production news item in Hollywood Reporter, for the making of the film, director Douglas Sirk spent a week consulting with Mikhail Kalatozov, the head of USSR cinema in the United States. The picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score. In a modern interview, Sirk stated that in addition to his real name, he used the pseudonym "Michael O'Hara" for his adaptation credit because the budget called for two writers. Sirk also noted that Eugene Schuftan photographed most of the picture but was unable to receive credit because he was not a member of the cinematographer's guild. For further information about Schuftan's situation, see entry above for Bluebeard.