This enjoyable comedy of manners and politics features Colbert and Boyer as two members of the Russian monarchy who had fled to Paris after the Bolshevik revolution. Before leaving, Boyer had been entrusted by the Czar with a fortune, which comes to billions of dollars' worth of French francs. The money now sits in a bank, for Boyer and Colbert do not want...read more
This enjoyable comedy of manners and politics features Colbert and Boyer as two members of the Russian monarchy who had fled to Paris after the Bolshevik revolution. Before leaving, Boyer had been entrusted by the Czar with a fortune, which comes to billions of dollars' worth of French
francs. The money now sits in a bank, for Boyer and Colbert do not want to spend a single centime. Instead, the former royal couple now live in utter poverty. To make ends meet, they swallow hard and take jobs as servants, working in the home of Cooper, an extremely wealthy man. Cooper and his
wife, Jeans, throw a fancy party, and among the invited guests is Rathbone, a high-ranking Soviet official. Rathbone takes one look at the help and exposes their secret. Now Cooper and Jeans are thrown into a real dilemma: do they treat Boyer and Colbert like servants, or dispense with their
services and treat the couple like royalty? Boyer and Colbert are furious, with a deep-seated anger directed at Rathbone. Not only has he exposed the pair, he had also participated in a sadistic interrogation of Boyer before he and Colbert fled Russia. Rathbone now asks Boyer for the Czar's
fortune to help Russia, lest the government have to give up some valuable oil fields to foreign interests. Boyer at first refuses, but Colbert, insisting that the money will help the Russian people, eventually talks him into it. Cooper and Jeans realize what good servants they are, and Cooper
invites them to remain in his employ. TOVARICH (the Russian word for "comrade") is a clever comedy, with some charming moments nestled in the satirical situation. Boyer dispenses with his well-known French accent for that of a Russian, ironically playing a Russian exiled in France. It's slightly
schizophrenic, but Boyer's talents make the unusual combination work, though Boyer was initially unhappy with this idea. Litvak's direction shows a good comic flair, though he is no stylist in the Ernest Lubitsch vein. Litvak's delays on the set cost the production a good sum. He insisted on
expensive camera setups for minor scenes, then demanded his own editor, Henri Rust, be used for the cutting. Litvak had been pushed by agent Charles Feldman as a terrific European prodigy. Feldman managed to persuade studio boss Jack Warner, and he, in turn, pushed Litvak onto producer Lord.
Because of Feldman's terrific con job, Lord was not allowed to meet Litvak until production was to begin. In addition, Lord wanted to work on the script, but Warner forbade him. Eventually Litvak began work on the film, and as the problems mounted, his reputation fell. Other problems arose between
costars Colbert and Boyer when it came to flattering their respective egos. Colbert was insistent that the left side of her face was her most photogenic and demanded camera angles to flatter this aspect. Boyer also felt that his left side was his best, thus creating the ultimate Hollywood
filmmaker's nightmare. Somehow, between Litvak's excesses and the costars quibbles, TOVARICH worked--an enjoyable, if not terribly memorable comedy.