Doctor Zhivago (1965)

197 mins | Drama | 22 December 1965

Director:

David Lean

Writer:

Robert Bolt

Producer:

Carlo Ponti

Cinematographer:

F. A. Young

Editor:

Norman Savage

Production Designer:

John Box

Production Company:

Carlo Ponti Productions
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HISTORY

Doctor Zhivago is based on a novel of the same name by Russian writer Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, first printed in Nov 1957 by Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in the midst of political controversy. Pasternak, who emerged as one of Russia’s leading poets and intellectuals in the early 1920s, was defamed as “an enemy of the people” by Communist bureaucrats, and exiled into solitude by the early 1930s, as noted in the novel’s 7 Sep 1958 NYT review. Doctor Zhivago was written in parts over many years, chronicling Russian life from Imperialism through the October Revolution, civil war, and Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge of intellectual liberty and political dissent. It was also a semi-autobiographical account of Pasternak’s longstanding, extramarital love affair with fellow poet, translator, and literary editor Olga Ivinskaya, who became his secretary and was imprisoned by Communists in an attempt to intimidate Pasternak. Although Doctor Zhivago was banned from publication in Russia, rumor spread of its existence, and Italian journalist Sergio d’Angelo convinced Pasternak to entrust him with the text. Pasternak risked his life to hand over his work, and the novel made its way to Feltrinelli, who published Doctor Zhivago despite threats from both the Russian and Italian Communist Parties. The novel soon became an international bestseller, with translations in most European languages and English printed in 1958.
       The 1958 NYT review contended that Doctor Zhivago, “despite its topical hints and political statements, [was] a basically anti-political work, in so far as it treats politics as fleeting, unimportant, and extols the unchangeable fundamentals of the human ... More Less

Doctor Zhivago is based on a novel of the same name by Russian writer Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, first printed in Nov 1957 by Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in the midst of political controversy. Pasternak, who emerged as one of Russia’s leading poets and intellectuals in the early 1920s, was defamed as “an enemy of the people” by Communist bureaucrats, and exiled into solitude by the early 1930s, as noted in the novel’s 7 Sep 1958 NYT review. Doctor Zhivago was written in parts over many years, chronicling Russian life from Imperialism through the October Revolution, civil war, and Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge of intellectual liberty and political dissent. It was also a semi-autobiographical account of Pasternak’s longstanding, extramarital love affair with fellow poet, translator, and literary editor Olga Ivinskaya, who became his secretary and was imprisoned by Communists in an attempt to intimidate Pasternak. Although Doctor Zhivago was banned from publication in Russia, rumor spread of its existence, and Italian journalist Sergio d’Angelo convinced Pasternak to entrust him with the text. Pasternak risked his life to hand over his work, and the novel made its way to Feltrinelli, who published Doctor Zhivago despite threats from both the Russian and Italian Communist Parties. The novel soon became an international bestseller, with translations in most European languages and English printed in 1958.
       The 1958 NYT review contended that Doctor Zhivago, “despite its topical hints and political statements, [was] a basically anti-political work, in so far as it treats politics as fleeting, unimportant, and extols the unchangeable fundamentals of the human mind, emotion and creativity.” However, government officials at that time believed otherwise, including the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which went to great lengths to use Doctor Zhivago as anti-Communist propaganda. Newly declassified documents published in The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book (2014), as reviewed in the 10 Jul 2014 NYT, and various other modern sources, revealed that the CIA covertly arranged for Doctor Zhivago to be printed in Russian, not long after its first publication. The novel was distributed at the 1958 International World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium, and smuggled back into the Soviet Union, where it remained formally unpublished for another thirty years.
       Meanwhile, Pasternak was awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature, as announced in the 24 Oct 1958 NYT, but the honor again put his welfare in jeopardy. Less than one week after the Nobel Prize announcement, the 29 Oct 1958 Var reported that Pasternak had been denounced by the Soviet Union of Writers as a “traitor,” calling Doctor Zhivago an “artistically squalid, malicious work replete with hatred of socialism.” Pasternak eventually declined the honor so he could remain in his homeland. In the U.S., however, the novel was prized as an affirmation of democracy, and its screen rights were hotly pursued by various studios. At that time, the book’s copyright claimant was undetermined, as Russia did not maintain the same intellectual property laws as the U.S., and both Feltrinelli and Doctor Zhivago’s American publisher, Pantheon Press, were not in possession of its screen rights, according to various reports. Unsure if permission could be secured from Pasternak, attorneys were studying the case to identify the work as public domain, thereby giving their clients license to use the source material without concern for copyright infringement.
       As of 29 Oct 1958, two filmmakers claimed possession of the property, as stated in DV and NYT articles published that day, with Charles Byron’s independent Dragon Films registering the title with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) on 5 Sep 1958, and Joshua Logan’s Mansfield Productions filing registration the week of 27 Oct 1958. Byron was moving ahead with an adaptation by Joel Carmichael under the assumption that the novel was in the public domain, but Logan was certain that he would prevail, and secured backing from Warner Bros., as reported in 4 Nov 1958 DV article which noted that Byron had officially filed protest with the MPAA. The following day, Var announced that Pantheon Press was now claiming ownership of the novel’s film rights, and denied optioning the property to either Logan or Byron. Meanwhile, Feltrinelli insisted he was the sole possessor of screen and dramatic rights.
       With copyright issues deadlocked, both Logan and Byron were unable to proceed. Pasternak died on 30 May 1960, still living under censor in Moscow, Russia, as noted in his 31 May 1960 NYT obituary. Nearly three years later, the 6 Aug 1963 NYT announced that Doctor Zhivago would finally be made into a feature film for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., with Carlo Ponti producing. David Lean, who had recently achieved great success with Lawrence of Arabia (1962, see entry), had been hired to direct, and filming was planned for Italy. However, principal photography did not begin until 28 Dec 1964, and production was relocated to Spain. A 13 Jan 1965 Var article explained that Feltrinelli had ultimately been granted possession of the property’s screen rights, and Ponti had optioned the novel from the publisher several years earlier, most likely in 1963. Lean reportedly spent one year adapting the novel with Lawrence of Arabia screenwriter Robert Bolt. Other Lawrence of Arabia holdovers included production designer John Box, prop master Eddie Fowlie, production manager John Palmer, costume designer Phyllis Dalton, and Nicholas Roeg, who was credited as a second unit photographer on Lawrence of Arabia, and was promoted to cinematographer on Doctor Zhivago. However, Roeg was replaced by F. A. “Freddie” Young, the director of photography on Lawrence of Arabia, the week of 15 Mar 1965, nearly three months into production. Actor Alec Guinness had starring role in Lawrence of Arabia, as did Omar Sharif, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as “Sherif Ali.”
       Lean selected Spain for its diverse climate, as noted in a 28 Feb 1965 NYT article, but arrived in the city of Soria to discover unseasonably mild weather, and was forced to shoot winter scenes without real snow. As of late Feb 1965, filming was underway in the Madrid municipality of Canillas, where a replica of Moscow was built on a ten-acre lot. One month later, a 24 Mar 1965 Var column reported that production in Spain was temporarily suspended while Lean, Omar Sharif, and a small crew traveled to a resort near Helsinki, Finland, for a two-week shooting schedule of “Yuri Zhivago’s” trek across Siberia. Second unit director Roy Rossotti planned to stay in Finland while Lean returned to Spain for an additional five months. On 12 May 1965, Var noted that filming was underway in the El Molar community of Madrid, and a 19 May 1965 article in the same publication explained the significance of shooting the $10 million picture in Spain. One year earlier, producer Samuel Bronston had closed his studio in Madrid, prompting film production in Spain to evaporate. Doctor Zhivago marked a new beginning for Spanish filmmaking, employing many former Bronston workers, and taking over the “almost defunct” Cinematografía Española American (CEA) Studios, where Doctor Zhivago production headquarters were situated, and interiors were filmed. The largest soundstage in Spain was constructed at CEA, expressly for Doctor Zhivago, according to a 2 Jun 1965 LAT article. Other productions, including three MGM pictures and Warner Bros.’s Battle of the Bulge (1965, see entry) were also planned for production in Spain around that time. A 31 Jul 1965 LAT brief, which described the Moscow sets as having “two and three story buildings of the period, shops, a tram line, an equestrian statue of Czar Alexander II, signs in Cyrillic, [and] an onion-top church and the Kremlin,” noted that background actors in a riot scene were hired from a group of students that were actually rioting in Madrid while production was underway. Over 10,000 extras were cast during the nine-month shoot, as noted in a 9 Oct 1965 NYT article, which stated that filming also took place in the Canadian Rockies, and announced that production ended the day before, on 8 Oct 1965, in Madrid. A DV column published that day stated that 90,000 feet of color negatives had been shipped to the MGM lot in Culver City, CA, after being processed by Technicolor in London, England. Lean was on his way to Los Angeles, CA, to complete edits before the 22 Dec 1965 premiere at the Capitol Theatre in New York City. The director had been editing reels in Madrid during production to be sure the picture was finished before the end of the year, so it could qualify for Academy Award consideration; Lean had won Best Director Oscars for his past two releases, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, see entry) and Lawrence of Arabia. Editing officially began on 13 Oct 1965, according to a DV report published that day, and a 15 Oct 1965 LAT news item, which stated that the total footage amounted to 130,000 feet, noted that MGM had built a “specially designed unit” for Doctor Zhivago. The final cost was $11 million, as listed in the 12 Oct 1965 DV.
       By 17 Dec 1965, Lean had completed “round-the-clock” post-production duties, editing “more than 31 hours of film to 3 hours and 12 minutes,” according to a NYT article published that day. The newspaper’s 23 Dec 1965 review listed a slightly longer duration of 197 minutes, not counting the intermission after 115 minutes. Lean reported that he had rejected his preliminary edits in Spain, and started from scratch once he began post-production at MGM. NYT noted that Doctor Zhivago was “one of the most expensive films in Hollywood history” at that time.
       The film received mainly positive reviews, with particular praise for its photography and production design, which the 24 Dec 1965 LAT called “throat-catchingly magnificient as the screen could be, the apotheosis of the cinema as art.” However, NYT critic Bosley Crowther faulted screenwriter Robert Bolt for reducing “the upheaval of the Russian Revolution to the banalities of a doomed romance,” and complained that no matter how beautiful the picture appeared, “the long-drawn sadness of these two lovers [was] not enough for the crux of the film.” Perhaps responding to this critique, Robert Bolt wrote in article in the 20 Mar 1966 LAT that described the challenge of portraying human relationships within Doctor Zhivago’s profound and controversial social context. According to Bolt, Pasternak was “more interested in exploring and illuminating the predicaments in which people are caught than he is the psychological or narrative mechanism by which they get into situations,” and his representations of the Russian Revolution were a device to understand the personality of his characters, rather than a means of political commentary. Bolt claimed that he did not try to interpret the text, nor dramatize symbolism, because he believed the novel was largely non-allegorical, and rather an “open door” through which outsiders could peek a glimpse of Russian culture beyond the Iron Curtain. The only change Bolt acknowledged to the overall narrative was his emphasis on the half-brother character “Yevgraf Zhivago,” who became in the movie “a sort of narrator, the person outside Yuri’s life who nevertheless exerts an influence on it.” Bolt added that he and David Lean aimed to capture Pasternak’s love of Russia.
       Doctor Zhivago screened out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival on 15 May 1966, despite objections from Russian officials, who prevented the picture from being shown at the festival’s opening night gala, as reported in a 14 May 1966 NYT article. The Soviets took issue with the film being presented as Russian, but MGM planned to entertain guests at the 15 May 1966 event with balalaika players, Russian ballet dancers, and horse-mounted Cossacks.
       On 24 Jun 1966, LAT announced that the film was nearing completion of its seventy-nine week, reserved seating run in 70mm at the Paramount Theatre in Hollywood, in which it grossed nearly $2 million and shattered house box-office records. The picture was set to open citywide at seventeen Los Angeles theaters on 12 Jul 1967. By 2014, the film was ranked the eighth highest-grossing movie in history, with earnings (adjusted for inflation) of $2,073,000,000.
       Doctor Zhivago won five Academy Awards for Art Direction (Color), Cinematography (Color), Costume Design (Color), Music (Music Score—substantially original) and Writing (Screenplay based on material from another medium), as well as five additional nominations for Actor in a Supporting Role (Tom Courtenay), Film Editing, Sound, Directing, and Best Picture. It won the most Golden Globes of any film that year, as stated in a 1 Feb 1966 LAT article, receiving honors for Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Director, and Best Motion Picture—Drama. Geraldine Chaplin was also nominated for Most Promising Newcomer—Female. Doctor Zhivago ranked #39 on AFI’s “100 Years… 100 Movies,” and #7 on “100 Years… 100 Passions.” In 2002, it was adapted into a British television mini-series, starring Keira Knightly, Hans Matheson, and Sam Neill.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
29 Oct 1958
p. 1, 10.
Daily Variety
4 Nov 1958
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
8 Oct 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Oct 1965
p. 11.
Daily Variety
13 Oct 1965
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jun 1965
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
31 Jul 1965
Section B, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
15 Oct 1965
Section D, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
24 Dec 1965
Section A, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jun 1966
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
1 Feb 1966
Section A, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
20 Mar 1966
Section B, p. 6.
New York Times
7 Sep 1958
p. 1.
New York Times
24 Oct 1958
p. 1.
New York Times
29 Oct 1958
p. 30.
New York Times
31 May 1960
p. 1.
New York Times
6 Aug 1963
p. 26.
New York Times
28 Feb 1965.
---
New York Times
9 Oct 1965
p. 5.
New York Times
17 Dec 1965
p. 44.
New York Times
23 Dec 1965
p. 21.
New York Times
14 May 1966
p. 17.
New York Times
10 Jul 2014.
---
Variety
29 Oct 1958
p. 5.
Variety
5 Nov 1958
p. 5.
Variety
13 Jan 1965
p. 3, 12.
Variety
24 Mar 1965
p. 21.
Variety
12 May 1965
p. 126.
Variety
19 May 1965
p. 40.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2nd unit photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Assoc art dir
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Orig mus comp & cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
Hairstyles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Doctor Zhivago by Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (trans. by Max Hayward and Manya Harari
New York, 1958).
DETAILS
Release Date:
22 December 1965
Premiere Information:
New York world premiere: 22 December 1965 at the Capitol Theatre
Los Angeles premiere: 23 December 1965 at the Paramount Theatre
Production Date:
28 December 1964--8 October 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Copyright Date:
31 December 1965
Copyright Number:
LP33315
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
197
Countries:
United Kingdom, Italy, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Former Bolshevik Police Commissar Yevgraf Zhivago, now a general in charge of a huge Soviet dam, has traced a young girl whom he believes to be the daughter of his half brother, Yuri, and the beautiful Lara. ... The orphaned Yuri goes to live in Moscow with the family of aristocrat Alexander Gromeko. He becomes a doctor and later marries Gromeko's daughter, Tonya. Yuri meets Lara, the daughter of dressmaker Amelia, when he helps save her life after a suicide attempt prompted by her seduction by Komarovsky, Amelia's lover. Yuri and Lara meet again at a party, where Lara vengefully shoots and wounds Komarovsky. She is taken from the party by a young political idealist, Pasha, whom she soon marries. When the Great War breaks out in 1914, Yuri goes to the front to aid the soldiers, and again encounters Lara, who has become a nurse. They fall in love, but though she has been deserted by Pasha, their relationship remains platonic. When Yuri returns to Moscow, he finds the city changed by the revolution. The Gromeko home has been taken over; the government looks with disfavor on Yuri's poetry; and he and his family, cold and starving, travel by train to their country estate in the Urals. At a library in nearby Yuriatin, Yuri again meets Lara, who is in the town to see Pasha, now known as the bandit general Strelnikov. At her apartment, Yuri and Lara make love, and their affair continues for some months. With Tonya pregnant, however, Yuri sees Lara for what he says will be the last time. On his way back to the estate, he is conscripted by the Red Army. In ... +


Former Bolshevik Police Commissar Yevgraf Zhivago, now a general in charge of a huge Soviet dam, has traced a young girl whom he believes to be the daughter of his half brother, Yuri, and the beautiful Lara. ... The orphaned Yuri goes to live in Moscow with the family of aristocrat Alexander Gromeko. He becomes a doctor and later marries Gromeko's daughter, Tonya. Yuri meets Lara, the daughter of dressmaker Amelia, when he helps save her life after a suicide attempt prompted by her seduction by Komarovsky, Amelia's lover. Yuri and Lara meet again at a party, where Lara vengefully shoots and wounds Komarovsky. She is taken from the party by a young political idealist, Pasha, whom she soon marries. When the Great War breaks out in 1914, Yuri goes to the front to aid the soldiers, and again encounters Lara, who has become a nurse. They fall in love, but though she has been deserted by Pasha, their relationship remains platonic. When Yuri returns to Moscow, he finds the city changed by the revolution. The Gromeko home has been taken over; the government looks with disfavor on Yuri's poetry; and he and his family, cold and starving, travel by train to their country estate in the Urals. At a library in nearby Yuriatin, Yuri again meets Lara, who is in the town to see Pasha, now known as the bandit general Strelnikov. At her apartment, Yuri and Lara make love, and their affair continues for some months. With Tonya pregnant, however, Yuri sees Lara for what he says will be the last time. On his way back to the estate, he is conscripted by the Red Army. In northern Russia, Yuri deserts the army and makes his way hundreds of miles to Yuriatin. He finds that his family has been deported to France, and he goes to Lara's apartment. Yuri and Lara are soon met by Komarovsky, who tells them that they are in danger, Yuri for his poetry and his family's associations with partisan groups in Paris, and Lara because of her associations both with Yuri and her husband. Yuri and Lara move to the estate, where they stay until they can no longer hide. (There Yuri writes a series of poems dedicated to Lara.) About to flee, Yuri changes his mind at the last moment and decides to stay in his homeland. Many years later, Yuri is helped by Yevgraf to find a job. As he travels to work on a streetcar, he sees Lara. He desperately makes his way through the crowded vehicle until he, too, is on the street, but when he tries to call to her, he collapses. Eventually, Lara is arrested, and she spends her last years in a labor camp. ... The young girl has only vague recollections of her past, and the photographs of Lara and Yuri in the latter's book of verse mean nothing to her. She leaves with her boyfriend, and, looking at her from afar, Yevgraf is certain of her identity. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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