The Brothers Karamazov (1958) starring Yul Brynner, Lee J. Cobb, & William Shatner

A poster for the film.

Alexi was the young monk who personified what it means to be a generous and forgiving Christian; Ivan the spiritually conflicted and deeply honest man of science; Dmitri the tortured deeply human soul who takes on suffering…

I just happened upon this film- had never seen it before. William Shatner is VERY young (and cute) here; he plays Alexi, the youngest brother in the family who is a monk. This film is about money (particularly inheritance), sibling rivalries (and alliances), forbidden love, and honor. Yul Brynner is perfectly cast as Dmitri, the oldest brother in the dysfunctional family. He is a Lt. in the Russian Army whose favorite hobby is gambling. Of the two female leads, Claire Bloom (Katya) and Maria Schell (Grushenka), I thought Bloom are more effective.

Alexi (William Shatner) and his father Fyodor (Lee J. Cobb) have a serious talk.

Brynner is very charismatic and gives the right emotional intensity and vulnerability, while Cobb gives his patriarchal role so much juice and life, his demeanour sometimes even quite intimidating (the role is a problematic one due to being one that could easily fall into overacted caricature, Cobb admittedly does overact but enjoyably and the character still felt real). Richard Basehart brings many layers and nuances to Ivan… William Shatner does suffer from a greatly reduced (in terms of how he’s written) character, but surprisingly this is Shatner at his most subdued and moving, most of the time in his acting for personal tastes he’s the opposite.

-Excerpts from IMDB review

At the start of the film, Alexi convinces their wealthy father, Fyodor (Lee J. Cobb) to give him some money to pay off debts run up by Dmitri (Brynner). Fyodor is reluctant, knowing of Dmitiri’s irresponsible spending; he is also tyrannical and lecherous. Dmitri should be getting some money (which comes from his deceased mother’s side). 

The brothers is the Karamazov family with their father.

Alexi is in the role of peacemaker in the family; while Dmitri is the “black sheep.” These two brothers are tight, though they have opposite personalities. The other brothers are Ivan (Richard Basehart), an atheist writer and Fyodor’s unclaimed bastard/servant, Smerdjakov (Albert Salmi). 

Katya (Claire Bloom) is engaged to Dmitri- he’s NOT that into her though!

The daughter of Dmitri’s captain, Katya (Bloom), falls deeply in love w/ him after he helps her father out of a difficult situation. Dmitri admits that he wanted Katya, BUT didn’t love her. She explains that she doesn’t mind that. Some time later, when she becomes an heiress (thanks to a grandmother), she proposes that they get engaged. Dmitri agrees to it; after all, she is a beautiful, respectable, and wealthy woman. Katya goes to his town and meets his family, impressing them w/ all her charms. She and Ivan spend a LOT of time together; he falls in love w/ Katya, BUT she only sees him as a friend (and future brother-in-law).  

Fyodor (Lee J. Cobb) has dinner with his mistress, Grushenka (Maria Schell).

So, why is this engagement taking SO long? Dmitri stays away (gambling and drinking), so there is no time to get to know and (maybe) fall in love w/ Katya. Back at home, Ivan and Smerdjakov are getting impatient to inherit; they’re waiting for their father to die. Fyodor shows no signs of slowing down; he has a young/blonde mistress, Grushenka. Though he’s NOT the sentimental type, Fyodor proposes marriage. 

Dmitri (Yul Brynner) plays a song for Grushenka (Maria Schell).

For anyone interested in family dynamics and love relationships “Brothers” presents a web of triangulated rivalries and unrequited, seething passions — fiction that rings powerfully true.

I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t read this great novel — although the movie makes me want to — so I wasn’t familiar with the story. 

-Excerpt from IMDB review

Grushenka, who owns a tavern and has made some money of her own, buys Dmitri’s debts (on behalf of Fyodor). When Dmitri learns of this occurrence, he insults her servant (a former soldier), and then sets out to find the mysterious woman. He sees Grushenka at a skating pond (where she is having fun w/ another man, not Fyodor). It’s basically love at first sight (at least on his side); Dmitri is a VERY passionate man after all. Grushenka seems VERY taken w/ him, too, BUT she is also a professional (who knows how to survive in a man’s world). Check out this film to find out what happens next! 

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