Anna Karenina (1948 film)

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Anna Karenina
AnnaKarenina Leigh.jpeg
Theatrical release poster (France)
Directed by Julien Duvivier
Written by Julien Duvivier
Jean Anouilh
Guy Morgan
Based on Anna Karenina
1878 novel
by Leo Tolstoy
Produced by Alexander Korda
Herbert Mason
Starring Vivien Leigh
Ralph Richardson
Kieron Moore
Sally Ann Howes
Martita Hunt
Cinematography Henri Alekan
Edited by Russell Lloyd
Music by Constant Lambert
Distributed by British Lion Films & London Films (United Kingdom)
20th Century Fox (United States)
Release dates
  • 22 January 1948 (1948-01-22)(London premiere)
  • 27 April 1948 (1948-04-27)(New York City premiere)
  • 27 September 1948 (1948-09-27)(United Kingdom)
Running time
139 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£700,000 [1] [2] or £553,000 [3] [4]
Box office£149,414 (UK) [5] or £159,000 [3]

Anna Karenina is a 1948 British film based on the 1877 novel of the same title by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy.


The film was directed by Julien Duvivier, and starred Vivien Leigh in the title role. It was produced by Alexander Korda (with Herbert Mason as associate producer) for his company, London Films, and distributed in the United States by 20th Century Fox. The screenplay was by Jean Anouilh, Julien Duvivier and Guy Morgan, music by Constant Lambert, decors by André Andrejew and deep focus cinematography by Henri Alekan.


Anna Karenina is married to Alexei Karenin, a cold government official in St Petersburg who is apparently more interested in his career than in satisfying the emotional needs of his wife. Called to Moscow by her brother Stepan Oblonsky, a reprobate who has been unfaithful to his trusting wife Dolly once too often, Anna meets Countess Vronsky on the night train to Moscow. They discuss their sons, with the Countess showing Anna a picture of her son Count Vronsky, a cavalry officer.

Vronsky shows up at the train to meet his mother, and is instantly infatuated with Anna. He boldly makes his interest known to her, which Anna demurely pushes away – but not emphatically so. At a grand ball, Vronsky continues to pursue the married Anna, much to the delight of the gossiping spectators. But Kitty Shcherbatsky, Dolly's sister who is smitten with Vronsky, is humiliated by his behaviour and leaves the ball – much to the distress of Konstantin Levin, a suitor of Kitty's who was rejected by her in favour of Vronsky. However, after a change of heart, Kitty marries Levin.

Boldly following Anna back to St Petersburg, Vronsky makes it known to society that he is the companion of Anna – a notion she does nothing to stop. Soon, society is whispering about the affair, and it's only a matter of time before Karenin learns of the relationship. Outwardly more worried about his social and political position than his wife's passion, he orders her to break off with Vronsky or risk losing her son. She tries, but cannot tear herself away from Vronsky.

Leaving Karenin, Anna becomes pregnant with Vronsky's child. Almost dying in childbirth (the child is stillborn), Anna begs Karenin for forgiveness, which he coldly grants. Karenin, being magnanimous, allows Vronsky the notion that he may visit Anna if she calls for him. Embarrassed by the scandal, Vronsky tries to shoot himself, but fails.

Anna tries again to live with Karenin, but cannot get Vronsky out of her head. She leaves Karenin for good, abandoning her child to live in Italy with Vronsky. But her doubts over Vronsky's feelings for her grow, and she eventually pushes him away. Realizing that she has lost everything, Anna walks onto the railway tracks and commits suicide by letting the train hit her.


Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina Vivien Leigh - Anna Karenina.jpg
Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina

This was the film debut for both Barbara Murray and Maxine Audley. [6] [7]


Michael Redgrave was to play the male lead but elected to accept a Hollywood offer instead. [8] Vivien Leigh previously had an uncredited role as a schoolgirl extra in Things Are Looking Up , which Herbert Mason worked on as an associate producer.

Filming started on 15 April 1947. [9] Filming took place in London Film Studios, Shepperton.


The film was picketed at some cinemas in the United States by members of the anti-British organisation known as the Sons of Liberty, as part of that Zionist group's protests against British films, in connection with events in Mandatory Palestine.[ relevant? ]. [10]

As of 30 June 1949 the film earned £135,341 in the UK of which £95,687 went to the producer. [4]

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  1. "THE STARRY WAY". The Courier-Mail . Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 21 February 1948. p. 2. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  2. Karol Kulik, Alexander Korda: The Man Who Could Work Miracles, Virgin, 1990, p. 303.
  3. 1 2 Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of The 1950s The Decline of Deference. Oxford University Press USA. p. 275.
  4. 1 2 Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 354
  5. Vincent Porter, "The Robert Clark Account", Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2000.
  6. Lentz III, 2015, p. 254
  7. Tom Vallance (24 July 1992). "Obituary: Maxine Audley" . The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 6 November 2015. The previous year she had made her first film Julien Duvivier's Anna Karenina
  8. "BRITISH ACTOR WILL RETURN HOME". The Cairns Post . Qld.: National Library of Australia. 10 July 1947. p. 8. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  9. "VIVIEN LEIGH FOR TOLSTOY FILM". The Cairns Post . Qld.: National Library of Australia. A.P. 11 April 1947. p. 6. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  10. "FILM PICKETING". The Barrier Miner . Broken Hill, NSW: National Library of Australia. 23 August 1948. p. 3. Retrieved 7 July 2012.