Executive Producer: Ken Riddington
Producer: Donald Wilson
Director: Basil Coleman
ANNA KARENINA/Episode 1/Intro by Alistair Cooke
Good evening, I'm Alistair Cooke.
This time we begin a dramatization of one of the masterpieces--some people say THE masterpiece of the modern realistic novel—Count Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. It was completed exactly one hundred years ago and had come out in installments over the previous two years. Our version, which has been done by Donald Wilson who, incidentally, dramatized John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga, will run through the next ten weeks.
Now it's a daunting thing to sum up the life and work of such a giant as Tolstoy in a minute or two and I won't even try it. But I hope to say some useful things about him as I go along. For an outline or a sketch of his life, he was born in 1828 on a country estate, a member of the old Russian landed gentry. Peter the Great had made an ancestor of his a count and the title came down to him. His father married a princess and she brought with her a very substantial fortune.
Leo was one of five brothers. His mother died when he was two and his father when he was eight. But he was brought up by adoring aunts and other relations, and his education he was put exclusively in the charge of French tutors, and he graduated from the university of Kazan--which was not Moscow or St. Petersburg--but it was very fashionable. You might say it was the Princeton of its day. And then he retired to his estate to take care of his serfs. Well, he was no good at this. He went off to Moscow and for a year or two he led a pretty rakish life. He got bored, he joined the army as a gentlemen volunteer officer, rattled around the Caucasus, fought the Turks, and wound up at St. Petersburg where--and this is interesting in view of his later political and religious frenzy--he reveled in society life and took a very dim few of the literary crowd and an even dimmer view of the sententiousness of political Progressives.
Tolstoy then retired, resigned from the army, and traveled widely in Europe which was then in the heyday of its new industrial civilization and material prosperity, and he hated all of it. Once and for all he went back to his estate to manage it. And at the age of thirty-four he married a girl of seventeen. For many years he was very happy with his wife and nine children and he stayed. And that would seem to be the end of a regulation, upper-class life but the people who had known him only as a society hellion and a soldier would have been surprised to hear that from the age of nineteen on he kept a voluminous diary. They would have been astounded to hear that he wrote month after month and that he was about to turn into one of the two or three literary geniuses of the nineteenth century–or for that matter, any century.
We begin with our heroine Anna Karenina on a train from St. Petersburg to Moscow; she is going to visit her brother.
Anna Karenina, part one.
The Archive Database | Program History | Poster Gallery | Awards
Home | About The Series | The American Collection | The Archive
Schedule & Season | Feature Library | eNewsletter | Book Club
Learning Resources | Forum | Search | Shop | Feedback
Masterpiece is sponsored by: