Why did the first Soviet-American movie fail?

George Cukor/Lenfilm, Twentieth Century-Fox, Edward Lewis Productions, Sovinfilm, Tower International, 1976
It had a great cast and an outstanding director. But, something went wrong...

The first collaboration between the U.S. and Soviet filmmakers was the big screen adaptation of the play ‘The Blue Bird’ by Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck. The plot is based on the story of the young children of a forester - Mytyl and Tyltyl - who go in search of the amazing Blue Bird, which brings health and happiness.

It was agreed upon to begin filming in 1974. There was a ‘détente’ in relations between the two countries at the time  and interest in Soviet cinema in the world, thanks to Sergei Bondarchuk and his Oscar-winning film ‘War and Peace’, was at an all-time high.

20th Century Fox and ‘Lenfilm’ studios worked on ‘The Blue Bird’ and filming took place entirely in the USSR. Among Hollywood stars, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda and Ava Gardner took part in them, while among Soviet stars - Margarita Terekhova, Georgy Vitsin and the popular circus artist, Oleg Popov.

The filming process was extremely difficult. The americans didn’t like the Russian food, their communication with their Soviet colleagues left much to be desired and Elizabeth Taylor often drank alcohol on set, mixing it with orange juice. In addition, the actress fell ill with dysentery and left the USSR for some time.

Director George Cukor, creator of the Oscar-winning ‘The Philadelphia Story’ and ‘My Fair Lady’, dreamed about a statuette for ‘The Blue Bird’, as well. But, his dream never came true - the movie, released in 1976, failed at the box office and is considered one of the worst adaptations of the Maeterlinck’s play.

‘The Blue Bird’ was criticized for the poor performance of the actors (except for the role of the bird played by ballerina Nadezhda Pavlova) and for the weak directorial work of Kukor himself. After his failure, he made only one more movie - ‘Rich and Famous’ - which also did not live up to his previous masterpieces.   

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

Read more

This website uses cookies. Click here to find out more.

Accept cookies