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Knight Without Armour

Original film poster as reproduced on bookcover
Directed by Jacques Feyder
Produced by Alexander Korda
Written by Lajos Biró
Frances Marion
James Hilton (novel)
Arthur Wimperis (additional dialogue)
Starring Marlene Dietrich
Robert Donat
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Cinematography Harry Stradling Sr.
Editing by Francis Lyon
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 1 June 1937
Running time 107 min
Country  United Kingdom
Language English

Knight Without Armour is a 1937 historical British drama film made by London Films and distributed by United Artists. It was directed by Jacques Feyder and produced by Alexander Korda from a screenplay by Lajos Biró adapted by Frances Marion from the novel by James Hilton. The music score was by Miklós Rózsa, his first for a motion picture, with additional music by Tchaikovsky. The film stars Marlene Dietrich and Robert Donat.



Englishman A.J. Fothergill (Robert Donat) is recruited by Colonel Forrester (Laurence Hanray) to spy on Russia for the British government because he can speak the language fluently. As "Peter Ouranoff", he infiltrates a revolutionary group led by Axelstein (Basil Gill). The radicals try to blow up General Gregor Vladinoff (Herbert Lomas), the father of Alexandra (Marlene Dietrich). When the attempt fails, the would-be assassin is shot, but manages to reach Peter's apartment, where he dies. For his inadvertent involvement, Peter is sent to Siberia.

Alexandra enjoying an all-too-brief respite from the war

World War I makes Alexandra a widow and brings the Bolsheviks to power, freeing Peter and Axelstein. When the Russian Civil War breaks out, Alexandra is arrested for being an aristocrat, and Peter is assigned by now-Commissar Axelstein to take her to Petrograd to stand trial. However, Peter instead takes her to the safety of the White Army. Their relief is short-lived; the Red Army defeats the White the next day and Alexandra is taken captive once more. Peter steals a commission as a commissar of prisons from a drunk and uses the document to free her. The two, now deeply in love, flee into the forest. Later, they catch a train.

At a railway station, the countess is identified by one Communist official, but another, Poushkoff (John Clements), is entranced by Alexandra's beauty. Insisting that her identity be verified, he arranges to take her and Fothergill to Samara. Along the way, they become good friends. He then allows the couple to escape at a stop, committing suicide to provide a diversion.

The lovers board a barge traveling down the Volga River. Alexandra becomes seriously ill. When Peter goes for a doctor, he is arrested by the Whites for not having papers. Meanwhile, a Red Cross doctor finds Alexandra and takes her for treatment. About to be executed, Peter makes a break for it and catches the Red Cross train transporting Alexandra out of Russia.


According to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, Donat suffered a severe, week-long bout of his chronic asthma during production, causing Alexander Korda to consider replacing him. Dietrich persuaded him to wait until Donat had recovered.

Further reading

  • Street, Sarah (2005). "Sets of the imagination: Lazare Meerson, set design and performance in Knight Without Armour (1937)". Journal of British Cinema and Television (Edinburgh University Press) 2 (1): 18–35. doi:10.3366/jbctv.2005.2.1.18.  

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