Tonight are the Academy Awards, and I am bound to watch the end to see if my favorite actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, wins Best Actor for his portrayal of a wildcatter in “There Will Be Blood.” The movie’s name could have aptly suited its rival, “No Country For Old Men” (which I think is the better film overall and should win Best Picture) with the amount of blood shed in it. But blood is something Hollywood and its fans feast on these days.
Blood is our domain, too. The Awards got me thinking of movies about hemophilia. And the first that came to mind is the spectacular “Nicholas and Alexandria,” the story of the last Tsar of Russia, whose son Alexis had hemophilia. Actor Michale Payton uncannily resembles the Tsar. The movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same name, whose author Robert Massie, has a son with hemophilia (who lived, oddly enough, about 2 miles from my house in 1987. I happily met him and confided his father was one of my favorite authors). The book is of course much better than the movie, but the movie does a tremendous job of bringing to the screen one of the most endearing love stories, most tragic leadership failures, and most climatic political outcomes of the 20th century. No spoilers here: everyone knows how the story ends. The royal family is gunned down and Lenin assumes control of the country, ushering in the Communist regime. The movie invites you into the intimacy of the royal family, reveals the sinister designs of the monk Rasputin, and relives the horrors of a world at war. As painful as watching little Alexis suffer is watching his father sign a document, renouncing the throne–300 years of Romanov rule ended–then turn and cry like a child.
It’s interesting that the movie opens with the birth of Alexis, the long awaited heir to the Romanov throne. But immediately the family, who knows hemophilia is a risk, sees signs of the disorder. I strongly encourage you to rent this movie through iTunes, or purchase it on Amazon to get an appreciation of historical hemophilia. Never before or since has Hollywood so carefully and beautifully made hemophilia the center of world events, or the center of such an epic film.