Irving Thalberg fired writer Mercedes de Acosta when she refused to write a scene involving a fictitious meeting betweenGrigory Rasputin and Princess Irene Romanov Yusupov, which she knew did not occur. Prince Feliks Yusupov, one of Rasputin's assassins, was a friend of de Acosta. After her firing, the scene was added. After the film's release, both Prince Yusupov and his wife sued Thalberg and MGM, as de Acosta warned he would, and won a large settlement.
Ethel Barrymore's only starring role in a motion picture with sound.
Charles Brabin was originally assigned to direct. After several run-ins with Ethel Barrymore, who condescendingly referred to him as Mr. Theda Bara, he was taken off the project. Brabin was married to the silent screen legend Theda Bara. Richard Boleslawski was brought in to direct and given sole directorial credit, although several of Brabin's completed scenes remain in the finished film.
Annoyed that his brother John Barrymore was trying to show him up by placing his hand on him while he was finishing a scene (an ancient actor's technique for drawing attention to oneself), Lionel Barrymore excused himself from the set and went to the back lot to find a telephone. He then phoned the set and told director Richard Boleslawski that "he'd better advise Mr. John Barrymore to not place his hand on me at the close of this scene, lest I lay one on him!" By the time Lionel returned to the set, John has been advised to keep his hands to himself.
Dr. William Axt, MGM's musical director, brought together all the Greek and Russian orthodox church choirs in Los Angeles to sing at the celebration mass at the start of the movie.
In 1989 Sir David Napley published 'Rasputin in Hollywood', which covered in detail the 1934 libel lawsuit by the Youssoupoffs against MGM over the film.
MGM purchased stock footage of the Romanov family and Russian military parades from J. Stuart Blackton, who had this footage as part of a vast stock footage library.
The model for the character of Princess Natasha in the movie was Princess Irina Romanoff Youssoupoff. She filed a lawsuit against Thalberg and MGM, claiming invasion of privacy and libel in portraying her as a mistress and, later, a rape victim of Grigory Rasputin. She won an award of $127,373 in an English court and an out-of-court settlement in New York with MGM, reportedly $1 million. As a result of the success of Princess Youssoupoff's lawsuit against MGM over this movie, Hollywood studios began inserting the disclaimer "This motion picture is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental" in the credits of virtually every film released since.
The only film in which all three Barrymore siblings - John Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore - appeared together.
Upon its initial release in 1932, the movie was the subject of a lawsuit issued by Prince Feliks Yusupov, who had actually been involved in the death of the real Grigory Rasputin. Although names in the film were changed (Yusupov's character, as portrayed by John Barrymore, was called Prince Paul Chegodieff), Yusupov also recognized Diana Wynyard's character of Princess Natasha to be that of his wife, Princess Irina. the Yussoupovs sued for libel as a result of a scene which suggested that his wife had been raped by Rasputin. MGM lost the suit, and the scene was cut from later releases. It rendered Wynyard's character somewhat incomprehensible if the viewer of the film is unaware of the cut - in the first half of the film, Princess Natasha is a supporter of Rasputin, and in the second half, she is inexplicably extremely afraid of him. The laserdisc release of this film includes the original theatrical trailer, which contains a portion of this deleted scene.