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25 May 2007

The drag queen who killed Rasputin and sued MGM

Felix Felixovich Yusupov (1887 – 1967).

Alternatively transliterated as Feliks Iusupov. Also known as Feliks Graf Sumarrokow-Elston.

Yusupov was descended via his mother from the fabulously wealthy Yusupovs, a family of Tartar origins. As he describes in his autobiography, he spent time with gypsy bands and in drag. He claims that he was cruised by Edward Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, then king of the British Empire, while he was in drag at a theatre in Paris.

On 16 December 1916 he was a leader of the group that murdered Rasputin. After the Revolution, Felix, his wife and daughter seized some family treasures and the British Navy helped them escape via Yalta. They settled in Paris.

They sued MGM in connection with the 1932 film, Rasputin and the Empress, in that the character who killed Rasputin could be based on only himself, and that it was libel to suggest that his wife had been raped by Rasputin. They were awarded £25,000, an enormous sum. This resulted in the disclaimer afterwards placed at the end of all Hollywood films: “The preceding was a work of fiction …”.

Yusupov wrote an autobiography: Avant l’exil, 1887-1919. Paris: Plon 310 pp 1952. Translated By Ann Green and Nicolas Katkoff as Lost Splendour. London: Cape 288 pp1954. Reissued Circlet Press 307 pp 2004. Translation online here.

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