This symbol-filled story, filmed with sensuous detail and nuance, is set in Austria in the 1920s. While being treated for asthma at a country spa, an American diplomat's lonely 12-year-old ... See full summary »
Klaus Maria Brandauer
The life of Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) from betrothal and marriage in 1770 to her beheading. At first, she's a Hapsburg teenager isolated in France, living a virgin's life in the household of the Dauphin, a shy solitary man who would like to be a locksmith. Marie discovers high society, with the help of Orleans and her brothers-in-law. Her foolishness is at its height when she meets a Swedish count, Axel de Fersen. He helps her see her fecklessness. In the second half of the film, she avoids an annulment, becomes queen, bears children, and is a responsible ruler. The affair of the necklace and the general poverty of France feed revolution. She faces death with dignity. Written by
Even though it is never explained in the film the reason why the French people did not take kindly to Marie Antoinette, it was because she was a native Austrian. She was a Hapsburg through her maternal grandfather. The French people frequently called her nicknames, of which "L'Autrichienne" was the most tame. France had been warring with Austria, off-and-on, for centuries. The relationship has remained strained into the Twenty-First Century, the two countries still have a very rocky relationship, of which historians declare is ninety-five percent the problem of France. See more »
In the lavish ball sequence at Versailles that appears to take place in the famous Hall of Mirrors, King Louis XV (and later, Mme du Pompadour) arrives by descending a huge flight of stairs. Yet the real Hall of Mirrors has no stairs, at either end. See more »
King Louis XVI:
I don't want to be king. People expect so much of a king. Nothing comes easily to me.
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As a young actress still in her 20s, Norma Shearer was hailed as the First Lady of MGM, and she reigned as queen of the studio throughout the 1930s. For about two decades after early retiring in 1942, she was fondly remembered by fans and critics, but slowly she was forgotten. Then in the early 70s, antagonistic film critic Pauline Kael, grudge-holding MGM rival Joan Crawford and others took delight in trashing her, usually with the implication that Norma's greatest talent was finding a powerful husband (Irving Thalberg). Unfortunately, those unfair remarks carried great weight since Shearer's movies were unavailable on video and rarely shown on TV.
We're now able to see her talent for ourselves, thanks largely to Turner Classic Movies, and Norma Shearer's star is rising again.
If you've never seen a Shearer movie, Marie Antoinette is a good beginning. It is one of Hollywood's great epics of the 1930s, with lavish costumes and scenery, and its historic setting holds up well. Shearer plays the doomed French queen from teenager to the Guillotine, and the final scenes as she awaits death in prison are among the finest of her career.
In recent years, Shearer has gained new respect for her silent films, in which she was one of the most accomplished young actresses of the era. Two standouts are Lady of the Night and A Lady of Chance, in which she plays "worldly" women with a sly wit. She was not a typical ingénue, and you can see why sophisticated audiences of the time were enchanted by her.
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