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
The stately minuet heard at the lavish ball sequence hosted by the Duc D'Orleans at Versailles, is from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, which was composed in 1787. A few moments after the Minuet ends, King Louis XV arrives. He died in 1774 and therefore, this music could not possibly have been played at such an event as it had yet to be written. See more »
Dr. Benjamin Franklin:
Why, this is barbarous! Must the queen's child be born in public?
Count de Mercey:
Dr. Franklin, a French monarch belongs to the public. He must be born, he must live and he must die in public.
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Often said, and, for better or for worse, just as often true: "Marie Antoinette" is one of THE definitive examples of an MGM prestige picture, 1930s style. Years in planning and preproduction, "Marie Antoinette" was Norma Shearer's first film after Irving Thalberg's death: little expense was spared in making the "First Lady of MGM"'s return to the screen a royal one in every sense.
Technically superb, the film suffers from erratic pacing and a patchwork script. But the supporting cast alone almost compensates for these deficiencies: Robert Morley side-stepping caricature to make Louis XVI touchingly human; John Barrymore and Gladys George contributing brilliant, razor-sharp vignettes as Louis XV and Madame du Barry (indeed, the confrontation between Marie Antoinette and du Barry is one of the film's highlights); and Joseph Schildkraut redefining the term "oily" as the scheming Duke of Orleans. Only Tyrone Power (borrowed from 20th Century-Fox) comes off less well; this, perhaps is due more to an ill-conceived role in the script than to a lack of acting ability as such.
But it is, first and foremost, Shearer's film and she is superb. From the young, light-hearted Austrian Archduchess to the fun-loving, lightheaded Queen to the prematurely aged but proud and defiant widow on her way to the guillotine, Shearer is in full command, giving a splendid display of her artistry (including, in the prison scenes, an outstanding example of silent film technique): it is her finest mature dramatic performance.
Carps, quibbles, and differences of opinion? Yes, every film lover has them, if only out of love for the medium or a specific film. But after viewing a film such as "Marie Antoinette," it can with utmost conviction be stated, "They DON'T make them that way anymore."
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