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William K. Howard
Johnny Mack Brown
The newly-named Emperor Maximillian, the only monarch of the Second Mexican Empire, arrives in Mexico in the early 1860s with his wife Carlotta to face popular sentiment favoring Benito Juarez and popular demand for democracy. With an elite group of Mexican monarchists, Maximillian tries to appease the democratic Mexicans but he fails. Abraham Lincoln continues to support Juarez and asks the French to withdraw support for Maximilian. Carlotta goes to France to plead with Napoleon III, to no avail. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Napoleon lll is informed in a letter that Robert E. Lee has been defeated at Gettysburg, he responds by paraphrasing Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address by calling democracy as government for the cattle, by the cattle, etc. He couldn't have known Lincoln's rhetorical flourish because the actual speech was given until mid November 1863. See more »
[as Juarez views the dead body of Maximillian lying in state]
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Although there are some mistakes historically speaking,this is an absorbing screenplay,with superlative performances by Paul Muni,Bette Davis and Brian Aherne,who should have been at the top of the bill too,for he has more scenes than his two co-stars.
Muni is almost frightening with his impassive face and his slow delivery.If looks could kill,his certainly would...
Davis ,although she does not look like Charlotte physically ,gives a captivating portrayal of the empress.The scene when she prays Virgin Mary is impressive ,but not true: she was not sterile,but she and the emperor used to sleep apart!Their relationship was much more complex than the one depicted by Dieterlé: actually,the emperor was often away,it seemed that their strange love worked from a distance.Little by little,Maximilian lost all interest in power and Charlotte was ruling while he was gone (which often happened)or was staying in his Cuernavaca "paradise" .
Aherne is Maximilian in the flesh.It's interesting to notice that his brother Francis-Joseph had deprived him of all his rights and his titles in Austria.Historians generally agree that he would not have accepted the Mexican throne,if Charlotte had not been his wife. the problem is that the film doesn't show us the couple BEFORE they get to Mexico:one thing to bear in mind is that Max did not accept the throne overnight;and many people in Europa (notably Queen Victoria and Empress Elizabeth aka "Sissi" ) had warned them it was more a curse than a blessing.Charlotte (Carlotta) ,someone reportedly said ,wanted to reign over any people anywhere.Sissi called her Max's black angel. Maximilian is depicted as a chivalrous noble sovereign which he was in a way.But of course ,he had lots of (Mexican)lovers since he didn't sleep with his wife
Dieterlé does not pass over in silence the obnoxious role played by Napoleon the Third (and wife Eugénie de Montijo).Charlotte does show her contempt:"He is an impostor,his family is not an old one like ours ".The famous scene of the orangeade is included .Today,no serious historian would put forward that the drink was poisoned.But it might be possible that she was poisoned before leaving Mexico.Davis shines when she plays these scenes of madness.The scenes in Paris are not thoroughly accurate though:Eugenie (an incredibly beautiful Sondergaard) met first Carlotta alone in the Grand Hotel -they did not invite her to the Tuileries,which meant a lot about what they felt-Metternich was not the person who helped Carlotta :she first took refuge in the Vatican where the pope had trouble to get rid of her,then her sister-in-law Marie -Henriette ,queen of Belgium,came to her rescue when she was treated almost like a prisoner in Miramar.
All that concerns Maximilian's death is accurate ,his last words were "poor Charlotte!"
Poor Charlotte indeed.She was to outlive almost everyone,even Empress Eugenie! She died in 1927,after years and years of insanity with occasional moments of lucidity ,notably during WW1.
Dieterlé's movie is by no means uninteresting,but it would be exciting to film a remake in the light of the recent works about the Mexican adventure.
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