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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 »
Juarez is a film that might possibly have been better served if the concept of a mini-series had been available back in 1939. Certainly his story in its entirety with Maximilian and Carlotta as just one part of it would be a mini-series.
Benito Juarez who rose from being an illiterate Zapotec Indian from Oaxaca province in Mexico has developed into the Mexican statesman with the biggest popular appeal in American culture. Note how in the film, he is juxtaposed with Abraham Lincoln. Both men started from very humble background and rose to lead their respective nations at the same time, in times of great crises for their countries.
Paul Muni makes an impassive and stoic Juarez. It certainly is atypical of the rest of his historical characters be it Louis Pasteur, Pierre Radisson, or Emile Zola where he is quite eloquent. It's so different than what you normally see from Muni.
Juarez's story shares the screen with that of his counterpart the Emperor Maximilian. The real Maximilian was not as naive as Brian Aherne would have us believe. He knew very well his power was there while the French army was there. Yet in his own way with limited options he tried to govern as best he could. Aherne was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Thomas Mitchell for Stagecoach.
Hollywood usually can't resist a mad act and Bette Davis might have been nominated herself had she not been already nominated for the much better Dark Victory. It really did happen that way, the high strung Carlotta just snapped when she returned to France to get help for her beleaguered husband. She lived in her private mad world for over 60 years, dying in the mid twenties of the next century.
Claude Rains registers well as emperor Louis Napoleon and with this film played both Bonaparte emperors of France. He had played the first Napoleon in Hearts Divided. Marshal Achille Bazaine played well by Donald Crisp was withdrawn with his troops because France was very concerned, rightly so, about a growing threat from a uniting Germany and couldn't waste time with imperialist ventures. I do love the fact that the French seem so concerned about the Monroe Doctrine which was nothing more than an expression of U.S. policy, always has and always will be. It had no force of law behind it, but with the Civil War over and the Union Army at the point of Appomattox being the largest army in the world at that time, that had more to do with Napoleon deciding that the western hemisphere wasn't worth it.
An interesting side note to that retrenchment policy, Louis Napoleon also withdrew French troops from Rome and the Papal States for the same reason at the same time because of threats to the home land. It removed the last block to a uniting Italy as well.
If I have a favorite among the supporting cast it is Joseph Calleia who plays Juarez's slippery Vice President who tries a palace coup d'etat and falls very short.
The one jarring note in the cast is John Garfield who sounds more like he's from the Lower East Side of New York than Mexican as Juarez supporter and future dictator of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz.
Juarez as a film is overly ambitious, it tries to tell too much in the running time allotted. A film about Juarez and a film strictly from the Maximilian/Carlotta point of view would have been far better.
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