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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>
Because the film shows many of Maximilian's generals to be Mexican, many viewers attribute it to typical Hollywood historical distortions. It is, however, indeed accurate. It's a little-known fact that, although Maximilian was eventually overthrown and executed by Mexican revolutionaries, there were actually more Mexicans fighting on Maximilian's side than against him. This was due in large part to the Catholic Church's strong support of the French occupation of Mexico and its "encouraging" Mexican Catholics to fight against the revolutionary forces by joining Maximilian's army, which they did in large numbers. See more »
About 72 minutes into the film the Imperial Mexican soldiers are committing executions in a village. A young boy tears down a posting of an Imperial Decree and flees. The commander of the Imperial soldiers draws a Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army and shoots the boy down. As the film is set in 1865, this pistol will not be invented for another eight years. See more »
[as Juarez views the dead body of Maximillian lying in state]
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Interesting glimpse of Mexican history with its phantom emperor...
Warner Bros. obviously spared no expense to do justice to a story of JUAREZ (PAUL MUNI) but spent so much time on the ill-fated reign of Emperor Maximilian (BRIAN AHERNE and his wife Carlotta, BETTE DAVIS), that the film might just as well have been called MAXIMILIAN. An even better title comes from a play on which this is based, called THE PHANTOM EMPEROR.
Brian Aherne has the most screen time in what appears to be the central role.Ironically, he was nominated for an Oscar in the "Best Supporting Role" category. If billing in Hollywood was fair, instead of governed by studio politics, he should have shared star billing with Paul Muni and Bette Davis in the opening credits.
Having said all that, the details of the story have been given in expert fashion by many of the other commentators who are better acquainted with Mexican history than I am, so I can't talk about the accuracy or inaccuracies of the plot. But from a standpoint of entertainment, JUAREZ attempts to do too much in dealing with a complex plot. The talky script full of historical references becomes tedious and the film occasionally drags and loses momentum until an action scene relieves it of monotony. However, the ability of the writers to cover so much ground in the course of little more than two hours is an achievement in itself.
The acting is splendid for the most part--but unfortunately Muni has chosen to play Benito Juarez in almost mute fashion, his stoic expression hardly ever changing and relying on heavy make-up to do the job for him. It doesn't work.
But all those around him can only be congratulated for doing well in roles large and small. Davis is especially compelling in Empress Carlotta's scene of incipient madness; Aherne gives dignity and sympathy to Maximilian; and Claude Rains, Gale Sondergaard, Donald Crisp, Gilbert Roland, Joseph Calleia and Montagu Love are excellent in support.
The only casting misfire is JOHN GARFIELD in swarthy Mexican make-up as Gen. Diaz. He looks out of place even though he attempts to give an earnest performance and his lower New York accent is just below his Mexican one.
Except for a majestic main theme that is used once in awhile, Erich Wolfgang Korngold's overall score did not make a strong impression on me this time.
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