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The Secret of Mayerling (1949)

Le secret de Mayerling (original title)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Dominique Blanchar ...
...
Claude Farell ...
Silvia Monfort ...
Jane Marken ...
Marguerite Jamois ...
Denise Benoît ...
Anna Vetsera
Madeleine Foujane ...
L'ambassadrice d'Allemagne
Wanny ...
Une mondaine
Renée Thorel ...
Une dame d'honneur
Jacques Dacqmine ...
Michel Vitold ...
L'archiduc Jean-Salvator
Raphaël Patorni ...
François Richard ...
Le prince de Saxe-Cobourg
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Lovers Who Mystified the World...Was It a Suicide Pact or Murder?

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Drama

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11 May 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Secret of Mayerling  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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First screen appearance of ingénue Renée Cosima. See more »

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Suicide or assassination?
15 June 2008 | by See all my reviews

1982: Empress Zita Von Hapsburg came back in her homeland after a 64 years exile.One of the things which puzzled the journalists in the long interview which was published in Kronen Zeitung in March 1983 is that she revealed that the doomed Mayerling lovers did not commit suicide : they were murdered and the family had always known the truth.The ex-empress did not produce any proofs though.People interested in the subject can read Jean Des Cars's absorbing "Les Secrets de Mayerling" ,a 700+ pages work.

1949:Jean Delannoy tackled the Mayerling tragedy and ,unlike Anatole Litvak's previous version (1936) and Terence Young's (1968) ,he described this mysterious affair as Zita would thirty years later.

Delannoy's work is not necessarily historically accurate though:it seems that a lot of elements of the screenplay were borrowed from countess Larish's dubious memoirs "My past": Mary Vetsera refusing to bow before Empress Stephanie or the political role Larish would have supposed to play( the secret papers,and the code).But the biggest surprise is Franz Ferdinand as Franz Joseph's police headman! It never was.

The film is a long flashback.The tragedy has happened when the movie begins.So this movie is the only one which features the truthful scene of Mary,leaving Mayerling "alive" between her two uncles,and hastily buried in an isolated cemetery.

Delannoy's movie is probably the best of all versions : Rudolph (Jean Marais not as handsome as he generally was ,which makes sense since the Kronprinz was a junkie at the end of his life ) only appears after twenty minutes.The long prologue is filmed in a candle lit atmosphere ,sometimes close to darkness,giving the movie a macabre gloomy feeling .The ghoulish characters seem to come from the great beyond.

Dominique Blanchard (who is best remembered for her supporting part in Antonioni's "L'Avventura" ) is the most credible Mary Vetsera: very childlike,immature,a teenager in love with a rock or screen star ,she's Mary as the historians depict her.

Marguerite Jamois was a stage actress (she was a memorable Antigone in Anouilh's eponymous play)who only made one movie :this one.Jean Cocteau wanted her to play the part of the queen in his " L'Aigle A Deux Tetes" but she turned his offer down and when Edwige Feuillere replaced her ,she regretted her decision.As Cocteau's heroine was inspired by Empress Elizabeth from Austria 's life ,she was happy that Delannoy (who often collaborated with Cocteau) cast her as Sissi in "Le Secret de Mayerling".

"Le Secret de Mayerling" is another successful film by Delannoy whose reputation was forever tarnished by the fusty Cahiers du Cinema and the arrogant fascism of the Nouvelle Vague.Many of his works are still crying to be seen .

NB:In the version which was released on video,seven minutes were cut!this makes the ending incomprehensible .These missing minutes show the killer in a HItchcockesque way,according to reliable historian Jean Des Cars.

2/4/16: yesterday,on canal satellite ,the seven missing minutes were restored and now we can see the director's cut.


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