France had begun its first experiments in Cinemascope : these (still rare) movies all dealt with historic events: there was Dreville's "LA Fayette" ,Gance 's "Austerlitz" and this one "Napoleon II :L'Aiglon".But these works had more in common: the lead was not really a big star ,even by France's standards :Michel LeRoyer as the NEW World's hero,Pierre Mondy as Napoleon the Father and Bernard Verley as Napoleon the Son.And these leads were given support by stars by the dozen (Orson Welles was featured in the first two works).
"L'Aiglon " was once played by Sarah Bernardt on stage.But here ,it's an actor!Bernard Verley has enough romanticism in him to succeed in his portrayal.Around him,much more celebrated actors appear in two or three scenes :Jean Marais (during an intermission in the opera theater),Georges Marchal,Jean-Pierre Cassel .Josef Meinrad as Granddad and François Maistre as the mischievous Metternich play more prominent parts.
Directing is not up to scratch and the love affair with Thérèse Pêche was not really one in real life:historians often wrote that "L'Aiglon" died a virgin man.And Sophie ,whose part is boiled down to a walk on ,was his real confidant.It's that Sophie who grew up into Sissi's mother-in-law fans of Marischka 's trilogy know well.
L'Aiglon was a prisoner.And in a prison you can't escape from cause your prison is your own family.He underwent a brainwashing: he had to forget everything from the French language to his Tuileries memories.The film was watered-down for that matter.On the other hand,Marie-Louise's obnoxious behavior is not passed over in silence.
But a romantic hero such as l'Aiglon should attract a director in search of a remake: he could do much better.
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