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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 »
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 people, by the people, etc. He couldn't have known Lincoln's rhetorical flourish because the actual speech wasn't given until mid November 1863. See more »
Brian Aherne, as the Emperor Maximillian, is the strongest thing going for this historical film depicting the failed attempt by Louis Napoleon to create a puppet government in Mexico. The rest of the casting is uneven at best. John Garfield is badly miscast as Diaz, as is that great character actor Donald Crisp. Paul Muni playing the Zapotac Indian, Benito Juarez, manages to just look stoic and sullen and is not called upon to do much acting. Maybe it's the makeup! Claude Rains and Gale Sondergaard are outstanding as Napoleon III and his queen Eugenie and they play at the devious political game with just the right amount of intrigue.
The film is historically correct and that is part of the problem. The filmmakers put every incident that led to the fall of Maximillian into the story and the film drags on and on. It's more information that we need to know.
There are mixed opinions on the Bette Davis portrayal of Empress Carlotta, the unstable wife of Maximillian. Hers is an interesting story but Davis may not have put enough incipient madness into her characterization.
On the whole,this is a pretty good history lesson with no Hollywood happy ending tacked on, that tells of a well meaning, gentle man who was badly used by the French emperor, sent to rule a people of whom he knew nothing, in a land where he was not wanted. And Aherne absolutely is perfect for the part.....he is the star of this film.
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