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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 <email@example.com>
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 »
Empress Carlotta von Hapsburg:
More than an empire is in danger. My husband's life. And knowing this, you could abandon him? Answer me, sire!
Emperor Louis Napoleon III:
Regardless of my personal sentiments, I am, as you see, Madame, in the hands of my ministers.
Empress Carlotta von Hapsburg:
In the hands of your ministers! Was it you or your ministers who conceived the plan to mask your infamies behind my husband's noble name? Who tricked him into accepting the throne by means of a pretended plebiscite? Who assured him of French troops and French funds until the day that the ...
[...] See more »
In 1952, the film was re-released and several key scenes were removed, particularly sequences that contained dialogue that criticized countries which, in 1939 had been regarded as totalitarian, but which, by the early 1950s had become Cold War allies of the United States and could therefore no longer be criticized as imperialist adventurers. Germany and Italy, especially, former enemies in the 1940s, were now the cornerstone of NATO. The removal of these scenes obfuscated the narrative considerably, in particular, removing any clear reasons behind the execution of the Emperor Maximilian at the conclusion of the film. This revised print runs 106 minutes and is the version released on video and generally available today. The 1939 version is preserved on nitrate stock in the Warner Archive. See more »
Written by Sebastián Yradier
Sung offscreen twice by an unidentified woman
Reprised by an unidentified woman before Maximilian's execution
Variations played as part of the score See more »
An amazing conflagration of actors populates the cast of 1939's "Juarez" -- Brian Aherne, Paul Muni, Bette Davis, Claude Rains, John Garfield, Gale Sondergaard, Donald Crisp, Gilbert Roland, and Louis Calhern. More amazing is the size of many of their roles - small! It shows that Warner Brothers put everything behind this epic film.
The story concerns the short reign of Maximilian von Hapsburg (Aherne) as Emperor of Mexico, seduced into taking the position by Napoleon III (Rains) who convinces him that the Mexican people want a monarchy. They don't. Opposing Maximilian is the man of the people, Benito Juarez (Muni), who has the support of the United States. Both Maximilian and Juarez want many of the same things, but Maximilian's hard work to unite the Mexican people and stop the fighting fails.
Though the title is "Juarez," the workhorse role belongs to the underrated Brian Aherne, an excellent actor from the theater who took second place to Errol Flynn at Warner Brothers. Though superstardom eluded him, he was a brilliant actor and a handsome man who turned in many great performances during a 43-year career. His Maximilian is gentle, likable, strong, and sympathetic. He gets third billing to Muni and Davis. Davis plays the Empress Carlota, Maximilian's wife. It's a secondary role but she has a huge, dramatic scene when Carlota returns to France to insist that Napoleon III keep his troops in Mexico. One of the best moments in the film is Carlota, going mad and believing the French court is trying to poison her, running out into the night, her white dress slowly disappearing. Davis wears magnificent gowns and has dark hair that seems to emphasize her huge eyes even more. She looks quite beautiful and gives a solid performance as a fragile woman devoted to her husband.
Paul Muni's Juarez is stiff, and he looks and acts as if he's embalmed. Muni was a great actor who delved deeply into his roles, and it's not clear what he was thinking when he gave this performance. Undoubtedly he had researched Benito Juarez to the ground and was giving an exact representation of him. But as Bette Davis once said, "True acting is larger than life." Muni needed something more for this role but doesn't supply it. John Garfield's Porfirio Diaz is odd casting. He makes a little attempt at an accent; underneath that dark makeup is still John Garfield. Supposedly his role was cut down. Back in 1939, audiences were just getting to know him, so his performance probably held up well back then. Nowadays one only thinks, "Why is John Garfield playing a Mexican?" "Juarez" is rich in detail - it occasionally is plodding and runs a bit long in an effort to supply the historic happenings. But it is well worth seeing for the performances, the story, and those Orry-Kelly gowns.
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