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Juarez
     

Juarez

Director: William Dieterle

Cast: Paul Muni, Bette Davis, Brian Aherne

 

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Juarez was originally designed to concentrate almost exclusively on the tragedy of Hapsburg Emperor Maximillian, whose attempts to establish a puppet government in Mexico on behalf of Napoleon III ended in disaster and death. But when Paul Muni decided that he wanted to play Zapotec-Indian-turned-Mexican President Benito Pablo Juarez, the film's emphasis

Overview

Juarez was originally designed to concentrate almost exclusively on the tragedy of Hapsburg Emperor Maximillian, whose attempts to establish a puppet government in Mexico on behalf of Napoleon III ended in disaster and death. But when Paul Muni decided that he wanted to play Zapotec-Indian-turned-Mexican President Benito Pablo Juarez, the film's emphasis perceptibly shifted -- and Bette Davis, cast as Empress Carlotta, was shunted to second billing rather than first. Muni's makeup and costuming convincingly transforms him into Juarez incarnate. But unlike his other historical impersonations (Pasteur, Zola), Muni's Juarez is a one-note characterization: stoic, uncompromising, and v-e-e-r-y slow of speech. Far more exciting dramatically is Bette Davis as Empress Carlotta, whose highly stylized descent into madness is a tour de force both for the actress and for director William Dieterle. Claude Rains and Gale Sondergaard, as Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, in essence repeat their diabolical characterizations from Anthony Adverse (1936), while John Garfield is singularly miscast as Pofirio Diaz. The best performance is delivered by Brian Aherne, whose kindly, honorable Emperor Maximillian is less a despot than a misguided political pawn. When Aherne, about to be executed at Juarez' orders, requests that his favorite Mexican song "La Paloma" be played as he is led before the firing squad, audience sympathies are 100% in Maximilian's corner--which was not quite what the filmmakers intended. Based largely on Bertita Harding's book The Phantom Crown (the film's original title), Juarez takes every available opportunity to parallel its title character's fight against foreign intervention with the then-current European situation. To protect their investment in Juarez Warner Bros. purchased outright a like-vintage Mexican film on the same subject, The Mad Empress, suppressing the latter film's release in the United States.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Juarez manages to be a very entertaining and effective historical epic, despite some enormous flaws. Part of its success lies in the fact that -- unlike so many Hollywood attempts to film history -- a great deal of what ends up on the screen is accurate. It helps also, of course, that the historical situation being explored is one that is in and of itself exciting and intriguing. The screenplay doesn't always succeed in capturing this excitement and intrigue totally, due in no small part to the fact that too many people had a hand in writing and shaping it, but individual sequences are excellent and director William Dieterle does a fine job of pulling together its disparate parts and camouflaging the gaps and faults. He is helped greatly by Brian Aherne's excellent performance, which makes Maximilian into a sympathetic and complicated character, as well as by Bette Davis, who sinks her teeth into her juicy mad scene and plays it for all she is worth. Gale Sondergaard and Claude Rains are also effective, both smoothly villainous, but John Garfield is quite miscast. More damaging, however, is Paul Muni whose decision to underplay his role in order to contrast with Davis' histrionics renders Juarez distant, remote, uninvolving, and quite dull. This leaden anchor at its center weakens Juarez, but the film fortunately has enough assets to mitigate the damage.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/01/2011
UPC:
0883316382547
Original Release:
1939
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Archives
Region Code:
0
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
2:00:00
Sales rank:
11,146

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Paul Muni Benito Pablo Juarez
Bette Davis Empress Carlota von Habsburg
Brian Aherne Emperor Maximilian von Habsburg
Claude Rains Louis Napoleon
John Garfield Porfirio Diaz
Donald Crisp Marechal Bazaine
Gale Sondergaard Empress Eugenie
Gilbert Roland Col. Miguel Lopez
Henry O'Neill Miguel Miramon
Walter Fenner Achille Fould
Alexander Leftwich Drouyn de Lhuys
Georgia Caine Countess Battenberg
Robert Warwick Maj. DuPont
Gennaro Curci Senor de Leon
John Miljan Mariano Escobedo
Hugh Sothern John Bigelow
Fred Malatesta Senor Salas
Carlos de Valdez Tailor
Irving Pichel Carbajal
Frank Lackteen Coachman
David Cross Senator del Valle
Frank Reicher Duc de Morny
Holmes Herbert Marshall Randon
Walter Kingsford Prince Metternich
Egon Brecher Baron von Magnus
Monte Blue Lerdo de Tejada
Louis Calhern LeMarc
Mickey Kuhn Augustin Iturbide
Lillian Nicholson Josefa Iturbide
Noble Johnson Regules
Martin Garralaga Negroni
Vladimir Sokoloff Camilo
Grant Mitchell Mr. Harris
Charles Halton Mr. Roberts
William Edmunds Italian Minister
Gilbert Emery Actor
William Wilkerson Tomas Mejia
Joseph Calleia Alejandro Uradi
Pedro de Cordoba Riva Palacio
Montagu Love Jose de Montares
Harry Davenport Dr. Samuel Basch
Nigel de Brulier Actor

Technical Credits
William Dieterle Director
Henry Blanke Producer
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Tony Gaudio Cinematographer
Anton Grot Production Designer
John Huston Screenwriter
Erich Wolfgang Korngold Score Composer
Warren Low Editor
Aeneas MacKenzie Screenwriter
Orry-Kelly Costumes/Costume Designer
Wolfgang Reinhardt Screenwriter
Hal B. Wallis Producer

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