The Mad Empress (1939)

72 or 95 mins | Drama | 16 December 1939

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Maximilian and Carlotta , Juarez and Maximilian and Maximilian . It was also reviewed as Maximilian and Carlotta and Juarez and Maximilian . An introduction to the beginning of the film reads, "Through the courtesy of the Mexican government some of the important scenes in this picture--the Cathedral, the National Palace, the Empress' bedroom, the Castle and the grounds of Chapultepec, and Queretaro--were taken in authentic places where the drama of Maximilian and Carlotta actually evolved." According to materials contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Miguel C. Torres filmed another version of this film in 1935 entitled Juarez and Maximilian . The film was in Spanish, also starred Medea Novaro, Torres' wife, and featured a Spanish-speaking cast. It was shot in Mexico City under the informal sponsorship of the Mexican government. The picture featured Mexican cavalry troops as extras in the battle scenes. Torres also persuaded the Mexican government to tear down hundreds of telephone poles along the way to the National Palace to allow his cameras to shoot Maximilian's entrance to the city. Torres used these sequences in The Mad Empress .
       Sources conflict about the production company of the film. The MPH review lists Miguel C. Torres as the production company, whereas a news item in HR lists Colonial Pictures. According to a news item in DV , Torres was forced to suspend production in Feb 1938 because of a lack of funds. When Torres stopped shooting, ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Maximilian and Carlotta , Juarez and Maximilian and Maximilian . It was also reviewed as Maximilian and Carlotta and Juarez and Maximilian . An introduction to the beginning of the film reads, "Through the courtesy of the Mexican government some of the important scenes in this picture--the Cathedral, the National Palace, the Empress' bedroom, the Castle and the grounds of Chapultepec, and Queretaro--were taken in authentic places where the drama of Maximilian and Carlotta actually evolved." According to materials contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Miguel C. Torres filmed another version of this film in 1935 entitled Juarez and Maximilian . The film was in Spanish, also starred Medea Novaro, Torres' wife, and featured a Spanish-speaking cast. It was shot in Mexico City under the informal sponsorship of the Mexican government. The picture featured Mexican cavalry troops as extras in the battle scenes. Torres also persuaded the Mexican government to tear down hundreds of telephone poles along the way to the National Palace to allow his cameras to shoot Maximilian's entrance to the city. Torres used these sequences in The Mad Empress .
       Sources conflict about the production company of the film. The MPH review lists Miguel C. Torres as the production company, whereas a news item in HR lists Colonial Pictures. According to a news item in DV , Torres was forced to suspend production in Feb 1938 because of a lack of funds. When Torres stopped shooting, he was $18,000 in debt. On 18 Feb 1939, the picture went back into production at Talisman Studios in California, with additional funding provided by Warner Bros. Materials contained in the Warner Bros. files at the USC Cinema-Television Library elucidate on details of how Torres got Warner Bros. to fund him. When Torres started production on this film, Warner Bros. informed him that they owned all motion picture and collateral rights to the Franz Werfel play based on the life of Maximilian and Carlotta, and asked him to refrain from using the title Juarez and Maximilian . After Torres ran out of money to finish his picture, he approached Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures about distributing the film. To end the threat of another company distributing Torres' film before Warner Bros. could release their film, Juarez , Warner Bros. gave him the money to finish his production on the condition that they control distribution. Once it was completed, Warner Bros. cut the film from 95 to 72 minutes and released it under the title The Mad Empress . The Warner Bros. film Juarez , directed by William Dieterle, starred Paul Muni in the title role, with Bette Davis as Carlotta and Brian Aherne as Maximillian and was released on 10 Jun 1939. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Feb 39
p. 5.
Daily Variety
19 Apr 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
4 May 39
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 37
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 38
pp. 14-15.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 39
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Feb 39
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 39
p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald
22 Apr 39
p. 39.
New York Times
15 Feb 40
p. 15.
The Exhibitor
29 Nov 39
p. 425.
Variety
21 Feb 40
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set des
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Prod adv
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Juarez and Maximilian
Maximilian
Maximilian and Carlotta
Release Date:
16 December 1939
Production Date:
mid January 1938--27 February 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Vitagraph, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 December 1939
Copyright Number:
LP9294
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA High Fidelity Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
72 or 95
Countries:
Mexico, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
5195
SYNOPSIS

In Paris, in 1862, French Emperor Louis Napoleon III offers the throne of Mexico to Archduke Maximilian and his wife, Princess Carlotta of Belgium. Prince Metternick advises against accepting the offer because there is so little support for the French empire in Mexico, especially on the part of the United States. Maximilian, whose brother is Francis Joseph, the emperor of Austria, is reluctant to accept the Mexican throne because to do so he must renounce his claim to the Austrian throne, but Carlotta convinces him that this is an opportunity to build a new Hapsburgh empire. When Maximilian and Carlotta arrive in Mexico, they learn that former Mexican president Benito Juarez is still fighting for the Republic and has the support of the majority of the Mexican people. Hoping to ingratiate themselves to the Mexicans, Maximilian and Carlotta adopt a child from the Itirbes, Mexico's royal family, after their advisors suggest that an heir would consolidate their position. Through bad management, the imperial treasury is bankrupt. At the same time, United States President Abraham Lincoln conveys his disapproval of the Mexican empire to France. After General Bazaine convinces Maximilian to sign an anti-guerilla decree allowing unauthorized military personal to be killed, a move which angers the Mexicans, Napoleon recalls the French troops. Despite their troubles, Maximilian and Carlotta refuse to abdicate and leave the country. Carlotta decides to travel to Europe and beg Napoleon and the pope for support. After her mission fails, Carlotta becomes insane and remains in Europe. Maximilian wants to abdicate and join her, but his advisors convince him to remain in Mexico. As Juarez's troops advance, Maximilian takes ... +


In Paris, in 1862, French Emperor Louis Napoleon III offers the throne of Mexico to Archduke Maximilian and his wife, Princess Carlotta of Belgium. Prince Metternick advises against accepting the offer because there is so little support for the French empire in Mexico, especially on the part of the United States. Maximilian, whose brother is Francis Joseph, the emperor of Austria, is reluctant to accept the Mexican throne because to do so he must renounce his claim to the Austrian throne, but Carlotta convinces him that this is an opportunity to build a new Hapsburgh empire. When Maximilian and Carlotta arrive in Mexico, they learn that former Mexican president Benito Juarez is still fighting for the Republic and has the support of the majority of the Mexican people. Hoping to ingratiate themselves to the Mexicans, Maximilian and Carlotta adopt a child from the Itirbes, Mexico's royal family, after their advisors suggest that an heir would consolidate their position. Through bad management, the imperial treasury is bankrupt. At the same time, United States President Abraham Lincoln conveys his disapproval of the Mexican empire to France. After General Bazaine convinces Maximilian to sign an anti-guerilla decree allowing unauthorized military personal to be killed, a move which angers the Mexicans, Napoleon recalls the French troops. Despite their troubles, Maximilian and Carlotta refuse to abdicate and leave the country. Carlotta decides to travel to Europe and beg Napoleon and the pope for support. After her mission fails, Carlotta becomes insane and remains in Europe. Maximilian wants to abdicate and join her, but his advisors convince him to remain in Mexico. As Juarez's troops advance, Maximilian takes refuge in the monastery at Queretaro, where he is captured and condemned to death. Juarez refuses to pardon Maximilian and he dies thinking of Carlotta. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.