Juarez (1939) - Rotten Tomatoes

Juarez (1939)

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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 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.

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Cast

Paul Muni
as Benito Pablo Juarez
Brian Aherne
as Maximilian von Habsburg
Bette Davis
as Carlotta von Habsburg
John Garfield
as Porfirio Diaz
Claude Rains
as Napoleon III
Donald Crisp
as Marechal Bazaine
Gale Sondergaard
as Empress Eugenie
Joseph Calleia
as Alejandro Uradi
Gilbert Roland
as Col. Miguel Lopez
Henry O'Neill
as Miguel Miramon
Pedro de Cordoba
as Riva Palacio
Montagu Love
as Jose de Montares
Harry Davenport
as Dr. Samuel Basch
Walter Fenner
as Achille Fould
Alexander Leftwich
as Drouyn de Lhuys
Robert Warwick
as Maj. DuPont
John Miljan
as Mariano Escobedo
Irving Pichel
as Carbajal
Walter Kingsford
as Prince Metternich
Monte Blue
as Lerdo de Tejada
Georgia Caine
as Countess Battenberg
Gennaro Curci
as Senor de Leon
Billy Wilkerson
as Tomas Mejia
Hugh Sothern
as John Bigelow
Fred Malatesta
as Senor Salas
Walter O. Stahl
as Senator del Valle
Frank Reicher
as Duc de Morny
Holmes Herbert
as Marshall Randon
Egon Brecher
as Baron von Magnus
Mickey Kuhn
as Augustin Iturbide
Lillian Nicholson
as Josefa Iturbide
Grant Mitchell
as Mr. Harris
Charles Halton
as Mr. Roberts
William Edmunds
as Italian Minister
Gilbert Emery
as Ambassador
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Critic Reviews for Juarez

All Critics (3)

A dull epic directed without inspiration by William Dieterle.

September 6, 2013 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Warner Brothers spectacle of highest order with Muni never better.

July 27, 2006 | Rating: 5/5
Dispatch-Tribune Newspapers

Audience Reviews for Juarez

½

Well appointed but lumbering, miscast drama. Bette is fine, all spit and fire but John Garfield, who was embarrassed by his forced casting, is completely out of place as Porfirio Diaz with his New York accent still firmly in place. Paul Muni, a very fine actor in modern dress roles, does what he always does when heavily made up he lets the makeup do the acting for him. A good try but stodgy.

jay nixon
jay nixon

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