Juarez (1939)

WILLIAM DIETERLE

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBB

USA, 1939.  Warner Bros..  Screenplay by John Huston, Aeneas MacKenzie, Wolfgang Reinhardt, based on the play by Franz Werfel, and the novel The Phantom Crown by Bertita Harding.  Cinematography by Tony Gaudio.  Produced by Hal B. Wallis.  Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  Production Design by Anton Grot.  Costume Design by Orry-Kelly.  Film Editing by Warren Low.  Academy Awards 1939.  

Powerful and impressively mounted film biography of the famous Mexican revolutionary Benito Juarez (Paul Muni, a mainstay of Warner Bros. film biographies at the time).  Juarez fights for the freedom of the less fortunate in the country when Emperor Maximilian (Brian Aherne) and his wife Carlotta (Bette Davis) arrive. Trying to appease both Juarez and his supporters, Maximilian fails, and even though Carlotta travels to France to plead with Napoleon not to withdraw his country’s support from Maximilian after Abraham Lincoln has encouraged him to do so, the French emperor turns her down. This respectable dramatic film benefits from the impassioned performances of its leads (especially Davis doing well in a second-fiddle role) and gorgeous period detail.

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