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.
Release date: Jun 10, 1939
Production Company: Warner Bros.
Box Office Collection:
Juarez Caste and Crew
Director: William Dieterle
writer: John Huston,Wolfgang Reinhardt,Aeneas MacKenzie
Paul Muni,Brian Aherne,Bette Davis,John Garfield,Claude Rains,Donald Crisp,Gale Sondergaard,Joseph Calleia,Gilbert Roland,Henry O’Neill,Pedro de Cordoba,Montagu Love,Harry Davenport,Walter Fenner,Alexander Leftwich,Robert Warwick,John Miljan,Irving Pichel,Walter Kingsford,Monte Blue,Louis Calhern,Vladimir Sokoloff,Georgia Caine,Gennaro Curci,Billy Wilkerson,Hugh Sothern,Fred Malatesta,Carlos De Valdez,Frank Lackteen,Walter O. Stahl,Frank Reicher,Holmes Herbert,Egon Brecher,Manuel Diaz,Mickey Kuhn,Lillian Nicholson,Noble Johnson,Grant Mitchell,Charles Halton,Martin Garralaga,William Edmunds,Gilbert Emery,Nigel De Brulier