Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Juarez (1939)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Juarez (1939)

In director William Dieterle's historical biopic drama about Napoleon's attempts to establish a foothold in Mexico in the mid-1800s:

  • the regal scene of the arrival of idealistic Archduke - Emperor Maximilian von Habsburg (Brian Aherne) and his ambitious Empress wife Carlota (Bette Davis) in Mexico, after being appointed by French leader Napoleon III (Claude Rains) to lead the country in the mid-19th century as a puppet leader; the pair sensed danger (there were no crowds of supporters) as their carriage drove them from the ship: (Maximilian: "Since we set foot off the ship, I have felt myself surrounded by mystery as though everything we looked at possessed some hidden meaning" Carlota: "It has touched me too, Max. It has made me apprehensive at having urged you so much toward this undertaking")
  • the character of native Mexican President Benito Pablo Juarez (Paul Muni), the elected leader, and his patriotic leadership of the resistance efforts against the French
  • the well-acted sequence of power-hungry Carlota's angry and fiery outburst at Napoleon for setting up her husband for failure in Mexico - and her accusation that Bonaparte was a murderer: ("More than an empire is in danger. My husband's life. And knowing this, you could abandon him? Answer me, sire!...Was it you or your ministers who conceived the plan to mask your infamies behind my husband's noble name? Who tricked him into accepting the throne by means of a pretended plebiscite? Who assured him of French troops and French funds until the day that the Empire of Mexico could take her place among other nations? Answer me, sire!"); he briefly answered: ("It is useless, Madame. Not another franc. Not another man. We are through with Mexico"); she snarled back: ("What else might a Hapsburg have expected from the word of a bourgeois Bonaparte? You charlatan! But you will not dare let him die! I will denounce you in every court in Europe for what you will be: a murderer! A murderer!"); and then when she collapsed to the floor and was offered water to drink from a glass, she crazily accused Bonaparte of poisoning her ("You're trying to poison me!"), and ran away (disappearing in total darkness); subsequently, she suffered a nervous breakdown
Carlota's Outburst at Napoleon (Claude Rains):
"You charlatan!"
  • the ending sequence of the trial, sentencing, and guilty verdict for Maximilian, who was to die by firing squad; as he was led to his execution, he spoke: ("Distribute this money among your men, Captain. Ask them to aim at my heart"); a white dove flew off after a loud volley of gunfire from the firing squad
  • the conclusion in which re-established President Juarez walked to view the corpse and coffin of Maximilian lying in-state on an altar in an ornate cathedral, after the European puppet leader's execution and death; Benito uttered the film's final line of dialogue: ("Forgive me")

Newly-Appointed Emperor Maximilian With Empress Wife Carlota

Arrival in Mexico - in Carriage

Mexican President Juarez (Paul Muni)

Maximilian's Execution: "Distribute this money among your men, Captain..."

President Juarez:
"Forgive me"


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