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JUAREZ – Erich Wolfgang Korngold


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1935 producer Hal Wallis sought out director Max Reinhardt’s assistance in his next project; bringing the tale of Maximilian and Juárez to the big screen. He believed that Bertita Harding’s 1934 novel The Phantom Crown was a tragic tale, which needed its story told. Jack L. Warner agreed and purchased the film rights to the novel, as well as the play “Juárez and Maximilian” by Franz Werfel. He tasked Aeneas McKenzie in writing the screenplay, and to ensure historical accuracy three hundred books were acquired on the subject and two historians were hired to assist with the script. The initial script was too massive to present in a single film, so John Huston and Wolfgang Reinhardt were hired to make the necessary edits. Progress was made and in 1938 the studio gave the green light for production with William Dieterle was given the director reins. A stellar cast was hired, with Paul Muni as Benito Juárez, Bette Davis as Carlotta of Mexico, Brian Aherne as Maximilian I of Mexico, Claude Rains as Emperor Napoleon III of France, and John Garfield as Porfirio Diaz.

The story takes place circa 1863 in Mexico. The French have conquered Mexico while the United States is consumed with its brutal Civil War. In an attempt to circumvent the Monroe Doctrine and provide legitimacy, Napoleon III, Emperor of France asks Grand Duke Maximilian von Hapsburg of Austria and his beloved wife Carlota to become Emperor and Empress of Mexico. Maximilian agrees after a plebiscite (unknown to him to be fraudulent) reveals support by 99% of the people. Maximilian and Carlota and attempt benevolent governance, which alienates them from the conservative aristocracy and the Republicans of ousted President Benito Juárez arrive. Slowly over time unravel the fraud of their circumstances, and how Napoleon III duped them into an iniquitous enterprise. Benito Juárez, the lawful President of Mexico battles against their foreign rule, and eventually has to confront usurpation of his office by his traitorous Vice President Uradi. When Napoleon III decides to cut his loses and withdraw his troops, the house of cards collapses, Carlota goes mad trying to get Napoleon to save Maximilian, and Maximilian is overthrown and executed. The film was a modest commercial success, but critical reception was mixed. The film received a single Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Director William Dieterle had enjoyed his collaboration with Erich Wolfgang Korngold on two previous films – The Prince and the Pauper and Another Dawn, both of which were released in 1937. He felt that the tragic story of the Austrian Grand Duke Maximilian von Hapsburg and his beloved wife Carlota was a perfect fit for Austrian born Korngold. Well, Korngold relished the assignment, assiduously researched the music of the time, and was surprised to discover that the music of the Mexican elite was “Unmistakably Viennese”. He understood that he would have to speak to two different cultures; European and the indigenous Mexicans. To that end he infused his soundscape with traditional Mexican folk songs to support cultural authenticity.

In terms of themes, four primary themes are provided. Two are associated with the Emperor, one personal and an emblem of his office, and one for the decrees used to enforce his rule. Maximilian’s Theme perfectly speaks to Maximilian in his capacity as Emperor. It offers Korngold’s renown gift for fanfare borne by horns reale abounding with pride, noblesse oblige and majesty, which emote with regality and pageantry. The Repression Theme serves as dark anthem of Maximilian’s imperialism. It offers a three-note declarative phrase by trumpets bravura, followed by a resolute six-note phrase by strings energico, which supports the use of French forces to enforce his decrees in a reign of terror, so as to subjugate and oppress the Mexican people. Carlotta’s Theme reveals quintessential Korngold romanticism. It serves as both her identity, as well as the Love Theme. She is totally in love with Maximilian and devoted to him. Expressed with an ABA construct, the forthright A Phrase offers expressive sumptuous strings with harp adornment, while the tender string borne B Phrase graces us with yearning, which becomes rapturous when taken up by solo violin. The La Paloma (The Dove) Theme is a song written by Sebastián Iradier, a Basque in the 1850s. Korngold interpolates its melody to speak to Maximilian and Carlotta’s love for each other in their new adopted home of Mexico. Korngold imparts a warm old-world romanticism, elevating its melody as a paean of love. To appreciate the melody, you must understand the words;

“Tonight, as the moon rises silver above the sea,
I long for the harbour where you wait for me,
Do you, for I know you sorrow when we’re apart,
I wish I could send a messenger from my heart.
Then you may find a dove waiting at your window,
Singing a song of love to you at your window,
Let it come in and there as it flies above you,
Know that it’s heart is mine and it sings I love you.
Let your sorrow take wings,
Let your heart ever sing love,
As you cherish the memory of our love,
That a dove may bring.
Then you may find a dove waiting at your window,
Singing a song of love to you at your window,
Let it come in and there as it flies above you,
Know that it’s heart is mine and it sings I love you.”

There are three themes associated with President Benito Juárez, one that is personal and embodies his role as President of the Republic of Mexico, and one associated with the subjugation, oppression and suffering of the Mexican people, and one which supports the rebellion. Benito Juárez’s Theme speaks to the moral strength, incorruptibility and wisdom of he as President. It features three, three-note ascending phrases by strings solenne. The fact that the phrases ascend, speaks of the hope inspired by Juárez’s steady, humble and resolute leadership, which posits that one day that they will achieve victory and restore democracy to the people. The second theme, the Plight of Mexico Theme speaks to the oppression and grievous suffering of the Mexican people. It offers a declarative three-note phrase by plaintive trumpets, followed by a nine-note and four note phrases by aggrieved strings, which concludes with finality by a descending two-note phrase. The Rebellion Theme serves as an anthem of the Republic. Three -note declarations by resounding horns bravura abounding with pride, followed by a driving secondary phrase by surging strings energico speak to the patriotic fervor of the Mexican people to defends their democracy from their imperialist subjugators. Lastly, we have two American themes, which supports scenes in which America is directly or indirectly involved. Korngold interpolates the song melody of “My Country Tis of Thee” by Henry Carey as the American Theme, which is heard most times when the United States is seen or discussed in the film. The iconic “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by William Steffe and Julia Ward Howe is used as a grieving In memoriam tribute when Juárez learns of Lincoln’s assassination. Unfortunately, there is no bona fide release of the score, so as such I review the score by film scene.

“Main Title” offers a dramatic score highlight. It opens with the Warner Brothers Studios logo empowered by resounding declarations by horns dramatico and martial drums of Juárez’s Theme, draped in Mexican auras from which at 0:07 ushers in the roll of the opening credits against a white adobe wall. At 0:14 three-note declarations by horns bravura powerfully announce the Rebellion Theme, which swells with patriotic fervor. We segue sadly into the “Plight of Mexico Theme” at 0:26, which speaks to their suffering under foreign oppression. We close with an inspired reprise of the Rebellion Theme, which ends in a flourish. At 1:02 we segue into “Foreword” where onscreen script reveals 1863 and President Benito Juárez defending Mexican democracy against the invasion by French troops sent by Emperor Napoleon III. At 1:21 we segue into “The French Court” where Napoleon III declares France’s sacred duty assert its prestige, and civilize the world. Korngold supports unobtrusively with shifting string chords as Napoleon III bellows. At 1:39 string animato enter as he opens the letter, which reads of the decisive defeat of Confederate forces at Gettysburg, supported by a statement of “My Country Tis of Thee” by Henry Carey. We flow into a note rich and ornate agitato as Napoleon frets as the news is very upsetting, exposing the fact that he is caught between a rock and a hard place; stay and suffer defeat from an America invasion with superior forces, or suffer humiliation by withdrawing and facing riots in the streets of Paris. His wife connives a plan to install Maximilian von Hapsburg as monarch with a fraudulent plebiscite to create Mexican self-governance so as to obviate the need for American intervention under the Monroe Doctrine. This would allow France to later wash their hands of this misadventure.

In “The Letter” Juárez receives and reads a fraternal letter from President Abraham Lincoln who promises to come to his aid once the civil war is ended. We open with Juárez’s Theme, which is replaced by solemn yet hopeful auras of Americana, borne by interpolation of “My Country Tis of Thee”. At 1:01 Juárez writes a letter supported by a thankful solo oboe rendering of the Plight of Mexico Theme joined by kindred woodwinds gentile and strings, which culminates with solemnity as his cabinet and generals enter to conference. As his letter is read, we behold one of the most inspired and defiant ever written and we see his council awestruck. At 1:55 a solemn, yet hopeful rendering of the Plight of Mexico Theme supports his signature. At 2:20 we change scene atop muted fanfare militare and martial snare drums as General Bazaine, and Jose Montares, an aristocrat and leader of the Conservative party, read news that the plebiscite to install a monarchy has passed overwhelmingly with 99% in support. Korngold supports the scene unobtrusively with muted horns reale with woodwind adornment as they gloat and prepare for the arrival of their new emperor. We close at 2:56 atop warm French horns as they toast to their new Emperor.

At 3:07 we segue into “Maximilian’s Arrival”, which offers a score highlight that again displays Korngold’s renown talent for fanfares. We see Maximilian and Carlota’s grand arrival at the port of Vera Cruz. As they regally descend the gang plank Korngold uses the closing bars of the German National Anthem by horns maestoso and strings solenne to carry their arrival. As they are greeted by Montares, horns reale resound in imperial splendor. As they proceed along a red-carpet fanfare maestoso carry their progress. At 3:51 we segue atop eerie and discordant Mexican Plight Theme into “The Vulture” where Carlota is startled by a vulture roosting aloft on the Imperial Crest – a bad omen. Colonel Lopez with a brigade of troops begins their escort by carriage to Mexico City. At 4:43 their departure is supported by an aggrieved horn empowered rendering of the Plight of Mexico Theme, with interplay of the Rebellion Theme. The music is sustained as we see Maximilian and Carlotta are troubled that no people are to be seen, to which Colonel Lopez responds that all public gatherings are banned due to the Black Plague. At 5:06 a resolute Rebellion Theme ascends informing us of Lopez’s lie. As they travel Plight of Mexico rises with renewed strength, supported with interplay of the Rebellion Theme. A crescendo at 5:44 supports Carlota seeing a peon close a gate which bears the painted message “Viva Juárez”! She is unsettled but does not share what happened with Maximilian. As they converse on the trip the a portentous and eerily dissonant rendering of the Plight of Mexico Theme supports Maximilian thanking her for convincing him to take this post in pursuit of his manifest destiny. At 6:46 we segue into “A Message From Juárez’” atop a plaintive oboe with Maximilian’s discovery a letter from President Benito Juárez, which advises him that he has been duped and that he should depart at once, as it is a fraud that the people of Mexico want a monarch. The Plight of Mexico Theme with interplay of the Rebellion Theme by woodwinds misterioso unnerve the couple. We close on an ominous and fateful chord of uncertainty.

“Council” reveals Juárez’s privy counsel retiring for the night after he forbids assassinating Maximilian so that he may be brought to Justice in a court of Law. Music enters as an eerie misterioso as Vice President Alejandro Uradi remains to speak with him in private. The music stops at 0:25 as he asserts to Juárez that because he is of indigenous Indian blood, that it makes their struggle look racial, and that it would be better that someone like himself, who is of pure European blood to lead the struggle. Juárez, with the skill of a surgeon rebukes Uradi, reminding him that the vast majority of the people of Mexico are Indian, and that they were well aware that he was one of them when the elected him. At 0:26 Juárez cordially dismisses Uradi, who leaves supported by a string furioso in a huff. Korngold supports the scene with a subtle, pervasive twisted dissonance, which speaks to Uradi’s self-serving and ignoble ambitions. At 0:29 horns brilliante support Maximilian trying on his coronation attire. Pleasant and ornate court music supports the scene and we segue at 1:07 into “Carlotta’s Prayer” where we see that she has gone on pilgrimage to pray at the shrine of the Madonna. Korngold supports her silent prayer with a soft choral rendering of “Ave Maria”. As she speaks and beseeches Mary to protect them and bless her with the joy of bearing a son for her spouse Korngold imparts solemn religioso auras with strings reverenziali to create a supremely moving testament to religious devotion. Korngold masterfully carries the music over to a change of scene at the palace where Maximilian questions his physician if they have done the right thing in withholding from Carlotta that she cannot bear children.

“French Attack” offers the score’s finest action cue, and a score highlight. Maximilian is distressed to learn that the United States will not be sending a representative to his coronation and that Juárez commands 35,000 troops in opposition. French General Bazaine rejects his request for negotiations saying that he has 50,000 troops that will soon attack and crush Juárez. Music enters as we see French troops attacking with superior numbers and artillery. Korngold unleashes the score’s finest action piece with a rushing martial torrent of orchestral ferocity. Mexican auras attempt to rise in resistance, but are snuffed out as the French forces overwhelm and route Juárez’s forces. At 1:29 we segue into “Juarez Escapes” atop an agitato as Juárez is forced to evacuate and flee from the fast-approaching French troops. A reverential American Theme enters as Juárez asks Camilo to take President Lincoln’s portrait (not on the album). Some comedy enters when his servant, much to Juárez’s amusement, brings his meal bowl to the carriage and orders him to eat. At 2:13 Korngold sow uncertainty in a change of scene to the command tent where Uradi exhorts the council to seek an armistice when Juárez enters. He disbands the army and disperses them to their home states to lay low and await his orders as from now on we will fight the war on their terms, not the French. When artillery sound, they realize they are trapped, but General Diaz nobly resolves to take some men to fight a hopeless stalling action to allow the rest to escape. Horns bravura and racing strings furioso carry him and his Campaneros inspired departure. The supporting fanfare is not on the album. As to the album’s third part of this cue titled “A Shepherd’s Strategy”, this is an incongruity and misnomer as the scene occurs later in the film and the music presented on the album is not that music.

In “The Decree” Montares submits to Maximilian a decree to sign, which would reverse Juárez’s land redistribution policy, which took land from 85 wealthy aristocrats who collectively owned 80% of the best land in Mexico and redistributed it to one million poor and destitute peons. Maximilian believes this unjust, not in the best interests of the nation, and refuses to sign, which causes outrage and push back by Montares and the Privy Council who threaten to resign. When Maximilian refuses to back down, they resign en masse and depart. When his Minister of War and Chief of the Military affirm their loyalty, strings and woodwinds of thankfulness join and support Maximilian’s departure. In “Lincoln’s Death” Juárez arrives at the rebel camp and ascends to a lookout caried by a stirring, refulgent passage by strings reverenziali. He is presented a newspaper with the latest news, which reveals both joy – the end of the Civil War, but also tragedy – the assassination of President Lincoln. Korngold supports Juárez’s sadness with a grieving passage from the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, which swells and becomes reverential as he walks away, stares over the countryside, and takes off his hat in tribute to a great man. As he returns to the group, he orders all flags flown at half mast, and that all wear black arm bands of mourning.

In “A Shepherd’s Strategy” we see Juárez reviewing a map with pins, which reveal which states controlled by French, and his government. A ponderous Plight of Mexico Theme supports as all but four of the pins are French. As his attendant Camilo enters to introduce his son, the theme becomes more assertive and hopeful. Pepe tells the President that they are ready to fight but need guns. He also reveals how he as a shepherd boy with four dogs took down a more powerful wolf – by encircling it and then each dog taking turns biting when the wolf turned to attack another, eventually wearing him down. As he says, yes Pepe, that is the way to fight a wolf, a menacing bassoon sounds as Juárez decides to implement a new strategy. In “Rebellion” Korngold uses a Mexican folk song sung by a baritone to support a Juárez supporter surreptitiously supplying guns to the locals as they prepare for armed struggle. At 0:56 the locals ambush the French garrisons in two towns supported by an aggressive orchestral furioso as we see the French slaughtered from people firing from all windows, doors and church towers. We end with grim finality at 1:50.

At 1:51 we segue into “Maximilian Learns The Truth” where he is advised by his generals of the new guerilla tactics being used by Juárez and the need to respond with no mercy. They submit a decree that makes anyone found with a gun without authority guilty of treason, and to be executed within 24 hours. A menacing, trumpet empowered iteration of the Repression Theme, crowned with fanfare vittorioso sound as he reads the death penalty clause. He refuses to govern by murdering his subjects. General Bazaine insists, but Maximilian is adamant. Bazaine then shatters him with the revelation that the plebiscite was a fraud. Maximilian is devastated and bids them to leave, with grim horns sounding as Bazaine places the decree back on the desk. At 2:10 a gentile and comforting rendering of Carlota’s Theme supports her arrival as she enters and finds her husband distraught. He informs her that Napoleon III has duped theme into an iniquitous enterprise, which tarnishes House Hapsburg. He is distraught, devastated and wants to resign as Korngold supports with aching strings affanato. Yet Carlota fatefully convinces him to persevere and fulfill his oath – a decision that will lead to their ruin.

At 3:06 we segue darkly into “Meeting With Diaz”, which reveals Maximilian meeting with Diaz in his prison cell. Grim horns carry him into the cell join by reserved and muted regal fanfare as he declares himself, to an unreceptive and unfriendly Diaz. An ascending line of woodwinds and horns inform us of Maximilian’s nobility and goodwill. A warm cello gentile with trumpet nobile calls support his good nature as he eloquently informs Diaz that he has the same goals for the people as Juárez, with only one word standing between theme – democracy. He proposes to free him if he would take a message to Juárez, asking him in the interest of peace and the welfare of the people of Mexico to join his government as Prime Minister. Korngold supports this at 3:23 with a stirring passage, which ascends and blossoms with hope as we see Diaz moved by Maximilian’s words and sincerity.

In “Maximilian and Carlotta” we have a supremely romantic score highlight. Maximilian and Carlota are alone on the balcony overlooking the garden, sharing a romantic moment together, respite from the affairs of state. Korngold offers a rapturous rendering of the Love Theme with interplay at 0:40 by the song La Paloma sung by a sterling soprano vocal with harp adornment and tender Mexican rhythms. At 2:31 the Love Theme returns and blossoms when Carlota says she could never live apart from him and Maximilian grabs her into his arms and they kiss passionately. Yet at 4:09 disquiet enters and the moment is lost when Maximilian informs her that in the best interests of securing the monarchy, that they need to adopt a young Mexican boy of a noble line to ensure the succession. She is devastated as this exposes her inadequacy to bear him a son, and the music is bleak as she cries in his arms. At 4:54 the theme is reborn by strings appassionata as she states she is willing to go away for another so he may have an heir. Yet he pulls her to him and says he will have no heir that does not have both their blood, which reassures her of his love. As they embrace, we close with a wondrous reaffirmation of the Love Theme.

“Diaz Rides” reveals his exhausting forced ride to Juárez propelled by strings furioso. As he arrives the energy dissipates and the music becomes warm and gentile as Diaz brings Maximilian’s message to Juárez. Juárez expertly brings Diaz back into the fold by explain democracy, saying when a monarch misrules, he changes the people. When a President misrules, the people change him. At 0:37 we segue into “The Crown Prince”, where Augustin meets Maximilian in his office before the official ceremony. The young boy’s entry is supported by Maximilian’s Theme rendered with affection, tenderness and paternal love by woodwinds and strings. At 1:07 we segue into “The Ceremony” where we see Maximilian and Carlota seated in the throne room and holding court for the announcement and installation of Augustin as Crown Prince. Fanfare maestoso declare Maximilian’s Theme with regal grandeur. As Augustin is escorted to the throne the theme shifts with pageantry to a grand procession reale. After kneeling to the Bishop, Agustin comes and kneels before the throne with the theme transferred to woodwinds teneri. Horns maestoso again resound as Maximilian places the royal sache on Augustin and declares him their son and crown prince. Horns reale resound empower his theme as they walk to the balcony to present Augustin to the crowds below, his bow supported by fanfare brilliante.

At 3:32 we segue into “Rebel Attack” when a rebel attack detonates a massive explosion of the powder magazine, which shatters the celebratory moment. People flee for their lives propelled by an orchestral panic. Bazaine declares to Maximilian that here is Juárez’s answer, and we see anger swell in Maximilian’s eyes. At 3:58 we segue into “Signing the Decree”, which reveals Maximillian signing the decree empowered by a crescendo agitato crowned with a dire rendering of the Repression Theme. The decree initiates a reign of terror as it mandates death to anyone found in possession of a firearm. This fateful decision ensures Maximilian’s ruin for it leads to the slaughter of over 10,000 Mexicans, earning the enmity of the people. Dire horns blare as Maximilian stamps the document’s hot wax with the imperial seal. At 4:21 we segue into “Executions” and a dire iteration of the Repression Theme descends like a pall of death as people read the decree. At 4:40 we see a patriot being killed by the French supported by a dire Repression Theme buttressed with trumpets militare. At 4:49 we change scenes to a mother praying for God to deliver them from the Emperor supported by a grieving Plight of Mexico Theme. What unfolds at 4:57 is a montage of scenes where we see firing squads killing many, followed by grieving mothers and wives, and funerals. Korngold supports with skillful thematic interplay of the cruel Repression Theme and the grieving Plight of Mexico Theme. At 5:45 we segue into “Pepe’s Death” atop a horrific crescendo of death on the Repression Theme, as yet another firing squad lines up and executes a dozen men. Pepe turns as he can take no more. He tears off the wall Maximilian’s decree and runs into the open field, only to be tragically shot in the back at 6:23 by a French soldier. The music struggles until 6:49 when Pepe is brought to his father and he demands to see Don Benito.
A molto tragico rendering of the of the Plight of Mexico Theme supports his testament to Juárez, with his death marked by the Repression Theme as he hands Juárez the decree.

“Audience With Napoleon III” reveal American envoy Mr. Bigalow being granted an audience with Napoleon III as he is posing for a royal painting. Ornate court music carried by flute animato and kindred woodwinds provides the ambiance. Napoleon blinks and commits to the withdrawal of French Troops when he is told that four army corps under General Grant are deployed and a $30 million loan has been granted to fund and arm President Juárez’s army. As Bigelow departs a quote of “My Country Tis of Thee” caries his departure. At 2:17 we segue into “Carlotta Leaves For Paris” where Colonel Lopez informs Maximilian that Vice President Uradi had broken with Juárez and seized all the American munitions at Matamoros, claiming the Presidency for himself. Maximilian and Carlota are ecstatic and their joy is supported by their Love Theme. When General Bazaine arrives, Maximilian orders him to crush Juárez in the north. Grim strings support Bazaine giving a letter to Maximilian, which informs him that he has been ordered to withdraw all French troops immediately. Maximilian and Carlota are at first stunned and then furious at this betrayal, demanding that he remain as stipulated by treaty. He refuses and is ordered to leave by Carlota who resolves to return to Paris and confront Napoleon III. A plaintive rendering of Carlota’s Theme supports the aftermath with her taking responsibility for convincing him to stay. The music up to now for this scene is not found on the album. The music enters to support Carlota’s departure to Paris to confront Napoleon III. As she departs a solo soprano sings a wordless La Paloma, which is tinged with sadness.

“Alejandro’s Treason and Death” reveals Juárez audacious decision to personally journey to Matamoros alone to confront Uradi face to face. Pizzicato bass and woodwinds irato support Uradi’s anger as he summons his military staff. Korngold sow a mounting tension as Uradi declares that Juárez will never leave alive. The music swells with anger as crowds accompany Juárez’s carriage and Uradi orders his troops to open fire on the people to prevent them gaining the city square. The confluence of swelling music and swelling crowds is masterful. Menacing horns resound as the Captain orders them to halt or they will fire. Juárez exits his carriage and defiantly walks forward carried by a fierce crescendo with quotes of his theme. The Captain repeatedly shouts “Fire”, yet the troops freeze, unwilling to kill a national icon, allowing him to walk through their ranks to government house, supported by swelling resolute strings! Uradi orders the doors barred and a crescendo dramatico erupts as Juárez knocks and Uradi retreats to his office supported by strings of fear. Juárez addresses the crowd and says Uradi must come out to face him and the people. A crescendo of anger swells as the crowd angrily demands that Uradi come out or they will come for him. Uradi relents, and comes out carried by horns irato to join Juárez. Juárez accuses him of being a traitor and taking money from Montares to return peon lands to the aristocrats. Strings grave rise, channeling the anger seen in the crowd’s eyes. Dark chords portend Uradi’s doom as he orders Juárez to be arrested. When they refuse, he pulls a gun from his pocket supported by strings and woodwinds of menace, which reveals him as a traitor. Uradi is shot dead by a man in the crowd, his death marked by brutal, descending orchestral strikes. The crowd erupts with joy, shouting “Viva Benito Juárez” as festive strings and horns celebrativi resound!

“Carlotta’s Vision and Madness” reveals Carlota confronting Napoleon III and exposing him as a fraud and a bourgeois Bonaparte after he refuses to intervene and save her husband. After she faints, music enters atop eerie violins writhing over a dark bass as she has a psychic break. As she awakes, we see Napoleon’s face transforming into the Devil’s. She pushes away a glass of water from him, saying poison. She repeats, you are trying to poison me and we see madness in her eyes as she tries to flee the room, carried by frantic swirling violins, fleeing into the darkness of the courtyard, consumed within its depths by a dark chord, which dissipates on a diminuendo of drum strikes. At 1:01 we segue into “The Dream” Prince Metternich approaches supported by a dirge, which transforms into an iteration of madness by bleak shifting violins and aimless woodwinds as we see her vacant eyes. From a facial expression consumed by madness, Carlota informs him that Napoleon is the Devil who seeks to destroy mankind and poison her. Grim shifting string figures support her frightening facial expressions and words. She decides to depart and rejoin her husband as a servant brings in some bullion. The eerie soundscape of madness supports her gaze, which informs us she believes it to be poison. Her distressed Love Theme enters on plaintive strings as she runs to Metternich’s arms and begs him to return her to her husband. As he leaves her to summon a doctor, she lies alone supported by a pathos for strings. A change of scene takes us to the royal study. General Bazaine arrives advising Maximilian him that four rebel armies are converging and that he should abdicate and leave under the protection of French troops. Maximilian refuses as a matter of honor and Bazaine bids him, adieu. At 3:43 as Maximilian looks at a portrait of Carlota, we see love’s longing in his eyes, supported by a loving rendering of her theme. The mail arrives and as he searches for a letter from her, her theme dissipates when none is found. A portentous harp misterioso supports him opening a letter from Metternich, which informs him she is being treated for mental illness. He is distraught and as he recalls a dream, he had last night of her calling out to him in terror eerie strings and bleak woodwinds intone desolation and despair. We close with hopefulness on her theme as Maximilian decides to abdicate and return to her. At 6:42 we close with “Rebel Parade”, which reveals Juárez and his loyalist forces entering the city supported by the men singing a celebratory song of victory.

In “True Responsibility” Maximilian reads his abdication decree to his military officers supported by plaintive strings of regret. A string upsurge brings Colonel Lopez to him on bended knee. As he kisses his hand, he informs him that after he has left, the army will collapse without its leader, and Juárez will hunt down and kill all of them who have loyally served his majesty. Maximilian is conflicted as anguished strings try to give voice to the Love Theme, yet fail as he tears up the abdication decree and resolves to remain. A letter arrives from Juárez who asks him one last time to leave to avoid further bloodshed, or suffer the consequences, which will be on his head. Juárez’s Theme sounds gravely supported by portentous horns as he reads the letter. He decides to attack to once and for all decide the fate of Mexico. At 1:15 we change scenes to General Miramon’s arrival with his defeated and tattered army supported by a dirge. He explains to Maximilian that he was ambushed by General Diaz, barely escaped, and that Diaz’s forces are closing, which cuts off their escape route. Strings of despair inform us that the end is near and a diminuendo of fading drums ends the scene. At 1:51 we segue into “Maximilian’s Last Will”, which reveals him placing his Last Will and Testament in his journal, supported by a grieving rendering of the Love Theme. The theme carries him into the dining room where he joins his military staff for a final dinner together. He wears a white uniform, which will easily mark him as a target on the battlefield.

At 2:24 we segue into “Betrayed” carried by dark stings and muted drums militare as Colonel Lopez leads his men passed an enemy checkpoint and then kills the sentry supported by an orchestral maelstrom. Strings barbaro carry the men’s departure into the camp. At 2:48 we segue into “Defeat” where dinner is interrupted by Colonel Lopez shouting that the rebels have arrived, followed by orders to defend his majesty. Horns of alarm resound and unleash a swirling tempest as Maximilian and his officers rush to the balcony. Hundreds of rebel troops wait below with guns drawn and demand his surrender. Maximillian is resigned to his fate and as he descends the stairs to surrender, an aching crescendo dramatico carries his progress. He asks the General to spare the lives of his officers, who were only following his orders. Remarkably, the General sets him and Colonel Lopez free. A stunned Maximilian turns to Lopez who informs him that it was he who brayed the city to save their two lives. Aggrieved strings of betrayal join with Maximilian’s wounded expression with horns of doom resounding as he declares himself Maximilian von Hapsburg to the General and demands that he accept his sword. Dire strings descend in grim finality as this honorable act seals his fate.

“Maximilian’s Death” reveals his conviction by a Military court and sentence to die by firing squad. He comforts a priest sent to him, asks for clemency for Generals Miramon and Mejia, and declares that he hopes his blood will be the last shed. Diaz pleads with Juárez to spare his life. The request is refused and Diaz informs Maximilian that he, Miramon and Mejia are to be executed at dawn. He makes one last request of Diaz, to hear the song “La Paloma”, which was a favorite of his wife. Music enters at dawn with a dark chord and drums of doom as soldiers come to escort him. As he grabs his jacket a woman begins sing La Paloma in contralto voice, which draws him to the window where we see in his longing eyes thoughts of his beloved Carlotta. At 1:27 we segue into “Finale” atop fanfare reale and harp glissandi as restless ocean waves flow across the screen. We arrive and enter into a dark room where Carlota sits draped by sun rays. Forlorn strings and bleak bell sounds create a surreal soundscape. She slowing sits up in her chair as ghostly chimes play La Paloma. She goes to the French doors and opens them supported by a harp glissando. The Love Theme blossoms as she reaches out and calls “Max” as we see his ghostly image walk towards her, yet the moment is shattered at 2:28 by a harsh orchestral swell empowered by drums of doom as we see him escorted with Miramon and Mejia. Korngold supports this with a dire and ironic statement of the Repression Theme, which informs us that Maximilian is himself a victim of the violence he has wrought. As they assume their positions the theme shifts to a molto tragico iteration. Maximilian gives his money purse to the commander and asks that it be distributed to his men, and that they aim for his heart. A crescendo dramatico swells and crests as the commanders orders them to prepare, aim and fire. The end is marked with a white dove, which flies away carried by harp glissandi. We change scenes to a cathedral where Juárez walks alone towards Maximillian’s casket supported by a dirge with tolling bells. As he gazes at Maximillian he says “Forgive Me”, supported by a sad statement of his theme. As he departs, the music, brightens and becomes hopeful, soaring to end in a glorious flourish. Bravo!

Korngold was quite pleased and motivated when William Dieterle offered him the scoring assignment as this was a story just tailored to his style. He understood that the tale, when distilled down to its core was a battle of wills between two men, and the systems of governance they championed. For Maximilian who championed monarchy, he created two themes. The first spoke to him as Emperor, a supreme autocrat, with the second being the Repression Theme which serves as dark anthem of imperialism that empowered the enforcement of his decrees in a reign of terror, so as to subjugate and oppress the Mexican people. It was genius for Korngold to support Maximilian’s death by this theme, a cruel irony that in the end, he was consumed by the violence he wrought. Juxtaposed were a trio of themes associated with President Benito Juárez, one that is personal and embodies his role as President of the Republic of Mexico, and one associated with the subjugation, oppression and suffering of the Mexican people, and one which supports the rebellion. His personal theme spoke to his moral strength, incorruptibility and wisdom, leadership which posited that one day that they will achieve victory and restore democracy to the people. Two love themes are provided, which reveal quintessential Korngold romanticism. The first often emotes as a rapturous testament of love for each other, while the second, the folk song “La Paloma” speaks to the love of the country they adopted. The note rich action writing was often ferocious, fully matching and empowering the battles unfolding on the screen. The thematic interplay was exceptional, especially when it involved the Repression, Plight of Mexico and Rebellion Themes, which spoke to the eternal struggle between monarchy and democracy.

This score offers another testament to Korngold’s genius and mastery of his craft. I believe it to be a gem for the early Golden Age. As I mentioned earlier, for this review I lacked a bona fide CD album or MP3 digital download which offered the complete score (although there is a 2015 release online from British label TP4 Music, the legality of which is not clear), and so for the time being I highly recommend that you seek out the 2 CD compilation album “Erich Wolfgang Korngold – The Warner Brothers Years” by Rhino Movie Music, which offers four cues from Juarez. It suffices to say that this magnificent masterpiece by Korngold begs for a major label to re-record the complete score. May I live to see it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a 15-minute suite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsWQhLT4GMw

Buy the Juarez soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Archduke Maximilian (0:42)
  • Carlotta (1:57)
  • Rebellion (2:13)
  • The Death of Maximilian and Finale (2:55)
  • Main Title and Forward/French Court (2:45)
  • Letter/Maximilian’s Arrival (7:55)
  • Council/Carlotta’s Prayer (3:50)
  • French Attack/Juarez Escapes/A Shepherd’s Strategy (4:03)
  • Rebellion/Decree/Maximilian Learns the Truth/Meeting With Diaz (3:58)
  • Maximilian and Carlotta (5:45)
  • Diaz Rides/Crown Prince/Ceremony/Rebel Attack/Signing the Treaty (8:44)
  • Audience With Napoleon III/Carlotta Leaves For Paris (4:15)
  • Alejandro’s Treason and Death (3:54)
  • Carlotta’s Vision and Madness/Dream/Rebel Parade (7:03)
  • True Responsibility/Maximilian’s Last Will/Betrayed/Defeat (4:41)
  • Maximilian’s Death and Finale (5:31)

Running Time: 07 minutes 52 seconds (Rhino)
Running Time: 62 minutes 24 seconds (TP4)

Rhino R2-72243 (1939/1996)
TP4 Music (1939/2015)

Music composed and conducted by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer and Milan Roder. Score produced by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Leo F. Forbstein. Rhino album produced by Tony Thomas and Marilee Bradford.

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