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Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette
Actors: Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power, John Barrymore, Robert Morley, Anita Louise
Directors: Herman Hoffman, Julien Duvivier, W.S. Van Dyke
Genres: Drama
NR     2006     2hr 37min

Her eyes shine as brightly as the diamonds at her slender throat or as the countless candles that turn the Palace of Versailles into a light-drenched fantasy world. She is Marie Antoinette, Queen of France: beautiful, impe...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power, John Barrymore, Robert Morley, Anita Louise
Directors: Herman Hoffman, Julien Duvivier, W.S. Van Dyke
Creators: Claudine West, Donald Ogden Stewart, Ernest Vajda, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Stefan Zweig
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Classics
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Full Screen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/10/2006
Original Release Date: 08/26/1938
Theatrical Release Date: 08/26/1938
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 37min
Screens: Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 9
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese

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Member Movie Reviews

C. M P. (selkie)
Reviewed on 8/4/2015...
I was pleasantly surprised at how good this film was since most of the historical depictions from this era are far from accurate, or even have a bit of corn to them.
Although there were chronological discrepancies, the situations were portrayed accurately
Norma Shearer convincingly plays all aspects of Marie Antoinette's character, from the young eager-to-please Austrian princess, to the rather shallow early years of being queen of France, to the older considerate wife of the king and mother to her children, and her country.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Top Ten Reasons why "Marie Antoinette" is quite possibly the
Benoit Racine | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 12/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"10. The script (dialogues)

The main scriptwriter on this movie is F. Scott Fitzgerald of "Great Gatsby" fame. The love scenes are extremely elaborate and exquisitely structured. They also introduce a few innovations that have since become clichés and the hallmark of "women's pictures" everywhere.

9. The actors

John Barrymore is unforgettable as the supremely elegant and regally cranky Louis XV. Robert Morley gives one of his best interpretations. Joseph Schildkraut plays the best two-faced villain of his entire body of work. As for Tyrone Power... remember the anecdote about the reporter asking romance-writer Barbara Cartland (Lady Di's stepmother) how she could possibly have written so many romance novels before she was even married and while she was still a virgin? Her answer was: 'Oh! We didn't have sex in those days. We had Tyrone Power.'

8. The director

W.S. Van Dyke was an expert at handling and keeping track of large crowds, a myriad details, heavy production calendars, big budgets, big stars, tyrannical producers and acts of God. His directing style was a compromise between time-efficiency and giving the stars leeway as long as they respected the general style of the piece. This 'honour system' seems to have encouraged the actors to do their homework and present a
credible, coherent performance every time. Both W.S. Van Dyke and
Shearer were fulfilling a legacy to Irving Thalberg and it shows.

7. The sets and costumes (artistic direction)

What can you say about a period film that tackled the challenge of recreating Versailles in the XVIIIth century on the MGM backlot? The production values are staggering. The Gallery of Mirrors is actually longer, higher and wider than the original. The costumes tread a fine line between historical accuracy (covered shoulders and revealed cleavage) and the requirements of the movie code (exposed shoulders were tolerated but bosoms had to be covered) but still manage to convey the era and the fairy-tale quality of Marie's court. The costumes were also specially constructed to shine, glitter and shimmer on black and
white film.

6. The story (historical accuracy)

The film's script is based (in part) on Stefan Zweig's groundbreaking biography of the Queen, "Marie Antoinette, Portrait of an Ordinary Woman", which tried to create the first accurate, adult, factual but Freudian-inspired narrative of the Queen's life by using documents and correspondence that had long been overlooked or suppressed. The book was the first to reveal Louis XVI's mechanical sexual problems, which prevented his consummating the marriage during its first seven years (until a slight surgical intervention) and explained in turn the Queen's extravagant spendthrift personality, in Freudian terms, as extreme sexual frustration. This story actually makes it to the screen in a large degree. Compare this to recent bios like "A Beautiful Mind", whose scriptwriters conveniently 'forget' essential but non-mainstream plot elements like the fact that John Nash's paranoia may have been caused or amplified by the McCarthy era persecution of homosexuals. Some historical events have been telescoped into one another in order to accommodate the general American public's limited understanding of
French history and the Orléans character was used to maintain tension by representing the turncoat part of the nobility which exploited MA for their own various agendas.

5. The music

Herbert Stothart may not be a household word but he did win an Oscar for his original score to "The Wizard of Oz", based, of course in part on Harold Arlen's melodies. Besides giving Miss Gulch/the Wicked Witch her immortal theme, he is also one half of the composing team that produced the operetta 'Rose Marie'. Stothart shines in two respects: the approximate recreation of XVIIIth century dance music in the court scenes, emphasizing the bored grandeur of the proceedings, and the psychological music that accompanies everything from exciting chase scenes to the love scenes between Shearer and Tyrone. Note especially the use of the harpsichord in a rupture scene between Orléans and MA
and the use of the viola d'amour in the garden love scene.

4. The cinematography

MA is in 'glorious black and white', but especially in the escape to Varennes sequence which has the most credible - and suspenseful - 'day for night' sequence ever filmed. And what of the marriage scene which must have inspired Queen Elizabeth II's coronation? The matte paintings? The overwhelming use of cranes to move in on particular characters in a crowd scene? The chiaroscuro of the last meeting with Fersen?

3. Details and scope

Every scene has something special added to it in characterization, movement, rhythm, lighting, art direction, choreography (and not just in the dance scenes). The costumes could have starred in a picture by themselves.

2. The lost art of story-telling

This film was planned with intelligence and skill and was built around the principle stated by Selznick when filming GWTW: 'The secret of adapting a book to the screen is to give the impression that you are adapting a book to the screen.' Which means that many literary devices are used to give the story many interesting arcs and recurring themes. The story is well balanced in terms of spectacular action, recreation
of important historical events (giving the impression of the passage of time) and intimate scenes. It is truly 'the intimate epic' that Mankiewicz's 'Cleopatra' was supposed to be. Needless to say I am dreading Sofia Coppola's upcoming infantilized version ...

1. Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer is an unjustly forgotten star of the first magnitude. MA is a permanent testament to her uncanny abilities. In this film she portrays the main character from the age of sixteen to her death as a prematurely aged and debilitated woman of 38, all with perfect verisimilitude, thanks to her magnificent vocal instrument and stage presence. As a fairy-queen, she makes Cate Blanchett as Galadriel (in LOTR) look like Carol Burnett's charwoman. Her virtuosity as the fated widowed Queen is all the more poignant when one realizes that at the
time she was Thalberg's widow in her last husband-approved venture and that the Hollywood suits were rapidly closing in on her."
a viewer | antioch, tn United States | 07/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This film is a masterpiece in every way. Stunning in all aspects, especially the constumes and makeup.

Norma Shearer in a tour-de-force performance surpasses anything she did before or since. If anyone deserved the Oscar for 1938, she most certainly did. Instead, it went to Bette Davis, who deserved the nomination for Jezebel, but compared to Shearer's portrayal its like comparing a Baloney Sandwich (Davis) to Filet Mignon (Shearer). But, then, in Hollywood, I suppose there were a lot of people who liked baloney. Nevertheless, her Oscar loss notwithstanding, it is Shearer who makes this film and knowing the tragic outcome makes one sit on the edge of their seat all the more, especially the last hour of the film. The film is long but it seems to fly by in half an hour and the production values are MGM at its finest. Do not miss this will see why Norma Shearer deserved the Oscar of 1938."
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 04/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This 1938 production of the life of Marie Antoinette is lavish and sumptuous with exquisite costumes. Norma Shearer is luminous in the role of Marie Antoinette, while Robert Morley, in his acting debut, is perfectly cast as the hapless and ineffectual Louis XVI. While not historically accurate and a bit of license is taken in detailing the life of Marie Antoinette, it is, nonetheless, an immensely entertaining, opulent and lush, historical drama. It shows how a naive Austrian princess came to power as the Queen of France. It details her hopes and dreams and shows how reality made them come crashing down upon her.

When Marie Antoinette's mother, Austrian Empress Marie Theresa, arranges a marriage with the Dauphin of France, Marie Antoinette is elated. When she arrives in France and meets her betrothed, the unprepossessing Dauphin, Louis XVI, she is disappointed. Still, she tries to make the best of it, only to discover that her husband is unable or unwilling to consummate their marriage. Gulled by her husband's nefarious cousin, Duke Phillipe d'Orleans (John Shildkraut), she becomes a regular party girl, going to glittering balls and behaving in a way unseemly for a future Queen of France. Spending lavishly, she gives no thought to money, antagonizing her future subjects. It is during one of her sojourns that she meets the Count Axel De Fersen (Tyrone Power), the love of her life.

Shortly after, she angers King Louis XV (John Barrymore) by publicly insulting his paramour, the infamous Madame DuBarry (Alice George), and he threatens to have her marriage to the Dauphin annulled. The Dauphin, however, makes it clear to the King, his grandfather, just how much Marie Antoinette means to him, and there is no further talk of annulment. Shortly thereafter, the King dies of smallpox, and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette become the King and Queen of France.

With the new King's sexual dysfunction apparently cured, the royal couple begin having children, first a daughter and then a son. Their cousin and now enemy, the Duke d'Orleans, a political intriguer of the first order, is busy stirring up the rabble into a mob frenzy, as an economic downturn leaves France vulnerable to political unrest. As the unrest grows into revolution, the Queen's past as a profligate party girl, as well as a scandal over a fraudulently purloined diamond necklace, come back to haunt her, and she finds herself reviled by her subjects. The King, too, comes under the scrutiny of the mob and found wanting by his no longer loyal subjects. Once France is in the throes of revolution all is lost, and the royal family finds themselves under house arrest. Still, a daring escape is attempted, only to end tragically. The rest is history.

Norma Shearer makes an exquisite Marie Antoinette and portrays her sympathetically. Robert Morley makes a remarkable acting debut as Louis XVI, the King who would rather have been a locksmith. Joseph Shildkraut is divine as the unctiously sinister Duke d'Orleans, and John Barrymore is excellent as Louis XV, the King who is clearly exasperated with his grandson, the Dauphin. Alice George gives a crisp performance as the miffed Madame DuBarry. Last, but certainly not least, the gloriously handsome Tyrone Power gives a tender performance as the faithful and loving Count Axel De Fersen. Of all the roles, his, along with that of the Duke d'Orleans, are the roles that deviate the most historically. While the film does take some license, it is not so inaccurate, however, as to have reinvented history. The viewer should remember that this is not a documentary but, rather, a bit of entertainment based upon historical characters and actual events. Keeping this in mind, the viewer will, no doubt, enjoy this movie."