Mayerling (1969)




Director:    Terence Young.

Starring:     Omar Sharif (Archduke Rudolf),  Catherine Deneuve (Maria Vetsera),  James Mason (Emperor Franz-Josef),  Ava Gardner (Empress Elizabeth),  James Robertson Justice (Prince of Wales),  GeneviPve Page (Countess Larish),  Andra Parisy (Princess Stephanie),  Ivan Desny (Count Hoyos),  Maurice Teynac (Moritz Szeps),  Mony DalmPs (Baroness Vetsera),  Moustache (Bratfisch),  Fabienne Dali (Mizzi Kaspar),  Roger Pigaut (Count Karolyi),  Bernard La Jarrige (Loschek),  Vronique Vendell (Lisl Stockau). 

British film.

Austrian Crown Prince Rudolph (Sharif) falls in love with a commoner. They say it is not as good as the 1936 version.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Austrian dragoons on horseback are fighting student rioters.  A bunch of the students get arrested.  One of the arrested is the editor of the Daily News, Moritz Szeps.  And one of the arrested turns out to be none other than Rudolf, the Crown Prince of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.  Count Taafa, the head of the police, is very apologetic to Rudolf, who asks that the Count release all his "friends".  They are released.

Rudolf goes in to see his father, Emperor Franz-Josef.  Rudolf remembers how his father drilled him in the snow for hours at age of six.  The Emperor tells his son that he has always disappointed him.  For instance, he turned down a Spanish princess for a Belgian princess and is an associate of liberals, anarchists and Jews.  Rudolf tells dad that his private life is his own.  His fifth wedding anniversary to Stephanie is coming up and there will be a big celebration.  Dad needs an heir, but if worst comes to worst he can always have Archduke Ferdinand as his heir. 

Stephanie tells Rudolf that he always sides with his mother (nicknamed Sissi) against her.  She adds that many times he looks at his mother the way a son should not look at his mother.  This infuriates Rudolf and he roughs her up a bit. 

Two spies employed by Count Taafa follow Rudolf.  A Hungarian gypsy dances for Rudolf and other men.  Prostitute Mizzi Kaspar goes to be with Rudolf.

Rudolf says that he is very, very bored.  He complains that his father was born old.  He meets with editor Szeps and gives him an article he wrote on the student riot.  Later Rudolf defends a young, blonde woman from a harassing stranger.  She tells Rudolf that she does not have a boyfriend but is being pursued.  Her sisters and mother arrive and she suddenly tells him that she must vanish. 

Rudolf meets with representatives of Hungary.  He is introduced to Count Karolyi, who has been chosen as the leader of the Hungarian uprising.  The Count tells Rudolf that if he can say that Rudolf is behind them, they will have all the support they want.  Rudolf clarifies his position.  As long as Hungary stays in the Empire, he intends to save the Empire, not break it up. 

Rudolf has an addiction to morphine.  His mother wants him to stop.  Since his mother is in Vienna now he says in her honor he won't shoot up.  He goes over to the Schnbrunn Palace.  He is all smiles when he sees his mother.  She tells him:  "You seem pleased to see me."  They kiss on the lips.  She asks him if his migraine headaches are better. He is still taking morphine to relieve the pain.  She also asks about her granddaughter.  She kids around with Rudolf and says that maybe the family's melancholy will skip a generation.  This really infuriates Rudolf and his tells his mother to never make a joke about this problem in the family.  Sissi is shocked at his sudden temper outburst. 

Rudolf greets the Prince of Wales, who brought his mother two hunting dogs.  He says that Sissi is the prettiest woman in Europe.  At Mizzi Kaspar's place the Hungarian gipsy woman dances for the Prince of Wales.  Mizzi serves wine to both crown princes.  The Prince of Wales admits that he has been called a lecher, libertine and gambler.  Rudolf complains that his father sees all dissenters as criminals.  Rudolf tells the Prince of Wales that he must leave him.  He adds that there is a private staircase that he can use.  The Prince has the gypsy woman sit by him at the dinner table. 

The Hungarians still need Rudolf to become the Hungarian king.  Rudolf tells the messenger that the Hungarians will just have to be patient. 

The Prince of Wales and Rudolf play tennis.  At the tennis match is the vanishing woman that Rudolf danced with some time earlier.  Her name is Maria Vetsera.  The Prince of Wales meet her and her family and he wants to introduce them to Rudolf.  Once Maria learns the real identity of Rudolf she declines the invitation of the Prince of Wales.  Instead she asks the Prince to tell Rudolf that deception is unkind and that now she has learned the truth of the old saying to put not your trust in princes. 

At the opera Rudolf and his cousin Countess Larish attend the opera together.  (At one time the two had an affair.)  Maria Vetsera is also at the opera.  Rudolf keeps looking over at Maria and the Countess Larish looks to see who the woman is that the Archduke seems to like so much.  But she focuses in on the wrong woman.  At the intermission she grabs the wrong woman and brings her over to the Archduke.  As soon as the Countess sees that Rudolf is not interested in the young woman, she tells her to leave.

Back in their opera seats, Rudolf continues to watch Maria.  She finally notices him watching her.  After the opera concludes the two remain behind in their opera boxes. 

Rudolf visits his mother again.  She refers to Stephanie as a tiresome lot of a girl and says that she should have stopped the marriage in the first place. 

Countess Larish pays a visit to Maria and her mother.  She says that Maria was the sensation of the operation with all eyes on her.  The Countess acts as an agent for her cousin Rudolf and she quietly asks Maria to come with her for a rendezvous with the Archduke.  Maria agrees.  The Countess puts Maria in a coach and the coach drops her off at Rudolf's fancy apartment.  She is then taken to Rudolf's bedroom where they talk.  When she asks about King Ludwig of Bavaria Rudolf almost loses his temper with her.  He tells her that all the stories of the Mad King are lies.  He says Ludwig was not crazy, just a bit strange.  Rudolf then calms down.  He tells Maria that he does not sleep much.  The meeting is a short one.  The Archduke thinks this woman is different from all the others and he doesn't want to rush things. 

The next day Maria and the Archduke go horseback riding.  Rudolf uses two body doubles to throw off the spies following him.  After they lose the spies, the couple kisses.  Rudolph promises her that it will not always be like this. 

The Archduke's Fifth Anniversary celebration begins.  A would-be assassin tries but fails to shoot the Emperor.  Rudolf runs to his side.  The Emperor is pleased by Rudolf's concern.  After the anniversary dinner the Emperor tells Rudolf that he appreciates the gesture of protection.  Father and son start to talk.  Rudolf complains about Count Taafe and his spies. The Emperor tells Rudolf not to trust the people.  A mob stormed the castle when he was just eight years old and he has never forgotten it.  Rudolf complains that he is no more than a political eunuch.  But his father surprises him.  He makes him a full general and appoints him to be Inspector-General.  Rudolf will be going on maneuvers to check out the performance of the 7th army. 

After Rudolf leaves the Emperor, Franz-Josef talks with Count Taafe.  They have to get rid of Maria says the Emperor.  He wants to marry Maria off to Duke Michael of Braganza, so they must arrange it. 

Rudolf goes out with the 7th army.  He makes quite a few suggestions for improvement including the revision of all the old military maps.  When Rudolf returns he meets with Countess Larish and tells her that he must see Maria.  The Countess says she is worried that Rudolf might end up hurting Maria.  Rudolf thinks that Count Taafa has spoken to the Countess and finds out that it is true.   He now realizes why suddenly his father made him a general and the Inspector-General.  Just when he was feeling better about his father, the illusion is revealed. 

Rudolf meets Maria in public at a cafe.  She tells him that Miguel asked her to marry him.  But she is not interested.  On the other hand, she feels frustrated about her relationship with Rudolf.  She says that she feels it is "so utterly hopeless".  The spies watch the couple and report back to Count Taafa.  The Count is shocked.  Now the Archduke doesn't even bother to hide his affair.  So the Count gives his men the authority to take bolder steps against Rudolf.  A letter soon arrives for the mother of Maria mentioning an affair.  Her mother confronts Maria with the letter and demands to know the name of the man.  Maria refuses to reveal the name.  Her mother says the letter suggests that she get her daughter out of the country as soon as possible and she is thinking that this is a really good idea.

Rudolf rides in a carriage with his father.  He complains that he is just a puppet prince and then says that he will be resigning all of his appointments.   Of course, the Emperor is not at all pleased.  Later Countess Larish informs Rudolf that Maria has been sent abroad and there was nothing she could do to prevent it.  Rudolf marches to his father's office, but his orders are that no one can see him for the next 24 hours.  Rudolf has to give up. 

Rudolf visits Mizzi's place.  He is so distraught that he uses his pistol to shoot up one of the rooms.  Mizzi puts the drunken Rudolf to bed.  Rudolf asks to be forgiven for his terrible behavior.  He then tells Mizzi that they shipped Maria away.  He thinks for awhile and then tells Mizzi that he is going away. 

Maria is in Venice.  Rudolf finds her.  He shows her a ring that once belonged to St. Louis.  It has an inscription on it that says:  "United by love until death."  The couple is back together again.  Sleeping together Rudolf tells her that he is frightened of the dark. 

Rudolf meets with his father who angrily asks him who gave him permission to leave the country.  And then he complains that Rudolf requested an annulment of his marriage from the Pope -- an annulment that has been denied.   The Emperor tells Rudolf that he is shaming the entire family.  Rudolf then tells his father he renounces all his titles.  He asks his father if he meant it when he said that Maria can never come back to Austria.  The Emperor says he might let Rudolf see the woman if he gives him his word that he will never see her after the short visit.  Rudolf says that his father doesn't believe that he loves Maria.  His father responds:  "I don't believe it matters."  Then Rudolf asks the Emperor if he can have until the end of the month to live for a time without spies in order to get his life in order.  His wish is granted.   

Rudolf is at the train station to meet the arriving Maria.  They go to Mayerling, his place in the country.  There he hunts with the Prince of Wales.  Maria hates the killing of animals.  While he hunts, some Hungarians arrive to speak with Rudolf.  They tell him that the biggest demonstration in Hungary will begin tomorrow and they want Rudolf to declare his support for their cause.  Rudolf signs a document of support.  He says he is going back to Vienna to see his father.  The Prince of Wales comments that Rudolf seems mad, like all the Hapsburgs.  Rudolf says good-bye to Maria.  His staff will take her to his apartment in his mother's palace.  There Sissi arrives to see her son and finds Maria.  She asks Maria how is her son.  The 20 year old Maria says he is a little worried and tired.   Sissi kisses Maria good-bye on both cheeks, saying that Maria is very near to her heart.  Sissi leaves.

The Emperor, the Prince of Wales and Stephanie enter the court and sit down in their royal seats.  Rudolf enters escorting his mother Sissi.  The arrival of Sissi surprises her husband.  Rudolf asks Maria's mother for permission to dance with her daughter.  She reluctantly agrees to the idea.  Rudolf opens the ball by dancing with Maria instead of his wife Stephanie.  The Emperor advises Stephanie to act as if nothing is wrong. 

Later Count Taafe talks with Stephanie.  He tells her:  "This will not last.  It will not be allowed to last.  I give you my word."  The Emperor and Empress greet Maria relatively warmly.  They then leave, followed by Maria.  Rudolf speaks with the Prince of Wales and asks him to let him come to England to stay.   But the Prince tells Rudolf that his mother Queen Victoria is still the one in charge in England.   There are still so many things he cannot do even if he is the Prince of Wales.  Rudolf is despondent.  The Prince advises him to do what he had to do:  go back to his wife. 

Sissi speaks with her son.  She tells him that he should have given her more time.  She could have worked something out with the Emperor.  Rudolf makes a threat, but Sissi tells him he just sounds like a child.  He says he can go to Hungary and be their king, but Sissi doesn't believe this will help Rudolf at all.  Rudolph tells his mother thank you for what she tried to do for him and then leaves.

Rudolf tells the Hungarians to hold up on their uprising.  He thinks this is the only way he can keep Hungary in the Empire.  Rudolf and Maria return to Mayerling.  The Hungarian carriage (carrying Count Hoyos) is chased and overturned by Count Taafe's men.  The two Hungarians are captured.  The Hungarians are shocked when the Count releases them.   

Rudolf learns that the Hungarian uprising was put down in a massacre.  Count Karolyi shot himself.  And, worse for Rudolf, Count Taafe has incriminating papers on Rudolf's cooperation with the Hungarians. 

Rudolf is happy with Maria, but Maria is sad.  He tells hear that they won't let him live with her, but he doesn't want to live without her.  Rudolf and Maria go up to the bedroom.  The Archduke finishes writing a letter.  Maria tells Rudolf that she doesn't mind dying, but doesn't want to know when.  A little later she falls asleep.  In the morning Rudolf awakens.  He takes a pistol from a drawer and shoots Maria dead.  The butler runs to Rudolf's room, but Rudolf says it was a shot that came from a game-keeper in the woods.

Rudolf looks at a letter to his sister and changes the date from January 29 to January 30, 1889.  He then sits on the bed, holds Maria's hand and shoots himself in the right temple. 


Good movie even if I have seen the in many different versions by now.  It's a Rome and Juliet story, but this one is a true story. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

See Mayerling (1936).



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