«We' re just little people, Louis» : Marie-Antoinette on Film

Laura Mason


In 1938, with much fanfare and advance notice, MGM released the lavish costume drama, Marie-Antoinette. Designed as a star vehicle for Norma Shearer, one of the most popular Hollywood actresses of the decade, the film's supporting cast included matinee idol Tyrone Power as MarieAntoinette' s supposed lover, Count Axel von Fersen, the ageing Shakespearean actor John Barrymore as an ageing Louis XV, and Robert Morley as a singularly befuddled and inept Louis XVI. Although MGM executives mismanaged the film' s production, they promoted an energetic ad campaign for the finished product and arranged for Shearer to reprise her role on the «Maxwell House Coffee Radio Hour.» In the end, Marie-Antoinette achieved only moderate commercial success but it met with a generally favourable critical reaction. Praised by the New York Herald Tribune as «the most sumptuous historical spectacle of the year ,» it was named one of the ten best movies of 1938 by Film Daily and was nominated for four Academy Awards.

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