Scriptwriters: Carl Zuckmayer, Marcelle Maurette, Curt Alexander, André-Paul Antoine, Jacques Natanson
Director: Max Ophüls
Directors of photography: Curt Courant, Otto Heller
Cast: Edwige Feullère, John Lodge, Aimé Clariond, Jean Worms, Jean-Paul Le Chanois, Gilbert Gil
The young Maximilian Oppenheimer, starting his theatrical career, changes his "cumbersome" long name to the airy "Max Ophüls". He tries to work as an actor in his native Germany and puts on repertoire plays as a director. He is invited to Austria, to the Burgtheater. But success will come later, in film and in Germany. He will never work in Austrian cinema but will become the main author of the myth of Vienna as the center of the pre-war world.
Ophüls's film “Playing at Love”, based on a play by the Viennese playwright Arthur Schnitzler was released in 1933 in Germany. Here the theme of fragility, the insecurity of happiness of the characters in his future films appears for the first time. This is where Max Ophüls starts.
In a matter of days, the National Socialists come to power, and Ophüls leaves Germany. "A German who made the most non-German cinema" and still a Jew, Ophüls moves to France, where in 1938 he becomes a citizen. He manages to work in Italy and the Netherlands. He makes films in several languages, in several countries, but as the actress Edwige Feullère notes, "he was full of Vienna". “Playing at Love” is followed by stories about Vienna: “Letter from an Unknown Woman”, “The Earrings of Madame De…”, and “La Ronde”.
In 1939 in France, Max Ophüls beging filming “From Mayerling to Sarajevo”, a story about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Countess Sophie Chotek.
Happiness is fleeting. The beauty of the world is never felt as acutely as on the eve of its disintegration. “It was too beautiful to go on,” Edwige Feullère’s heroine will say, foreseeing either the death of the Habsburg empire, or the end of her marital happiness.
The relationship between Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Chotek was a misalliance, but the Archduke was allowed to enter into a morganatic marriage, since the imperial family feared a repetition of the tragedy that occurred in Mayerling, when Crown Prince Rudolph and his secret lover Maria Vechera committed double suicide. But happiness in Ophüls’ films is doomed. A tragedy happens. In Sarajevo. The solemn arrival of the spouses is interrupted by the historic gesture of a man from the crowd, Gavrilo Princip.
Ophüls does not have time to finish the film. France goes to war with Germany. He is called up to serve in the Film Section of the Army. Here the native German comes in handy, and Ophüls does anti-Nazi radio broadcasts, where he offers Hitler a "lullaby": before going to bed, count not sheep, but people sent to the slaughter.
The director manages to escape from service for several days to finish shooting "Sarajevo". Even the American John Lodge, who plays the role of the Archduke, manages to get off the ship bound for the States. Actor Gilbert Gil in the role of Gavrilo Princip is replaced by Jean-Paul Le Chanois.
From the dossier of the film, provided by the CNC staff, it is known that the French screenwriter André-Paul Antoine helped with finishing the work. He probably shot the missing newsreel footage. The editing of the film was completed in a short time, and the picture was released in occupied France, but soon was banned.
Ophüls left for the USA. A copy of the film was also smuggled there. The American premiere was attended by an aristocratic immigrant - Crown Prince Otto von Habsburg, - he sponsored the screening.
French viewers who did not have time to see the film in 1940 would only get this opportunity after the war. The viewers were presented with an edited version. In the epilogue (not at all by Ophüls) an appeal was added to the grandchildren of those who died in the First World War to continue the work of their grandfathers in the next war. Also included was the newsreel footage of the parade of American troops on the Champs Elysees on September 4, 1944.
The Gosfilmofond has preserved another copy of the film with an epilogue, we believe, from 1940. It is devoid of propaganda pathos. The words "The End" emerge from the cracks in the map of Austria-Hungary. For Ophüls, a powerful and fragile two-pronged monarchy was a sign of the pre-war world.
“From Mayerling to Sarajevo” was the last French film made before the occupation.
Along with works of art, the Germans also took films from the occupied countries. At the end of World War II, a significant part of the Reichsfilmarchiv collection was taken to the USSR. According to the “trophy lists” of Gosfilmofond, "From Mayerling to Sarajevo" was among the films that arrived from Germany.
The love story of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Countess Sophie Chotek. The lovers decide to enter into a mesalliance, understanding all the consequences of the morganatic union for the archduke's career. At the same time, an assassination attempt is being prepared on the Archduke. The couple is unaware that their official visit to Sarajevo will lead to disaster.