Gilbert Speaks On “The Sissi Trilogy”

24 Oct

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I’m not sure why Ernst Marischka’s 1955 film, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, kept me so totally engrossed, but it did. I’m not even sure why I stayed up through the night to watch the succeeding two films starring Romy Schneider in the leading role as the Princess Elisabeth, but I did. There are some films that grab hold of your imagination without warning. Sometimes it’s because of the plot, and sometimes, it’s because of the cast. How did Empress Elisabeth of Austria make into my Granny’s Insomnia Theatre? Find out after the jump.

History

The film is based on a real person, Elizabeth, the daughter of Duke Maximilian and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. Sisi (The correct spelling of the nickname) and her siblings enjoyed the beautiful countryside surrounding their castle. Sisi loved horseback riding and hiking along mountainous trails.

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Princess Sophie of Bavaria, the domineering mother of 23 year old Emperor Franz Joseph, had arranged a marriage between Sisi’s older sister, Helene and Franz, but as fate would have it; Franz fell head over heels for Sisi.

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The young princess was only 16 at the time and was unprepared for both her married and royal duties. Even though Sisi produced a baby girl, her mother-in-law made life miserable for the young mother. Princess Sophia took total control over raising of baby Sophie and refused to allow Sisi to breastfeed or care for the child. This mother-in-law from hell continued to interfere with Sisi’s raising of her children even with the arrival of a second daughter, Gisela.

Sisi was loved by the Hungarian people, and she loved them. On one of her trips to Hungary, her daughters became ill and little Sophie died. Sisi had no control over her life thanks to her wicked mother-in-law and became anorexic. Sisi became obsessed with every detail of her beauty, dress, and her long waist length hair.

In 1858, Sisi gave birth to a son, Rudolf. After the birth of an heir, her influence at court increased and she often sided with Hungary as conflict increased with Austria. It was even rumored that she was intimate with a Hungarian Count, Gyula Andrassy.

Romy Schneider as Sissi

Sisi had become sick from the constant interference from Sophie, and had developed tuberculosis, which was most likely due to extreme anemia, self- starvation, and exhaustion. She was sent to Madeira to recover. Sisi did have a fourth child, Marie Valerie, which she took control of rearing herself. After her wicked mother-in-law’s death, Sisi regained control of all her children.

Although her reported affairs could never be proven, her husband’s dallying with Actress Katharina Schratt was real.

Life as the Empress of Austria did not protect Sisi from the horrors of life. Her beloved son, Rudolph was found dead in a murder suicide with his lover, the Baroness Mary Vetsera. The year was 1889. Within the year, Sisi had lost her mother, father, a sister, Count Gyula Andrassy, and Rudolph. She never recovered from the loss of her son. When she was sixty-years-old, Sisi was assassinated by Luigi Lucheni, an Italian anarchist. The year was 1898. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, her nephew was assassinated in 1914.

Conclusion

The three Sissi Films: Empress Elisabeth of Austria; The Young Empress, and Fateful years of an Empress are one of the most successful German speaking movies and has even become a Christmas television favorite for both German and Hungarian people.

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Romy Schneider, although tiring of playing the childlike and naïve Sisi in the Sisi Collection, did play the part of Sisi in the 1972 Ludwig film about the life of King Ludwig of Bavaria. In this later film Schneider player her Sisi as a mature, bitter woman. If you can, watch all three films. The films give a shiny look on the life of a fascinating ruler, but I truly enjoyed them. You will too.

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