When Mexican President Benito Juarez refused to honor the foreign debts accumulated by his predecessor. Emperor Napoleon III of France used this refusal as an excuse to invade Mexico in 1862 and install Archduke Maximilian, younger brother of the Habsburg Emperor of Austria, as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico in 1864. Napoleon hoped to exploit Mexico’s rich mineral resources and counterbalance the American republic with a Catholic Mexican monarchy. Maximilian proved to be more fixated on court etiquette than ruling the country, so when American pressure forced Napoleon to recall his army, forces loyal to Juarez restored the Mexican Republic in 1867.
Here is an essay on The French Intervention in Mexico for those who want a more detailed explanation. A mere 7,043 words.
Here is my article “Why is Cinco de Mayo a holiday? Or how has Hollywood treated the Franco-Mexican War?”
Here is my podcast on the French Intervention in Mexico, it is 31 minutes long.
Here is a list of all of the movies on The French Intervention in Mexico:
Directed by William Dieterle, starring Paul Muni and Bette Davis
Louis Napoleon arranges for Archduke Maximilian to be crowned emperor of Mexico, but French troops are unable to overcome the popular support for the republican president Benito Juarez. (full review)
The Mad Empress (1939)
Directed by Miguel Contreras Torres, starring Conrad Nagel and Medea de Novara
Made the same year as Juarez with Bette Davis and Paul Muni, this version of Archduke Maximilian’s doomed reign as a French-supported emperor of Mexico is far inferior. (full review)
Vera Cruz (1954)
Directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster
An ex-Confederate officer joins a group of American mercenaries in Mexico who are hired to transport gold for the Emperor Maximilian but gets drawn into the Mexican rebellion against the emperor. (full review)
Major Dundee (1965)
Directed by Sam Peckinpah, starring Charlton Heston and Richard Harris
During the last winter of the Civil War, faced with a tribe of Apaches based in Mexico that regularly cross the border to raid American posts and settlements, the commander of a Union prison leads a force of Union soldiers, Confederate prisoners, and civilians into French-controlled Mexico to eliminate the Apaches. (full review)
The Undefeated (1969)
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson
A group of southerners who lost their land to carpetbaggers are trying to start a new life serving Emperor Maximilian in Mexico run into a group of men led by a former Union colonel who are selling horses to the Mexican government, and the two groups must work together to fight the Juarista rebels. (full review)
Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)
Directed by Don Siegel, starring Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine
A nun and an American gunfighter team up to help the Juaristas resist the Archduke Maximilian, the puppet ruler of Mexico installed by Emperor Napoleon III. (full review)