Amazon Prime occasionally has some hidden gems, and I was both excited and intrigued to see an old film featuring Audrey Hepburn that I had not only never seen, but had never head of, entitled Mayerling. My lack of knowledge could be seen as a sign that I am not a true Audrey Hepburn fan, or it could be a sign that this movie is terrible, and as such, has been hidden away for awhile because why go out of your way to save a shitty movie, even if it does star someone with grace and charm? Regardless, I decided to watch it.
Unfortunately, it is a pretty terrible movie.
Not funny bad, either, just… very dull. So you can watch it, if you’re, like, trying to go to sleep or something. Otherwise, I don’t recommend it.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did watch the entire thing, in case there was some saving grace at the end of the film. There wasn’t.
Wondering why Audrey Hepburn would have participated in this mediocre production, I began to research. Although a terrible movie, the incident that inspired the movie is very interesting. You are probably a better history student than I am, and already know that Mayerling is the village in which Habsburg heir Crown Prince Rudolf and his mistress Mary Vetsera both died in mysterious circumstances in a hunting lodge, resulting in instability that culminated in the death of the archduke Franz Ferdinand, the crisis that instigated WWI. If you are not already aware of this string of events, don’t worry, you are not alone. I just looked this shit up, and can direct you to a few articles about the event, including one by the Royal Opera House, the site Naked History, and, of course, the obligatory Wikipedia article.
An unsolved mystery involving both the aristocracy and having such terrible results is obviously going to hit all the right gossip buttons for most of us. After reading up on the matter a bit, I was kind of surprised that the version featuring Audrey Hepburn and her first husband Mel Ferrer was so dull, uninspired, and frankly, chose the lease interesting solution. The lover murder-suicide pact because the Crown Prince’s family just didn’t understand his son idea is, admittedly, very romantic. Until you find out that the Crown Prince had syphilis, and had already suggested a murder-suicide pact to his former mistress, a woman a bit older and less impressionable than Mary, who declined. This fact changes the story a bit, doesn’t it? And becomes a mentally and physically ill older man’s seduction of a younger girl, culminating in his using his influence in a deadly manner. Until you find out that the body of Mary Vetsera has since been exhumed – and there was no evidence of a bullet wound at all, although there was evidence that death had been caused by violent blows to the head. This end doesn’t entirely rule out the theory of a murder-suicide pact with the Prince, although it does make such a theory decidedly less romantic. Then, there are the rumors that Mary’s family showed up to the lodge to beat the shit out of the Crown Prince (he was, after all, probably taking advantage of Mary at least a little bit), with the Crown Prince accidentally killing Mary during the ensuing brawl, and being murdered by her relatives as a result. There’s another theory that Rudolf took Mary to the lodge to break up with her, and perhaps she reacted violently, causing the prince to kill her in self-defense, then kill himself in horror at what he had done.
So many theories, and a mystery that will never be solved (particularly since no one has permission anymore to exhume Rudolf’s remains). Every theory more interesting than the one chosen for Hepburn’s movie.
So why was the most romantic and least likely solution chosen for Hepburn’s movie? And why did Hepburn and Ferrer agree to star in it?
More mysteries I do not have an answer for, although my theory is that it somehow involves her husband’s interests, and perhaps recommended itself to her romantic, though misguided, sensibilities. I fear, however, that my musings on this matter might be the least interesting solution, also. What are your thoughts? Would love to hear your wildest or favorite conspiracy theory!