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Hundert Tage (Hundred Days)

Napoleon (Werner Krauss) grows restless while on Elba.
Release Year: 1935
Country: Italy/Germany
Director: Franz Wenzler
Writers: Karl Vollmöller and Franz Wenzler (from a play by Giovacchino Forzano and Benito Mussolini)
Cast: Werner Krauss, Gustaf Gründgens, Kurt Junker, Eduard von Winterstein, Alfred Gerasch, Peter Voß, Fritz Genschow, Elsa Wagner, Rose Stradner, Alfred Döderlein, Ernst Legal, C.W. Tetting, Rudolf Schündler, Peter Erkelenz, Heinz von Cleve, Paul Mederow, Hans Adalbert Schlettow, Egon Brosig, Friedrich Gnaß, Fred Goebel, Eberhard Leithoff, Josef Peterhans, Leo Peukert, Hans Ritter, Hans Schneider, Hanns Waschatko, and Franz Zimmermann
Music: Giuseppe Becce
Company: Consorzio Vis Tirrenia
Runtime: 90 minutes


tory: Amid the swirling politics and frivolities at the Congress of Vienna, Napoleon's second wife, Maria Louise (Rose Stradner), dallies with the dashing Count von Neipperg (Alfred Döderlein), much to the dismay of the young Napoleon II, who misses his dear papa. In Paris, Ludwig XVIII (Ernst Legal) rules France from the dinner table, and the corrupt Minister of Police, Fouché (Gustaf Gründgens), receives regular intelligence of Napoleon (Werner Krauss) in exile on the island of Elba.

Maria Louise (Rose Stradner) in mid-dalliance
with Count von Neipperg (Alfred Döderlein).
Meanwhile, on Elba, Napoleon resents the broken promises that were made to him when he abdicated the throne of France and confides to his mother, Laetitia (Elsa Wagner), that he must return to France to one again try his fortune and save the nation.

As Napoleon and his shipload of soldiers land in Golfe-Juan near Antibes, Fouché weaves a web of intrigue and deception around the various political factions in Paris. On the road to Paris, Napoleon and his troops are intercepted by a regiment of royalists near Grenoble. After a tense few moments the royalist soldiers cheer their emperor and join Napoleon en masse. At Lyons, Napoleon gives orders for his son to be retrieved from Vienna and brought to join him in Paris.

Napoleon enters Paris and is carried into the Tuileries on the shoulders of his men and to the cheers of the people. In Vienna, the Congress declares war against the Emperor while an attempt to spirit away Napoleon II to join his father is foiled.

Napoleon (Werner Krauss) laments the absence of his son.
Fouché has an uncomfortable interview with the Emperor where he tries to convince Napoleon of his continued usefulness to him. He tells Napoleon that the allies expect him to wage a defensive war. After Fouché is dismissed, Napoleon confides to Davout that he intends to attack the allies in Belgium. As they talk, Napoleon is deeply disappointed to learn that the attempt to abduct his son has failed.

At the Duchess of Richmond's ball, Wellington learns that Napoleon is on the march. Napoleon triumphs on the field of Ligny and sends Grouchy to pursue the retreating Prussians.

The night before the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon feels ill but continues his plans for the next day's engagement with Wellington's troops. Napoleon's plans are masterful, and he faces the morning with confidence. French troops mass on the field near Waterloo as Napoleon directs their disposition, impatiently awaiting the arrival of Grouchy's troops. Grouchy hears cannon fire while at breakfast, but ignores the pleas of his staff to march to the sound of the guns, insisting that his orders are to track down the Prussians.

Napoleon (Werner Krauss) in command at Waterloo.
On the field of Waterloo, things go well for Napoleon until Ney's cavalry is decimated in an ill-advised attack on the British squares. Napoleon sends in the Guard, who break and flee. The allies win in a rout as Wellington greets the arrival of Blücher and his Prussians.

In Vienna, Napoleon II learns of his father's defeat and in Paris Fouché reacts to the news with a resurgence of intrigue. Madame Mère is informed of the defeat and takes it with her characteristic stoicism. After his return to Paris, Napoleon is repudiated by the Chamber of Deputies and considers a dictatorship. Napoleon plans the defense of France but in the face of the Chamber's continued opposition he again abdicates the throne, ceding power to Napoleon II.

Delegates from the Chamber fare poorly in their appeal to Blücher for favorable terms of surrender. Prussian troops close in on Malmason. Napoleon sees a weakness in Blücher's dispositions and briefly rallies to make plans to save France, but is forced to face reality and reconcile himself to surrendering to the English. Taking leave of his mother, his brothers and Hortense, he promises to see them again when they join him in America. A short time later in Vienna, Napoleon II finds the location of the small island of Saint Helena, his father's new home, on a chart of the Atlantic.


omment: Hundert Tage was an Italian and German co-production that had been freely adapted by director Franz Wenzler and screenwriter Karl Vollmöller from the play Campo di Maggio, written in 1930 by Italian playwright Giovacchino Forzano, who credited Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as his co-author. Although the extent of Mussolini's participation in the actual writing of the drama has been questioned, Forzano maintained in print that Il Duce had suggested the subjects and plots of three of his plays, Campo di Maggio, Giulio Cesare, and Villafranca, and wrote part of the dialogue.

Napoleon II locates Saint Helena on a chart of the Atlantic.
The German-language Hundert Tage was filmed simultaneously with an Italian version, Campo di maggio (aka 100 Days of Napoleon), that featured an Italian cast, other than Austrian actress Rose Stradner, who played Maria Louise in both versions. Corrado Racca played Napoleon in the Italian version, which was released in 1936.

Forzano was an ardent fascist, and both his play and the film were written in an attempt to identify Mussolini with Napoleon, who is portrayed as the Bonapartist legend would have it: a self-sacrificing and heroic man of the people who is ultimately betrayed by the political machinations of his corrupt ministers and the self-serving republicans of the Chamber.

The film is a competent, albeit strictly one-sided, retelling of Napoleon's Hundred Days, though the attempts at rousing the audience's sympathy for the tragic figure of Napoleon are rather transparent. The film betrays its stage bound origins at times, but Gustaf Gründgens gives a suitably oily performance as the effete Fouché and the battle scenes are excitingly photographed.

German actor Werner Krauss, perhaps better known today as Dr. Caligari in the 1920 silent horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, had played Napoleon once before on film in Napoleon auf St. Helena (1929) and gives a fairly convincing performance here. He bears a strong resemblance to the more corpulent Emperor during his later days, and his portrayal of Napoleon's distress over the separation from his son is certainly moving. Krauss was an early supporter of the Nazi party and was appointed by German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to be the vice president of the Reichskulturkammer theatre department. Due to his pro-Nazi activities, Krauss was banned from performing in Germany after the war. He died in 1959.


istorical Context: Hundert Tage hits the high points of the events taking place in the first half of 1815 and is a fairly accurate summary of Napoleon's side of the story. It may be a better representation of Bonapartist and fascist Italian propaganda than history, but much the same can be said on the other side about the Napoleonic films being made by the competing European powers of the time.

Availability: This one was hard to track down. I finally found an electronic file that had apparently been made from a European video tape of the movie. The audio was poorly synched and there were no subtitles, but I was able to get the gist of the movie from an English translation of Forzano's play.

References: IMDb; Wikipedia; Witt, Mary Ann Frese The Search for Modern Tragedy: Aesthetic Fascism in Italy and France , Cornell University Press, 2001; Mussolini, Benito and Forzano, Giovacchino (adapted by Drinkwater, John) Napoleon: the hundred days , London, Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd., 1932; "Hundred Days": Mussolini's Drama in Film Form, Mid-Week Pictorial, New York Times, November 24, 1934.

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© 2012 by Clark J. Holloway.