Empress Elisabeth of Austria (nicknamed “Sisi” or “Sissi”) became so when she married Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1854. Originally Bavarian royalty, she was known for her beauty, particularly her super long trademark hair. She hated the formality of court life and frequently escaped by traveling. Her son, Crown Prince Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889, which only made things worse. She was assassinated in 1898.
Although I am vaguely familiar with Elisabeth, I admit to never having seen any on-screen portrayals of her — no, not even the hugely famous Sissi movies! — until I recently watched The Crown Prince (2006). That sparked my interest in her, and so I thought I’d track down her representations in film and TV. Now, of course, I need to watch some of these!
Note: There’s also Mayerling (1936) with Gabrielle Dorziat as Elisabeth, but I can’t find any photos of her in that role.
Elisabeth of Austria (1931)
A German biopic staring Lil Dagover in the title role.
The King Steps Out (1936)
An American comedy about Elisabeth (Grace Moore) and Franz Joseph’s (Franchot Tone) courtship, directed by the famed Josef von Sternberg.
The Eagle With Two Heads (1948)
A French film directed by legendary Jean Cocteau. It’s very loosely based on Elisabeth — basically, a widowed queen (Edwige Feuillère) develops a connection with an anarchist who wants to assassinate her.
The Secret of Mayerling (1949)
A French film about Crown Prince Rudolf’s suicide, with Marguerite Jamois as Elisabeth.
The most famous adaptations of Elisabeth’s life, and one of the most popular costume films in Germany! They’re pretty shmaltzy from what I’ve heard, but you can check out our full review for more. Romy Schneider stars in all three films.
An episode of the TV series Producers’ Showcase about Crown Prince Rudolf’s suicide. Diana Wynyard plays the Empress Elisabeth, Mel Ferrer is Rudolf, and Audrey Hepburn plays Rudolf’s mistress Mary Vetsera.
This time, it’s a feature film about Crown Prince Rudolf’s suicide. Ava Gardner plays Elisabeth, Omar Sharif is Rudolf, and Catherine Deneuve plays Mary Vetsera.
A biopic about King Ludwig II of Bavaria, directed by Luchino Visconti. Romy Schneider from Sissi reprises her role as a now-older Elisabeth. The costumes, designed by Italian designer Piero Tosi, look AMAZE-BALLS.
Fall of Eagles (1974)
A 13-part BBC miniseries about the ruling dynasties of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia from 1848 to 1919. Diane Keen plays the younger Elisabeth, and Rachel Gurney the older.
The Mystery of Oberwald (1981)
An Italian film that is supposedly inspired by Elisabeth’s assassination attempt: a man breaks into a castle in order to try to kill the queen (Monica Vitti).
Sissi la valse des cœurs (1991)
A French-German film with Vanessa Wagner as Elisabeth.
Sissi, l’impératrice rebelle (2004)
A French TV movie about the last five days of Elisabeth’s (Arielle Dombasle) life.
The Crown Prince (2006)
A German TV movie about Crown Prince Rudolf’s affair and suicide, with Sandra Ceccarelli as Elisabeth.
A German/Austrian/Italian TV miniseries, with Cristiana Capotondi as Elisabeth.
Ludwig II (2012)
Another biopic focused on Bavarian King Ludwig II, with Hannah Herzsprung as Elisabeth.
Chanel CC the World (2014)
Imma just let Wikipedia explain:
“In December 2014, to coincide with the presentation of the Pre-Fall 2015 ‘Metier d’arts’ collection by luxury fashion house Chanel, shown in the Schloss Leopoldskron palace, creative director Karl Lagerfeld directed a short film featuring Cara Delevingne as Empress Elisabeth accompanied by Pharrell Williams. During a dream sequence, the duo sing a song written by Williams entitled CC the World, playing on the iconic interlocking logo of the fashion house, the initials of its founder Coco Chanel, as well as the Empress’s nickname ‘Sisi’. Lagerfeld recreated the iconic gown worn by Elisabeth in the portrait by Winterhalter, whilst Pharrell takes on attire similar to Franz Joseph.”
Who’s your favorite Sissi? Okay, who’s your favorite Sissi OTHER than Romy Schneider? ;)