This romantic tragedy concerns the Archduke Rudolf (Omar Sharif) and his mistress, the Baroness Maria Vetsera (Catherine Deneuve), and their untimely demise at Mayerling, the sight of the Austrian royal family's hunting lodge. Rudolf verbally spars with his father Emperor Franz-Josef (James Mason) about wanting to implement progressive policies for his country. Ava Gardner plays his mother Empress Elizabeth. Rudolf also contends with the fallout from a loveless marriage with Princess Stephanie (Andrea Parisy). Respectful of the centuries-old Hapsburg family rule over Austria, Rudolf soon feels he is a man born at the wrong time in a country that will not realize the need for social reform. The Prince of Wales (James Robertson-Justice), later to become Britain's King Edward VII, provides the only comic relief with his dialogue. The deaths remain a mystery, but director Terence Young suggests the two lovers made a suicide pact when they decided they could not live in a world without love where the prospects for peace were dubious at best.
by Dan Pavlides synopsis