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Viva Villa!  /  Virtue

March 16, 2019 - 7:30 pm

Viva Villa!  (1934)

This is a biography of Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary hero who was gunned down on the street in 1923, three years after he had retired and been given a pension by the same government that then conspired to assassinate him. 10 years later this was still a sensitive subject in Mexico with real or imagined Villaistas seen as a potential threat, and here was Hollywood shooting a film in Mexico. Based on a best-selling biography, the film glosses over Villa’s incursion into New Mexico in 1916, and the government’s culpability in his death. This is a big-budget action western, kept moving by action specialists like Jack Conway and Howard Hawks. Wallace Beery had played Pancho Villa once before in 1917 in a wartime spy serial, probably demonized as he was in the American press at that time, but here Beery plays a lovable bandit with a social conscience, a role he was familiar with. One of Pancho Villa’s daughters, Cecilia Villa, was sent on an extensive publicity tour when MGM opened the film, but her attempt at a Hollywood career proved unsuccessful.

35mm, b/w, 115 min. Director: Jack Conway, Howard Hawks. Screenwriter: Ben Hecht. Cast: Wallace Beery, Leo Carrillo, Fay Wray, Donald Cook, Henry B. Walthall.

Virtue  (1932)

The story may be shopworn: a sex worker with a heart of gold falls for a taxi driver, but will the guy really “forgive” or “forget” her previous career and trust her? Screenwriter Robert Riskin avoids all the clichés and delivers a literate script that gives the actors real meat. And this is Carole Lombard and Pat O’Brien, perfectly cast as the “tough” guy who’s all talk but a softie inside. Meanwhile, Jack La Rue plays a dumb-as-a-post gangster. This was director Eddie Buzzell’s third feature film assignment, after coming to the movies as a Broadway comedy star, and would soon move to MGM to direct the Marx Brothers.

35mm, b/w, 65 min. Director: Edward Buzzell. Screenwriter: Robert Riskin. Story: Ethel Hill. Cast: Carole Lombard, Pat O’Brien, Jack La Rue, Ward Bond.