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"The Gay Desperado" (1936)


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This film was a pleasant discovery which I want to share with you friends and TCM (it would be nice if you could lease it :)

 

Knowing that Rouben Mamoulian, one of the great film directors of the Twentieth Century (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Love Me Tonight, Queen Christina, Golden Boy,?), had directed this not widely known film and being the Musical Genre on of my favorites, I always had an ?eye? on this movie.

 

I?d define ?The Gay Desperado? as a wonderful and entertaining spoof with musical interludes, set in the Mexican Border, where the notorious, funny, charming bandit Pedro Braganza (who?s a music fan, very funnily played by Leo Carrillo) and his gang try to imitate the American gangsters? ?modern ways?, kidnapping a singer (Chivo, played by Nino Martini) in the process.

 

I must note that Nino Martini is the only member of the cast who actually sings, profusely, in the film, getting to sing some popular Mexican songs and an Operatic Aria among others.

 

Martini has an impressive voice (you can tell he was a real Opera singer from the Met) and a mischievously charming personality. Leo Carrillo more or less steals the film as the florid leader of the Mexican bandits with an ?ear for music?. Very funny performances too by Harold Huber as Carrillo?s more serious sidekick and by great character actor Mischa Auer (of ?My Man Godfrey? and ?You Can?t Take it With You? fame), who impersonates a silent native (almost a ?Buster Keatonish? character) who?s part of the gang too.

 

Ida Lupino is very good (before her later ?Warner Bros. Screen Persona?) as an American girl who has just eloped to get married in Mexico to a rather wishy-washy, stiff fianc?, getting both to meet Carrillo?s gang face to face.

 

Great cinematography, pace, mood and dialogue (IMHO this is no ?ordinary? musical) in a beautifully restored transfer (IMAGE made a great job).

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feaito, thanks for this review (and the "Letty Lyndon" one too)! I've just added it to my Netflix queue, too bad the Joan Crawford film is not available. I too am looking forward to seeing the lovely, delicate but tough Ms. Lupino in an early role.

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Joe, if you are curious about Ida Lupino, you have to see THE HARD WAY. It is still ahead of its time and it is still underrated. Vincent Sherman directed it and I hope the good folks at Warners get this on DVD and ask him to do an audio commentary. Joan Leslie is in it too as her sister, and in it Ida Lupino gives one of the best performances of the 1940's. She won awards and much critical acclaim for it, but not the Oscar, which went to Jennifer Jones that year (1943).

 

And Feaito, thanks for the recommendation, I will look for the THE GAY DESPERADO, which I have heard of but have never seen. I never even realized it featured musical numbers, but now I am intrigued, because this was the first film musical Rouben Mamoulian directed after directing the original version of Porgy and Bess on Broadway the year before in 1935.

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Welcome Richard, in fact I'm a fan of the musicals Rouben Mamoulian directed on film, especially "Love Me Tonight" (1932) which is one of my very favourite films of all time. I am also very keen on "Silk Stockings" (1957). I'd like to see the first film/musical he ever directed too, "Applause" with the legendary Helen Morgan, which I think it's available on DVD.

 

I did not remember he had directed "Porgy and Bess" on Stage, thanks for reminding us.

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Y'all are in luck if you want to see "The Hard Way" and/or more of Ida Lupino. Firstly, The Hard Way (1942) is airing July 13th at 10 AM ET. Secondly, "On Dangerous Ground" (this Friday), "The City Sleeps" (June 24 & July 2) - I haven't seen this one, "The Sea Wolf" (July 2), and "High Sierra" (August 31), all featuring the lovely actress, will be shown on TCM.

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Thanks Richard and Path for the info on "The Hard Way" - I'll be sure to tape it.

 

And Feaito, you should definitely get yourself a copy of "Applause." This movie blew me away. Mamoulian's direction is superb, and well ahead of it's time, and besides that, Helen Morgan gives a powerhouse performance in it that will break your heart. She was so incredibly gifted as a singer and actress, it's a shame she didn't do more film work, and died at a young age (in her 40's, I think) from alcoholism. This movie is well worth buying though, even if you've never seen it, because ANY film fan is sure to get something out of it. In fact, it's hard to believe it was made in 1929, that's how ahead of it's time it is, not just with the direction, but also with the story, I might add. I only hope TCM gets the opportunity to play it someday.

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Thanks for the heads up on THE HARD WAY Path.

 

And Feaito, everything Joe said about APPLAUSE is spot-on. Many people might be turned off by its age, but believe me, the film works on so many levels. I agree it is not dated, and in many respects it is more realistic than many films that came after it.

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