The subject of one of Paramount's most unusual advertising campaigns, this film was promoted in New York with a big question mark without mentioning the title or actors. The ads promised "Your money back if you don"t enjoy this movie!" It didn't help; it was a box-office dud. See more »
My cultural references are primarily British, so Bebe Daniels is firmly fixed in my mind as Ben Lyon's wife (and Molly Weir's employer) in the "Life with the Lyons" comedy series made in England. I'm always pleasantly surprised to be reminded of Bebe Daniels's excellent career as a silent-film comedienne. "Señorita" is a delightful showcase for Bebe's comedic talents, although the story is wildly implausible: a cross between "Zorro" and "Victor/Victoria".
The house of Hernandez and the house of Oliveros are two rival families in old Spain: like the Montagues and the Capulets, both families are wealthy... and both families have been at each other's throats for years, in a bitter blood feud. Don Francisco Hernandez, the grandee of his family, is embarking on a long sea voyage on the night that his grandchild is due to be born: Don Hernandez is confident that the child will be a boy, to carry on the family name (and the feud against the Oliveros clan). Just as Don Hernandez sails, he receives confirmation that the grandchild is born and has been named after him. One minor detail escapes his attention: the expected grandson is actually a girl, named Francisca.
Twenty years pass, during which Don Hernandez conveniently never meets his "grandson" ... rather strange, this is, as the Don is expecting his male "heir" to maintain the family's honour and estates. Francisca's parents have corresponded with the Don, sending him letters with news about his fine strapping grandson "Francisco". Francisca is now a beautiful young woman (Bebe Daniels), but she has been raised in mannish skills such as swordfighting. When Francisca goes to meet her grandfather at last, she maintains the ruse by disguising herself as a swashbuckling caballero, with a glued-on moustache. When Don Hernandez witnesses the skill of his swordsman grand"son", he decides that "Francisco" must lead a battalion of swordsmen (family retainers) against the Oliveros clan. With a macho gesture, "Francisco" agrees to fight until the last man dies ... then a mouse creeps across the floor. At once, Francisca drops her sword and goes all girly-squealy (in her male disguise) to escape this rodent.
William Powell (usually playing villains at this point in his career) is the swarthy patriarch of the Oliveros clan, and his young son (with the un-Spanish name Roger) is callowly played by James Hall. When Francisca goes forth in her male disguise to declare war on the Oliveros estate, she sees Roger Oliveros and is attracted to him instantly ... but, trying not to break character, she hurls threats at him as "Francisco". Later, she changes back into female garb and arranges to meet Roger while posing as the "twin sister" of her male self. Of course, Roger is attracted to Francisca. So now Roger is vowing to kill Francisco while lusting after Francisca, never noticing that Francisco is a girl in disguise and that both "twins" are the same person.
There is some predictable farce comedy here, with Daniels forced to quick-change several times. Inevitably, she gets back into female clothes without noticing that she's still wearing her moustache.
SPOILER ALERT. Of course, Roger eventually discovers that his bitterest male enemy is also his lady-love ... and you have to wonder why it took so long for this boy-boob to see Bebe's a babe. And, of course, the romance between an Oliveros son and a Hernandez daughter ends the feud between the families. To quote the Spanish poet Bart Simpson: "Ay caramba!"
"Señorita" is contrived and predictable but still very funny, thanks entirely to the comedic skills of Bebe Daniels (with an assist from Powell). As Francisco, the very pretty Daniels swaggers gracefully but is never convincingly male. I was surprised to see Lloyd Corrigan's name in the credits, as his comedy scripts tended to be very unfunny. Clarence Badger, usually a workman-like director, shows a deft comic timing here. "Señorita" is long overdue for rediscovery ... as is the entire career of Bebe Daniels.
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