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It was so enjoyable going way back in time to the Year 1928 and view Warner Baxter,(The Cisco Kid) who played his role the way I would want to see an actor portray The Cisco Kid. Dorothy Burgess, (Tonia Maria) is the girl friend of Cisco Kid and gives a great supporting role as a gold digger who wants plenty of gold, romance and any man who desires her charm. Edmund Lowe, (Sergeant Mickey Dunn) plays a soldier who is hunting down the Cisco Kid and gets himself involved with Tonia Maria in order to set up a trap to catch the Cisco Kid. Sgt.Mickey Dunn is from New York and talks and sings about the Bowery and brags about the cost of a beer for only five (5) cents and all the food you can eat. It is nice to know that Warner Baxter won an Oscar for his performance as the Cisco Kid, who was also the star of many "Crime Doctor" films as Dr. Ordway. This is a great classic film that you will not want to miss from 1928 and also has sound for the voices. Enjoy
This is likely the first sound western film as well as the first sound film done out-of-doors. Suggested by "The Caballero's Way", a short story by William Sidney Porter (O.Henry), the main character, "The Cisco Kid", has been considerably upgraded. Porter's "Kid" was a ruthless bandit who didn't like people who got in his way, especially sheriffs. When a sheriff seduced the "Kid's" girl-friend into betraying him into an ambush, the "Kid", ruthlessly clever, took his revenge in a sadistic fashion. In case one might want to read the story, I will say no more. In the film, the "Kid" is a bandit right enough, but a sympathetic one, and sufficiently clever to outwit a sheriff who persuades the girlfriend to disarm the "Kid". She does this by charming him into taking off his gun when he meets her for a tryst. Don't worry, the "Kid" is one up on this trick, too, but protects himself in somewhat gentler fashion than in the story. If one could view this film today it would seem a museum piece, but not without some pictorial charm. I remember the photography as very pictorial, as with some later sequels, and there is a scene of bacon frying over a campfire that rather startled 1929 film goers with the realistic sound.
In Old Arizona made for Fox Films in 1928 has the distinction of being
the first all sound film and by dint of that the first all sound
western. Warner Baxter won the second Academy Award given out for Best
Actor and In Old Arizona bringing to the screen that legendary Robin
Hood of the West, The Cisco Kid.
This version of Cisco is a whole lot different than the show I remember as a lad. Duncan Renaldo was a gentlemen, a caballero in the full meaning of the word, ever ready to help anyone in distress. He was a Latino version of Hopalong Cassidy and Cisco and Hoppy had a revival of popularity in the early television days.
But both of those characters were far from what Clarence Mulford and William Sydney Porter wrote. Hoppy was a tobacco chewing rather profane cuss who worked on the Bar 20 ranch, not the kid's role model William Boyd made him. Similarly the Cisco Kid was a charming fellow even for a bandit. But he was a most unapologetic man about his profession.
For this film Baxter's Cisco is cleaned up somewhat, still though he exacts a terrible, but quite just vengeance for betrayal, something Duncan Renaldo never would have done.
Today with political correctness, a man like Warner Baxter never would have been cast as the Cisco Kid, let alone win an Oscar for the role. But Baxter went on to do Cisco in four more films before folks like Cesar Romero, Gilbert Roland and Duncan Renaldo took the character over. There's a reason for this, Warner Baxter did a superb job in the part. Though his accent is obviously fake, he in no way demeans Latinos with his portrayal.
Dorothy Burgess is Cisco's best girl, I say best because she's far from the only one. She's a girl with big ambitions though and a bandit's moll even for a guy as handsome and charming as Warner Baxter has its limits.
Cisco's reeking so much havoc in that country on the American side of the Rio Grande that the army has gotten into the act. With war with Spain imminent, Sergeant Edmund Lowe's been given an order, get Cisco dead or alive.
Lowe essentially brings his Sergeant Quirt persona to the part of New York born sergeant Mickey Dunn. He's about an inch too sure of himself and he too thinks he's best with the ladies.
In Old Arizona also got nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and it goes without saying Best Sound. Though it's ancient now, a lot of people thought the sound of those ham and eggs cooking on the stove for Cisco in Burgess's cabin was considered revolutionary in 1928.
I recommend it highly especially for the ending. As another Latino icon was fond of saying, someone had a lot of explaining to do.
This film has been of interest to me for some time now, for a number of
reasons. I finally managed to get a copy and saw it yesterday. I now
understand why it is not currently generally available-it is dated, of, at
best, average quality, not without charm or appeal, to be sure, but the
interst here is for a relatively small audience. Not a bad film, by any
means, just not terribly engaging. I will say that a knowledge of Spanish
greatly enhanced my own enjoyment of this film, as two or three very good
lines were delivered in Spanish.
I have now seen three of the five Academy Award Picture nominees in their entirety (and am unlikely to ever see one, The Patriot, as it is reportedly a "lost" film) and part of Alibi. I now understand how Broadway Melody won that year. Of the choices I've seen, it is clearly the best of an average lot. The Patriot may well be better, but I'm unlikely to ever be able to judge that point.
I enjoyed the film, warts and all, but it is rather dated. But, for my money, any movie that gives the leading man the nickname, "El Conejito" (Little Rabbit) can't be too bad. Worth watching. Recommended to old film buffs and film historians.
IN OLD ARIZONA (Fox, 1928/29), directed by Irving Cummings and Raoul
Walsh, marks the new beginning in motion picture history as the first
all-talking western and the first with sound to be use actual location
scenes to take advantage of the great outdoors rather than using indoor
shots with rear projection passing for exteriors. With silent films
still essential at the time of its release (January 1929), novelties
such as this hearing actors speaking their lines rather than reading
what they're saying through the use of inter-titles would soon put the
silent films out to pasture. While not the first motion picture about
the Cisco Kid, this was the start of a long series of westerns
featuring the bandito as originated in O. Henry's short story, "The
Caballero's Way," from which this movie was based. Anyone familiar with
the 1950s TV series, "The Cisco Kid" starring Duncan Renaldo and Leo
Carrillo, and expecting IN OLD ARIZONA to have Cisco and his sidekick
Pancho saving the day, would be disappointed mainly because this Cisco
Kid is more true to O'Henry's creation than the future films and
television incarnations. The Cisco Kid is a bandit who works very much
alone, being one step ahead of anyone out to claim their reward on his
capture, dead or alive. "Oh Cisco! No Pancho!"
The story gets underway with passengers boarding the Gila Tombstone Stagecoach bound for its destination. This scene is followed by the introduction of the Cisco Kid (Warner Baxter) taking the wanted poster sign from a tree bearing his name with a $5,000 price on his head. After holding up the stagecoach, he goes on his way. Sergeant Mickey Dunn (Edmund Lowe) is assigned by his Commandant (Roy Stewart) to capture this bandit. During his mission, Mickey finds time flirting with various tough bar women, namely Tonia (Dorothy Burgess), who's not only Cisco's girl but girlfriend to every cowboy in town. Wanting to collect the reward on Cisco's capture, Tonia sets a trap on him, but Cisco has other plans for her once he discovers her true "loyalty" towards him.
IN OLD ARIZONA looks like a western, plays like a western, in fact, is a western, but doesn't have the pace more commonly found in westerns of subsequent eras. Being a primitive talkie, that's to be expected. The only musical backdrop presented is during opening credits and exit music, each to the fine and beautiful theme song, "My Tonia." Aside from the Cisco Kid serenading to Tonia, there are others singing to the tune to "Bicycle Built for Two," while Edmund Lowe's vocalizes "The Bowery" For this first western with sound, the audio use of church bells, the mooing of cows, the hoofs of running horses and gunshots appear to be more essential and beneficial than the action itself, which may be the reason why IN OLD ARIZONA is hardly revived, regardless of its then popularity and Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. It's only known commercial television presentation was on a Hartford, Connecticut station, WFSB, Channel 3, in 1974.
As much as the Cisco Kid could have been enacted by natural born Hispanic actors as Antonio Moreno or Gilbert Roland (who later enacted the role in the 1940s), for example, the part went to Warner Baxter (his talking film debut), who won an best actor Academy Award for it. Baxter's accent and Mexican attire are believable, character acceptable, for that his achievement in a role not true to his background shows more effort than having an natural-born Mexican playing a Mexican. Whenever Baxter's Cisco is off screen for long intervals, and Mickey Dunn's involvement with saloon girls (one claiming "all men are bums"), taking too much screen time, the pace slows down considerably. Although Lowe's character weakens the film somewhat, especially with his portrayal being more to the liking of Sergeant Quirt, the role he originated so well in WHAT PRICE GLORY? (Fox, 1926), yet without Victor McLaglen as his counterpart, it misses something. Lowe does have a scene worth nothing, however, set in the barber shop where he is playing dice and conversing with barber Guiseppi (Henry Armetta) about wanting to meet up with the Cisco Kid, unaware that Cisco is sitting close by in the barber's chair with his face covered with a towel. Dunn and Cisco become acquainted before going on their separate ways. When Dunn discovers he shook hands with the man he's out to arrest, the noise made by a donkey is sounded behind him, making him feel like a "jack ass."
Dorothy Burgess (in movie debut), is fine as Tonia, whose performance makes one wonder how WHAT PRICE GLORY heroine Dolores Del Rio might have succeeded as the Mexican saloon girl if given to her, and a chance to be reunited with Edmund Lowe on screen again? Soledad Jimenez and J. Farrell MacDonald appear unbilled in smaller roles. Baxter reprized his role in THE CISCO KID (Fox, 1931) and again in THE RETURN OF THE CISCO KID (20th-Fox, 1939), which started the cycle of "Cisco Kid" program westerns with Cesar Romero taking over the role afterword's. After the series expired by 1942, the Cisco Kid was resurrected again in a whole new series for Monogram (1945-1948) and United Artists (1949-50) featuring Gilbert Roland and later Duncan Renaldo, who carried on his Cisco portrayal to television.
Having been fortunate to acquire a 2005 DVD copy of IN OLD ARIZONA is assuring to know that this western antique is readily available for film and western enthusiasts to view and study the movie that helped advance the career of Warner Baxter in an unlikely role as The Cisco Kid. (***)
I have heard so much about In Old Arizona that I truly was anticipating
a genuine 'western' experience since this was a Fox film . I know the
production values and story lines in their silents were always
entertaining . I kept waiting for a western but it never came .
One has to be able to be able to imagine the newness of sound to comprehend the audience reaction to this film at its release . The frying bacon scene has been recounted in several different publications . The newness of sound was evident throughout the picture with songs , continual dialogue (sometimes very inane ) , sound effects ,etc. The film tried to overload the senses of the viewers with sound that seemed to come in waves to awe the viewers.
The direction receiving an Academy nomination escapes me completely . It appeared the director knew it was sound , but used tried and true 'silent ' techniques . The constant smiling , grinning and bon vivant attitude of Baxter was reminiscent of second tier silent western stars ala Buddy Roosevely , Wally Wales ,Bill Cody , Bob Custer et al. They all used this carefree , devil-may care attitude constantly .
Probably the most noticeable 'throwback ' methods were the exchange between Baxter and Burgess at the end . Both had a double meaning for their phrases which could have translated into a very delightful scene . However both of them resorted to 'silent' facial expressions that let the audience in on the meaning , but not the other character . Cummings showed his lack of knowledge and faith in sound as well as subtlety in expressions , but it understandable given his background and the newness of sound.
Baxter handled himself very well , yet you wonder if the Oscar was for the sound element tied to his performance rather than the strength of his acting alone . He always did a creditable job in any picture . Burgess is another story . Her attempt to portray herself as a Hispanic vamp left a lot to be desired . Still you cannot help but see the definite ' borrowing ' for Pearl Chavez in Duel in the Sun . There is no mistaking the copy that Jones used .
Finally , the O. Henry ending for the film was a little different . You reap what you sow is very prevalent in Edmund Lowe and Burgess . They sowed deceit and reaped their just desserts . However , Baxter just goes on his outlaw ways with no consequences . He admits it will come one day for him, but we don't see it . So there is morality and amorality . Where there is no dialogue , I was fascinated how some outdoor scenes took on a John Ford Monument Valley look .
The scene where Burgess goes into the saloon to meet Lowe is priceless . She walks in and she and a customer start exchanging ' let's do business ' glances . Then she meets Lowe and begins to condemn the women who work there and castigates Lowe for comparing her to them . Her self-righteous air is her best piece of acting in the entire movie.
You knew this was precode with some of the dialogue . When Baxter tells Lowe he is known as " Conejito " , Lowe 's line asking ' is he that fast' is priceless . The allusions abound .
Still this is well worth the time to view . First for the historical as to the use of sound . Then there is the introduction of the Cisco Kid . You have to have this film to trace the evolution of the character in film . When Baxter was talking about Yaqui being his best friend , you almost expected a pan to Pancho based upon preconditioning to the pair .
The morality and the love triangle dominate this film . There is no issue to be resolved as none ever existed . You have a story of 3 people - interesting , but slow moving and slower developing . Glad I own it and watched it
Despite the desert setting and saloons and the presence of a Mexican
bandit, cavalry officers and senoritas, this is really an exotic
romantic drama (based on a story by the renowned O. Henry) as opposed
to a straight Western. Being an early Talkie, it's obviously creaky
with very dated acting but retains plenty of interest for the
non-casual film-buff even after all these years: for one thing, it
basically served as a template for the myriad Westerns that followed
involving the exploits of some famous bandit or other (beginning with
King Vidor's BILLY THE KID ); besides, the flirtatious character
of Dorothy Burgess may well have inspired Linda Darnell's Chihuahua in
John Ford's classic MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) nearly twenty years
Warner Baxter was a popular star of the era who has been largely neglected over the years; his Oscar-winning performance here isn't bad, but seems hardly outstanding at this juncture his talent is more readily evident, in fact, in such later films as 42ND STREET (1933) and John Ford's THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND (1936). The same can be said of Edmund Lowe: if he's at all remembered today, it's for his "Quirt & Flagg" series of war films with Victor McLaglen (three of them helmed by this film's original director, Raoul Walsh), the Bela Lugosi vehicle CHANDU THE MAGICIAN (1932; in the title role), and the noir-ish gangster drama DILLINGER (1945). While his character curiously speaks in modern i.e. 1920s slang, he interacts well with both Baxter and Burgess especially effective is the scene where he comes face to face with Baxter's Cisco Kid at a barber shop and, ignorant of the latter's identity, lets him slip away.
The film features a couple of songs (one of them, by the famed songwriting trio of DeSylva-Brown-Henderson, is heard several times throughout and even serves as an Overture to the feature proper) and archaic comedy relief by a number of minor characters notably Burgess' long-suffering elderly maid. There's far more talk than action here, but the twist ending (subsequently much copied) is remarkable if anything, because it's unexpectedly pitiless for a film of its era! Incidentally, the lead role was to have been played by Raoul Walsh himself but he was injured (eventually losing an eye) in a driving accident; Irving Cummings replaced him behind the cameras (and, oddly enough, alone received the Best Director nomination, despite Walsh's name still appearing in the credits)!
P.S. Baxter, Lowe and director Cummings were re-united shortly after for a sequel THE CISCO KID (1930); one wonders whether copies of the film still exist as, ideally, it should have been paired with the original on the bare-bones Fox DVD...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not only is this the first major sound western, it is the first done
out of doors. The sound isn't all that great, booming and fading, but
consider that this was made in the "dawn of sound" era, 1928, and at
that time the great MGM had yet to make any talking pictures. The
camera work, however, is excellent, even if limited as to action by the
tyranny of the new microphone. Fox films were keeping up with
pioneering Warner Brothers fairly well.
Suggested by "The Caballero's Way", a story by William Sidney Porter (O. Henry), the main character, "The Cisco Kid", has been considerably upgraded. Porter's "Kid" was a ruthless bandit, who didn't like people who got in his way, especially sheriffs. In the film, the authority figure is not a sheriff, but an army Sergeant co-opted by the locals to run down the "Kid" and "terminate him with extreme prejudice". The movie has added what amounts to an extensive prologue to the original story elements, in which the "Kid" robs a stage carrying considerable gold, thus depriving a number of the locals of considerable cash.
The Sergeant seduces, without too much trouble, the girl-friend of the "Kid". He persuades her to betray him, more or less Judas fashion, but the wily bandit overhears the plot and takes a cleverly sadistic revenge. In case you haven't read the story or seen the film, I'll say no more. When I first commented on IN OLD ARIZONA some years ago, I had not then seen the excellent DVD now available, and was depending on my memory of seeing the movie in 1928, when it was in general release. (Yeah, I'm that old!) As a result, I described an ending which either belonged to another "Cisco" movie, or was perhaps an alternate ending to this one. In any case, the DVD presents the same ending as the O. Henry story.
Despite all the shortcomings, compared to modern films, this old museum piece has considerable pictorial charm. There is a brief sequence showing ham and eggs frying, with appropriate sound effects, that brought out a gasp from the audience in 1928. Sound and sight, Oh, boy! The outdoor sequences, possibly using some process photography, look to be depicting the Tonto Rim country of Arizona, but some of the rocks might just have been in Griffith Park! Now, the acting, beyond that of Warner Baxter, is about high school senior play level, if that good. Edmund Lowe is merely mediocre, but Dorothy Burgess, alas, is really pitiful. Baxter, himself, seems very mannered, probably going slow to be sure he didn't slip on his "mexican" accent. The best acting is found among the "bit" players. They seem more comfortable in their roles and project more naturally than the principals. One might be forgiven for suspecting that they got less attention from the directors. It does take some patience to "enjoy" this old film, but I can't say I was bored. For fullest enjoyment, you have to project yourself, if you can, back to 1928, and imagine that you can actually smell that ham frying in the skillet. And the "Kid" and the girl never ate it! They "retired" into another room.
"In Old Arizona" was made in 1928 at a time when sound was still a
novelty in films. As such you can see in this film sequences that
purely demonstrate sound but add nothing to the story. For example, in
the opening scene after the stagecoach leaves, the camera moves to a
mariachi band that appears out of nowhere to play a song, and later a
scene begins with a quartet warbling a little ditty before moving over
to the principle characters.
The story centers on the Cisco Kid (Warner Baxter) who is a likable rogue who robs stagecoaches (but not the passengers) and has a price on his head of $5,000. It seems that everyone knows the kid on sight except the town barber. His girlfriend Tonia Maria (Dorothy Burgess) is an obvious pre-production code prostitute, who "entertains" him when he is not robbing stagecoaches.
The army is asked to do something about all of the robberies. They send Sgt. Mickey Dunn (Edmund Lowe) to investigate. Along the way he meets Tonia Maria who seduces him (off screen of course) and the two plot to capture the Kid and claim the reward. Naturally the Kid uncovers the plot and prepares a surprise for the sergeant and his unfaithful girlfriend.
This film is rather dated when watched today. It is over talkative and has just awful acting in many of the supporting roles, particularly the actor who plays the stagecoach driver. But you have to remember that this was the first year of sound movies. Director Raoul Walsh used outdoor microphones for the first time in a major studio production. You'll notice a few "silent spots" in the out door scenes.
The three leads are OK but the Mexican "accents" of Baxter and Burgess are laughable. Actually as hard to believe as it was, Baxter won the 1929 Academy Award for his role. Walsh was supposed to play the Lowe part but lost an eye in an accident about this time.
J. Farrell MacDonald appears early in the film as an Irish stagecoach passenger.
First time I got to know about this film was when I saw "O'Henry's Full House" in 1953. They showed a scene of this film and as I always liked westerns I was impressed by it being written by O'Henry and having as the main character "The Cisco Kid", which was present in so many B westerns from then on. Seeing the film recently I realized it is not really a western, because it lacks its main element: action. But it is a wonderful film, the first that was all talked, and we can say it is all talk. With no problems it could be a theatrical play. It comes from a short story of O'Henry, and in order to make it into a movie they added characters and dialogs, and did quite a good job. Even though Warner Baxter got the Oscar as the Kid, Edmund Lowe is just as good as Mickey Dunn, and as he talks about New York we realize what a fantastic city it must have been (and still is). Dorothy Burgess still carries on the acting of the silent movies and overacts, but is sexy and charismatic. A film not to be missed by those who are interested in the story of Cinema.
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