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Eddie and his Mexican friend Ricardo are expelled from college after Ricardo put Eddie in the girl's dormitory when he was drunk. Per chance Eddie gets mixed up in a bank robbery and is forced to drive the robbers to safety. To get rid of him they force him to leave the USA for Mexico, but a cop is following him. Eddie meets Ricardo there, Ricardo helps him avoid being arrested by the cop when he introduces Eddie as the great Spanish bullfighter Don Sebastian II. The problem is, the cop is still curious and has tickets for the bullfight. Eddie's situation becomes more critical, when he tries to help Ricardo to win the girl he loves, but she's engaged to a "real" Mexican, who is, unknown to her father, involved in illegal business. While trying to avoid all this trouble, Eddie himself falls in love with his friend's girl friend's sister Rosalie, who also want to see the great Don Sebastian II to kill the bull in the arena. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
THE KID FROM SPAIN (Samuel Goldwyn/United Artists, 1932), directed by Leo McCarey, with choreography by Busby Berkeley, stars Eddie Cantor in his third annual musical-comedy for Samuel Goldwyn. Borrowing the formula from his initial Goldwyn musical, WHOOPEE (1930), switching from wild west to Mexico so not to give the impression of a remake, Cantor once again plays a nervous wreck who goes berserk (this time at the sound of a whistle), and carries on the same surname of Williams. Could these two characters in question be twins? Maybe, but there's only one Eddie Cantor, and for the record, this is not a sequel, just an original premise with recycled ideas.
The story begins in a college where Eddie Williams (Eddie Cantor) is found hiding under the sheets on the bed in a girls' dormitory by the stern Martha Oliver (Theresa Maxwell Conover). Although Eddie assumes the blame, it's his Mexican roommate, Ricardo (Robert Young), responsible for the practical joke. Because of this, both classmates, so close to graduation, are expelled. Ricardo, returning to his native Mexico, invites Eddie to accompany him. On their way to their destination, Ricardo stops at the First National Bank where Eddie waits outside. Parked on the very spot where the getaway car was supposed to be, Eddie encounters new passengers in the back seat, that of the bank robbers who mistake Eddie as their getaway driver. Because Eddie is an eye witness, the bank robbers kidnap Eddie and take him to the Mexican borderline. While in Mexico, Eddie meets again with Ricardo, who, by now, is having romantic problems with Anita Gomez (Ruth Hall), whose father, Alonzo (Noah Beery) prefers she marry Pancho (John Miljan), the greatest bullfighter of all Mexico. Eddie, pursued by Crawford (Robert Emmett O'Connor), an American police inspector, masquerades as Don Sebastian II, matador from Spain visiting Mexico for the upcoming bullfight. Complications ensue when Eddie not only has to fight the bull in the ring to avoid arrest, but to avoid the man-chasing Rosalie (Lyda Roberti) also hot on his trail.
The highlight bullfighting sequence is something of an inspiration for future movie comedians of Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Red Skelton or even Jerry Lewis had they handled such a routine. However, future famed TV comedienne Lucille Ball eventually performed such tactics in an equally funny bullfighting sequence in one of the episodes of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" (1958) co-starring Desi Arnaz as her husband, Ricky Ricardo (a similar name to Robert Young's character in THE KID FROM SPAIN, by which he's called both Ricky and Ricardo), with special guest star, Maurice Chevalier. A similar situation here and to the LUCY program is that both Eddie and Lucy mistake the actual bull for a tamed one for the bullfight. And let's overlook the bullfighting climax featuring Lou Costello, the other half of the Abbott and Costello comedy team, in Mexican HAYRIDE (Universal, 1948), with an added bonus with Costello riding the bull bareback.
Besides good comedy, whether physical or verbal, with some gags and one-liners right out of from the vaudeville days, there's time out for songs by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby including: "The College Song" (with lyrical lines recited by numerous college co-eds, including a very young Betty Grable); "In the Moonlight" (sung by Eddie Cantor); "Look What You've Done" (sung by Lyda Roberti and Eddie Cantor); Untitled dance number (performed by Grace Poggi); "What a Perfect Combination" (sung by Eddie Cantor and Goldwyn Girls); and "What a Perfect Combination" (reprise/finale, sung by Cantor and Roberti).
Also in the supporting cast are J. Carroll Naish as Pedro; Stanley Fields as Jose; Sidney Franklin as himself, an American matador who performs a straight-laced bullfighting scene before Cantor takes over and turns it into a burlesque spoof; Walter Walker (The college dean); Paul Porcasi (The border guard); and Edgar Connor as Blueboy, the Negro bull handler. Connor's film credits are few, but much well noted for his sizable role as Al Jolson's sidekick in HALLELUJAH, I'M A BUM (United Artists, 1933).
THE KID FROM SPAIN has all the ingredients for a successful Cantor comedy, although some of his humor, and one production number in which he performs in black-face, may not impress contemporary audiences. Other than finding Robert Young playing a Mexican, sporting mustache and passable spoken accent, there's one scene where Cantor tells the love starved Roberti to shut her mouth in a manner that's too real to be funny, particularly after watching the sad expression on her face. Film buffs can sit back and try to spot some future film stars amongst the chorus girls, including Betty Grable recognizable in the opening number, the blonde haired Paulette Goddard in the background as Cantor as he looks directly into the camera while vocalizing "In the Moonlight" before strolling with the girls and singing directly to them; and Toby Wing, the "Young and Healthy" girl from 42nd STREET (Warner Brothers, 1933), visible in the first two song numbers. One cannot help but notice the girls seen in the college opening to be the same ones in the Nexican sequence, this time in Mexican attire sporting shoe polish in their black hair.
THE KID FROM SPAIN, which formerly aired on commercial television in the 1960s and 1970s, was later transported to cable networks in the 1980s as CBN (now The Family Channel), The Nostalgia Channel, Turner Network Television (1991), American Movie Classics (1993-94) and finally Turner Classic Movies where it premiered September 2, 2007. Formerly available on video cassette, it's the sort of movie that will remain in memory for anyone who's seen and enjoyed this 96 minute laugh feast with impressive Busby Berkeley production numbers. (***)
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