In this fictionalized biography, young Pancho Villa takes to the hills after killing an overseer in revenge for his father's death. In 1910, he befriends American reporter Johnny Sykes. ... See full summary »
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Edward G. Robinson,
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In this fictionalized biography, young Pancho Villa takes to the hills after killing an overseer in revenge for his father's death. In 1910, he befriends American reporter Johnny Sykes. Then a meeting with visionary Francisco Madero transforms Villa from an avenging bandit to a revolutionary general. To the tune of 'La Cucaracha,' his armies sweep Mexico. After victory, Villa's bandit-like disregard for human life forces Madero to exile him. But Madero's fall brings Villa back to raise the people against a new tyrant... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
I'm still not clear on how MGM got away with this film. Pancho Villa had only been dead for 10 years and his famous raid on Columbus, New Mexico almost 20 years. Surely not enough time for people to have forgotten Villa or what he did.
But the most famous thing he did, raid into the USA and provide a pretext for intervention into Mexican affairs, is completely forgotten by this film. The Villa we see here is a lovable lug of a guy, a typical Wallace Beery part who gets his social conscience awakened by Francisco Madero and gives up banditry to become a revolutionary.
If you're a big fan of Wallace Beery and liked him in such films as Min and Bill and Treasure Island than Viva Villa is simply an extension of the characters he played there.
Actually I think the most interesting character in the film is that of Francisco Madero. Henry B. Walthall's performance is the best and I wish Walthall had starred in a film where he was the central character. Madero was as you see in the film a man of high ideals, betrayed and assassinated by his supporters. But it was hardly Pancho Villa who took vengeance on his betrayers. After long time Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz was overthrown in 1911 and then Madero assassinated in 1912, Mexico fell apart much like the former Yugoslavia did almost 20 years ago. Civil war raged there for a generation. Eventually it united under the PRI party which elected all of its presidents until Vicente Fox.
I've never really liked this film, it stray so far from the facts it's laughable. The players go through their familiar roles and it's a good cast that Howard Hawks later Jack Conway put through their paces. Of course the most famous story coming out of this film is about Lee Tracy getting blotto and going out on a balcony and raining on some Mexican soldiers. Got him fired from the film and Stu Erwin got the break and Tracy's part as the newspaper reporter who popularizes Villa.
If in fact you consider it a break Erwin got to be in Viva Villa.
10 of 14 people found this review helpful.
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