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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>
On 19 November 1933, during location filming in Mexico, Lee Tracy, originally cast as Johnny Sykes, got drunk and urinated from his hotel balcony onto a passing military parade. He was arrested, fired from the film and replaced by Stuart Erwin. Original director Howard Hawks was also fired for refusing to testify against Tracy, and replaced by Jack Conway. However, in his autobiography, Charles G. Clarke, the cinematographer on the picture, said that he was standing outside the hotel during the parade and the incident never happened. Tracy, he said, was standing on the balcony observing the parade when a Mexican in the street below made an obscene gesture at him. Tracy replied in kind, and the next day a local newspaper printed a story that said, in effect, Tracy had insulted Mexico, Mexicans in general and the Mexican flag in particular. The story caused an uproar in Mexico, and MGM decided to sacrifice Tracy in order to be allowed to continue filming there. See more »
Madero is shown being shot by Pascal at Madero's desk in his office in the Presidential Palace in Mexico City. In reality, Madero and his Vice President were shot by soldiers of Gen. Victoriano Huerta, who had overthrown Madero and was having him transported to a prison outside Mexico City. The car they were in stopped behind a building outside the prison, and Madero and his vice president were taken outside the cars and shot. See more »
While the story is a bit on the fanciful side, it still has a good period look, and some of photography and action sequences are excellent. Wallace Beery is not as hammy as usual and does a creditable job. Henry B. Walthall is good (as usual) as Francisco Madero and turns in the best performance of the movie. Interestingly enough, while some characters (Madero, Villa)actually use their real names, others such as John Reed, Victoriano Huerta and Rodolfo Fierro are fictionalized as Johnny Sykes, Pascal and Sierra, respectively. Perhaps the best thing about it is, despite when it was made it treats the subject matter with dignity and has a real respect for Mexico and Mexicans. Some of the shots look as though they were taken in the 1910s thanks to Jack Conway's and Howard Hawk's direction.
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