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The Gay Desperado (1936)

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Opera singer Chivo is currently playing a singing cowboy, and Mexican bandito Braganza kidnaps him (along with Jane, an heiress) so he can learn to become more like the American movie gangsters he admires.



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Title: The Gay Desperado (1936)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nino Martini ...
Leo Carrillo ...
Pablo Braganza
Harold Huber ...
Juan Campo
James Blakeley ...
Bill Shay
Stanley Fields ...
Adrian Rosley ...
Radio Station Manager
Paul Hurst ...
American Detective
Al Ernest Garcia ...
Police Captain
Frank Puglia ...
Michael Visaroff ...
Theatre Manager
Chris-Pin Martin ...
Pancho (as Chris King Martin)
Harry Semels ...
George Du Count ...


Opera singer Chivo is currently playing a singing cowboy, and Mexican bandito Braganza kidnaps him (along with Jane, an heiress) so he can learn to become more like the American movie gangsters he admires.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

opera | bandit | mexico | radio | See All (4) »


THE GIANT MUSICAL HIT OF THE YEAR! (original ad - all caps)


Comedy | Musical





Release Date:

2 October 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Canta Bandoleiro Canta  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Featured in Mary Pickford: A Life on Film (1997) See more »


Las Alteñitas/A Gay Ranchero
Spanish words and music by Juan José Espinosa
English version by Abe Tuvim and Francia Luban
See more »

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User Reviews

The Girl & the Golden Voice
11 February 2009 | by (England) – See all my reviews

If "Love Me Tonight" is "the musical for people who don't like musicals", it has to be said that "The Gay Desperado" is definitely not a musical for people who don't like opera. In fact -- despite apparently being based on a comic operetta -- it is not really a musical at all but a spoof bandit story with interpolated unrelated arias to show off the voice of one character; and what a voice it is.

Nino Martini, as the young singer Chivo who joins the bandit troop to get a spot on the radio (no, the plot doesn't make a lot more sense later on either...), has a glorious golden tenor whose style hasn't dated a day since the era when it was recorded. The trillings and warblings of some of his musical contemporaries belong to a bygone fashion, but it's very easy to picture Chivo belting out "Nessun Dorma" to a World Cup crowd and topping the charts in the process. Unfortunately, while he has an engaging grin and a decent dramatic range, he is completely incapable of acting and singing at the same time. The result is that the otherwise rapid-paced film grinds to a shuddering halt every time Chivo lays his hand on his breast and starts to declaim, and the viewer's tolerance of the result is likely to depend on his appreciation of operatic performance.

Aside from this drawback, the film is an enjoyable broad-brush satire on Hollywood conventions and the Mexican bandit stereotype in particular, which achieves the vital goal of all such spoofs in making its characters engaging enough in their own right to hold the viewer's interest when the joke would otherwise have grown stale. The bandit chief and his sidekick have the traditional double-act relationship, there is an enigmatic peon with a carved-teak face, and a spirited heroine (a young Ida Lupino) who performs the generic "you say you hate me but you love me really" routine with a refreshing twist.

Overall the film is entertaining and pretty funny, and I feel I did get my money's-worth -- but it can't be denied that the musical interludes, while admirable in their own way, introduce severe pacing problems.

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