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Alfred E. Green,
I think the person in charge of casting this film was out of his mind!!
"A Message to Garcia" has the sort of insane casting that was not very uncommon during Hollywood's golden age. Think about it--Barbara Stanwyck plays a Cuban woman! And, Wallace Beery plays an American living in Cuba for ten years...which sounds plausible except that he knows almost no Spanish at all!!! What was the studio thinking?! Surely they could have gotten some folks more suited to these roles! And, surely Stanwyck could have at least tried to put on some sort of non-American accent!!
This film is set in the period just before the Spanish-American War in 1898. The President of the US has sent an emissary (John Boles) to Cuba on a secret mission to deliver a message to the leader of the Cuban rebel army led by General Garcia. The problem is locating the guy. After all, it's not like Garcia wants anyone to find him--otherwise the Spanish army would have quickly captured him! Once in Cuba, Boles is assisted both by Stanwyck and Beery during a long trek through the jungle. Oddly, folks seem to die several times during this journey--only to amazingly appear later in the movie! Pretty weird! Overall, this is a dopey movie. Surprisingly, its best aspect is Beery's broad acting because he does bring some energy and humor to the film--two things otherwise lacking in the movie. A rather limp film in most ways--surely the studio could have done better.
By the way, after writing this review I listened to Robert Osborne (of Turner Classic Movies) talk about this film. Apparently it was a bomb at the box office--reviewers and the public just wouldn't accept Stanwyck in such a ridiculous role! I would rank this one up there with John Wayne as Genghis Khan and Clark Gable as the Irish leader, Charles Stewart Parnell, or Katharine Hepburn as a Chinese woman in "Dragon Seed". It's a film she clearly should have been ashamed of, as she was the worst thing about it.
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