|Index||4 reviews in total|
This is a film which shows that good things come in small
A rather short "B" comedy from RKO released in the greatest year that
Hollywood had ever seen, "The Girl From Mexico" was the first of 8 films
surrounding the hot-tempered yet loving character played by Lupe Velez.
Velez had been around Hollywood for over a decade, and was in a career
when she made this film. It rejuvenated her career, and for the next five
years, she made over half a dozen films surrounding Carmelita, the "Girl
From Mexico", later known as the "Mexican Spitfire". It was a title that
Velez had been given in the early 30's, and now RKO hoped to take
of that to give her some much-needed box-office. "The Girl From Mexico"
the first and best of these films, although it was apparent that this was
not meant originally to be a series. Well-crafted and fast-moving, the
takes advantage of the chemistry between rubber legged Leon Errol and
hot-tempered Velez, and sends them soaring with loads of gags. Sad to
Velez had more chemistry with Errol than any of the actors in the series
played her husband, Dennis Lindsey.
The story finds Dennis (Donald Woods in this outing) going to Mexico to find a singer for a radio show, and meets firecracker Carmelita. He brings her back, and almost immediately, chaos ensues. Carmelita and his Uncle Matt (Errol) hit it off, and head out for a night on the town where she gets publicity by getting into a boxing ring in the middle of the fight. Dennis is not too pleased by the publicity, and Uncle Matt's shrew of a wife, Aunt Della (Elisabeth Risdon) and fioncee (Linda Hayes) have good reason to be suspicious of Dennis's interest in Carmelita. I need say no more of the ensuing events that bring Carmelita and Dennis together by the end, but there are loads and loads of gags, funny lines, and just pure outrageousness. One of the funniest moments comes when Carmelita and Uncle Matt first meet, and begin to sing at the piano; The scene is classic comedy at its finest.
As the series continued, the plots got more contrived, dealing with Uncle Matt's constant pretending to be Dennis's boss, Lord Epping. However, for the first few films, the fast-pacing and chemistry between Errol and Velez made the "Mexican Spitfire" series a fun-filled hour or so of pure laughter.
This film, without a doubt, is the best MS film! Lupe
is refreshing in this role, and even gets to do some musical
numbers (ala' Carmen Meranda).
As the series went on, it was reduced to Lupe constantly screaming at her hubby, & Leon Errol lurching around in the (tiresome) "Lord Epping" routine (which often over-shadowed the series). A "Must See" !!! Norm
Wooden American publicity agent Dennis Lindsay (Donald Woods) meets
loud and feisty Mexican singer Carmelita Fuentes (Lupe Velez) and
brings her to the States. Carmelita quickly falls for Dennis but he
only seems to have business on his mind. Plus he's engaged to a snobby
socialite (Linda Hayes). So Carmelita conspires with Dennis' uncle
(Leon Errol) to make Dennis jealous and win his affections. The first
movie in the Mexican Spitfire series, although it wasn't intended as
such. This was a surprise hit which led to the sequels. It's not a
series I particularly love but I think this is my favorite of the
bunch, primarily because it feels less formulaic and it's the only one
where Lupe Velez actually feels like the star. In the subsequent movies
Leon Errol's role would increase where he would basically become the
real star, often playing more than one role in each film. Velez would
just go through the motions in the subplot, which was usually a
variation of the same thing: Carmelita gets angry and leaves Dennis but
eventually the two reunite.
Velez is an acquired taste for sure. She's basically a combination of Ricky and Lucy Ricardo (predating I Love Lucy, of course). I like her in this movie, though. Maybe it's because in the sequels she seemed to be repeating lines and routines in every movie but here she hadn't perfected her persona yet so it feels a bit more natural. She also sings and dances in this one, which is a nice plus. For his part Donald Woods plays to his strengths (?) as a stiff wooden leading man. It somehow works contrasted with Velez screaming half her lines. Leon Errol's Uncle Matt is fun and easily the most likable person in the movie. Linda Hayes and Elisabeth Risdon round out the main cast. Hayes is OK playing a villainess but Risdon is a tough pill to swallow. Her character is just the worst. Ward Bond has a small role as a wrestler named Mexican Pete.
It's an enjoyable lightweight B comedy. I can see why they thought it would make a good series but it really didn't. They had no ideas and basically repeated plots and relied heavily on vaudevillian Errol to provide laughs. This first one is the best because it feels the most fresh. Still nothing exceptional.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I was 9 or 10 I received a book, 'Immortals of the Screen,' which had photos and short bios of some 30 A-list and B-list stars and some major supporting actors from the 1920s through the 1950s. It was apparently done by a former Hollywood crew hand of some sort, picking and choosing either the stars he had actually worked with or those whose royalty fees he could afford to pay. In any case, I dug it out during the past year to see if there were still any actors I didn't know, my knowledge of classic cinema having grown exponentially during the past decade. One who captured my attention was Lupe Velez. It had stills from four or five of her "Mexican Spitfire" movies. I tried finding her on Netflix (usually a good source for older movies and TV shows), but came up empty. Recently I happened to find a four-DVD set on amazon.com with all eight Spitfire movies. This one, of course, is the film that launched the series. I opted to grab it, although I must admit I had some trepidation. I know Ms. Velez wasn't an A-list star and had no idea what level of acting, directing, writing, etc. her films might contain. Just like many movies today are dogs, films from Hollywood's golden age obviously had clinkers, too. I was absolutely delighted today when I watched the brief 71-minute 'The Girl From Mexico.' It is a totally charming little film. Ms. Velez is adorable and also quite enticing as "spitfire" Carmelita Fuentes, sort of a cross between Ricky and Lucy Ricardo. In this film she meets New York ad executive Dennis Lindsay (Donald Woods), who is in Mexico seeking singing talent. He takes her back to NYC, getting much more than he bargained for. She breaks up his impending marriage, nearly gets him fired and gets into all sorts of Lucy-like mischief with Lindsay's eccentric uncle Matt (Leon Errol), whom she quickly wraps around her little finger. In the end, Lindsay's wedding takes place as planned, only with Carmelita as the bride, thus setting up the next seven films. Obviously films' pacing were different in 1939 than they are today. Yet I never found the film to be dragging. It had a handful of laugh-out-loud (at least for me) moments and lots of wholesome cuteness. It was a very enjoyable little film and I look forward to viewing 'The Mexican Spitfire' (its sequel) and the rest of the series.
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