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I recently caught the 124 restored version of "Bullfighter and the Lady,"
and thought it was excellent. I believe the 87 minute version left out
of the actual bullfighting scenes which is a real tragedy. The
scenes are shockingly real--almost documentary-like and add quite a bit of
texture and reality to the movie. Boetticher was a bullfighter and his
knowledge and love of the sport shows through.
I was also quite impressed with the cast, including Robert Stack who, I must admit, I never had really thought was much of an actor. Gilbert Roland, as Stack's mentor, is tremendous as is Joy Page and, especially, the wonderful Katy Jurado.
There is an interesting use of sound also. Boetticher effectively uses thunder as an ominous counterpoint during two key scenes in the movie.
Highly recommended in the 124 minute, restored version.
This is a beautiful, compelling and honest film.
It is imbued with the good kind of machismo--notions of honor, sacrifice,
and the nobility of effort. Instead of cluttering up the film with lots of
story and complications, Boetticher has delved inside the heart and mind of
this (to us gringos) strange sport.
My only addition to the other comments is the photography is remarkable for its era, almost an outdoor film noir, a romantic realism in black and white. (And note that in a number of shots it is clearly Robert Stack doing his own bullfighting!) I note that the film was produced by John Wayne for Republic, obviously mostly in Mexico; just one year later Republic permitted John Ford to make THE QUIET MAN in Ireland; early examples of American filmmaking in an international context.
Don't hesitate to see this extraordinary film.
The Bullfighter and the Lady is a great film that is forgotten. One of the reasons I think is the name of the film, which makes you think of a Walt Disney cartoon. In the fifties you would hear about John Ford or Hitchcock or Hawks being great directors but no one would mention Budd Boetticher and as time is the greatest critic, we can now appreciate how good he was. This is a semi- autobiographical film since Budd was a bullfighter before becoming involved in movies. His first job in Hollywood was as technical adviser for the bullfighting scenes in "Blood and Sand". Robert Stack is an American who becomes friendly with a great matador Gilbert Roland. Stack teaches Roland how to shoot birds and Roland teaches him to bullfight. Stack also falls in love with a woman from Roland's group (Joy Page). Katy Jurado is Roland's wife. As the story flows we see great scenes of bullfighting. Even though I have seen a couple of bullfights in Mexico, I learned much more from seeing this film. The Bullfighter and the Lady should be a model for any film about a dangerous sport. As the film was produced by John Wayne, John Ford (Wayne's great friend) cut about 30 minutes. He told Budd that the reason for this was that the studio would not release the film if it would be any longer. Budd forgave him, but he had the great pleasure of seeing his film restored to the original version before he died. That is how it is shown nowadays
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is indeed a neglected great movie.
As someone whose familiarity with bullfighting consists of some vague Hemmingway, the yearly silly newscasts from Pamplona, and a disgusting half- afternoon in Tijuana, and whose opinion of amusement through the suffering of dumb beasts is decidedly negative, I had to talk myself into watching it. I am very glad I did. It (at least the full 125 minute version) is very compelling.
The photography is often mesmerizing, and there are scenes which I know I will remember a long time, such as the when the drunk taunts Estrada to have a go even though his right wrist is useless, following which his wife accosts the drunk with a sword and a speech which, even in Spanish, took my breath away. The many semi-documentary clips are simultaneously fascinating, compelling and repulsive.
My main point however, is the magnificent performance of Gilbert Roland as Estrada who has incredible screen presence here, handling the bulls, the drunks, the cocky Yankee, his wife, and his cheroot, often simultaneously, with grace and aplomb -- a truly beautiful character who defines the movie, even after he departs it.
Yes, the title is lame and has probably turned off many potential viewers who decided not to bother; but whether or not you are interested in bullfighting, and whether or not you approve of it, do not deny yourself the experience of seeing it.
I enjoyed this film at a screening in LA a few years ago. I went because I
had just been to a number of bullfights after first reading Hemingway's
Death In The Afternoon--the ultimate primer on the sport.
Stack was great with more subtlety then I expected. The bulls were magnificent, specially picked for their size at a time when the breeders were trying to size them down. It was said the film brought "real" (i.e. large, brave bulls) back to Mexico for a while. They wanted the size because of the wide shots, and those boys were BIG.
Stack was a champion skeet shooter too, and in one of the stranger scenes in the film, he is shown in shooting form blowin 'em away. Wierd to work such an obscure sport into the movie.
This is a great film showing the horrors of bullfighting with excellent photography and directed by a former bullfighter himself, Budd Boetticher. John Wayne produced this picture but did not appear in this film and presented a film that was originally cut into pieces but has been restored to its original print, which is seen today. Robert Stack, (Johnny Regan) plays the role as a U.S. Citizen who has connections with Hollywood and has become interested in becoming a bullfighter and so he travels to Mexico to met a real famous matador. Johnny meets up with Manolo Estgrada, (Gilbert Roland) at a famous eating place and forces his attentions to Manolo in order to become friendly with him and to break into his inner circles of life. It it not very long before Johnny makes an arrangement with Manolo to teach him how to shoot birds in exchange for Matador lessons. This film goes into great detail about how to fight a bull and the dangers of the sport in Mexico. Johnny also meets up with a woman he falls in love with at first sight and just can't get her out of his mind both day in and day out, this woman is Anita De La Vega, (Joy Page) who does keep a distance from Johnny, but things do warm up between these two couples. Great film and a wonderful Classic Bullfighting film with great realism. Enjoy.
Robert Stack with blonde hair? Could that really be "Elliot Ness?"
Well, it was the early '50s, before Stack made a name for himself with
the TV hit, "The Untouchables. For those looking back at this film for
the first time, as I did in the 1990s, this was a weird sight.
Blonde or not, the main question which might answer if you will enjoy this film is, "Does bullfighting interest you?" If it does, you'll like this; if it doesn't, you're going to be bored.
II saw the two-hour "restored" version and it looked nicely-photographed in black-and-white and very detailed about the sport of bullfighting. There were a number of scenes where I started to get bored, to be honest, and I hard time sticking with it but I have no interest in bullfighting, either. It leaves me cold. If I had interest, well, I would have a totally different outlook on the film.
Kudos to Stack for doing - at least in some spots - his own bullfighting. That was impressive and shows me the man had guts. The skeet-shooting scene also was real as he was a pretty good marksman.
The romantic scenes, as expected, were so-so as "Chuck Regan" (Stack) pursues his bullfighting coach's daughter, "Anita de la Vega" (Joy Page)
If you love bullfighting, this film would be a "must-have" because it goes into the "sport" in some detail and even mixes in some live footage (in the long version). I would suggest the longer version, anyway, because that's the way the filmmaker intended the audience to see his work. Given a choice, always see the longer version and then make up your own mind whether it should have been cut or not.
I was surprised by this one. It is an excellent introduction to La Fiesta Brava, showing, for example, many versions of the Veronica as performed by the best Mexican matadors of the late 40s. Luis Procuna, Alfredo Leal, Silverio Perez and the great Carlos Arruza are absentees. Stack, apparently, mastered enough of the technique to perform ably with a heifer -- and that itself is not easy. The background of the corrida -- particularly the tienta (or testing) -- is well documented and the vast Plaza Mexico appears with dramatic effect -- both filled and totally empty. Some of the b/w sequences in the bullring are breathtaking. The problem with the film is Stack's character, who behaves very badly very consistently and really does not seem to learn from his vivid errors. Furthermore, he makes no effort to master even the rudiments of Spanish. Otherwise, the film is compelling. I also recommend the Azteca film of about the same period, "Torero," a documentary about Luis Procuna, starring Procuna. He does not need a stand-in. As an introduction to bullfighting that does not show much of the picing or the actual kill, I recommend "Bullfighter/Lady."
Enthralling movie. Movies that have bullfighting usually only show bits
and pieces. The drama and rhythm, the challenge and danger, the courage
and the death associated with bullfighting are all integral to this
story. The bullfighting scenes are absolutely essential to the movie
that director Budd Boetticher created here.
The 124 minute version is on netflix, and tcm has shown it several times. It has been restored by UCLA. IMDb should update the notation that this is an 87 minute picture.
The lead actors all stand out. Gilbert Roland, always a masculine presence, has a screen persona of someone whom you'd value as a friend, and his real-life nickname was "amigo". Here he befriends gringo Robert Stack and teaches him to be a torero, as he is.
Stack can act; his role in The Mortal Storm demonstrates that early on. He falls for Joy Page, who has an interesting turn as the widow of a fallen bullfighter who seems most excited and to be won only by men who have the courage on display in the bullfighting ring. Although there may be something twisted in this, at the same time it exemplifies something about the men for whom women compete in this world. Katy Jurado turns in another flawless performance as Roland's loyal and supportive wife, who can become a ball of fire when goaded.
Eventually for Stack, although he may have taken up bullfighting as a lark or to win a lady or to test his own courage, it becomes a question of honor and reverence for his friend Roland. Indeed, the screenplay raises the question as to why there are bullfights. Even more centrally, why do men fight bulls and want to fight brave bulls? There is an air of obsession in this story. Love taken to a degree that it almost demands death, and an obsession with the ring. There is a wild character to the crowd's thunderous cheers and obsession for some with gaining these accolades. For Roland (as Manolo), there is a cooler detachment, a professionalism. He does it for himself, for his own sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
There is an element of chance and fate. A certain number of fighters will be gored, badly hurt and killed, because the bulls do unpredictable things, or someone or something distracts the bull unpredictably and it swerves dangerously. Men knowingly take these risks. In some ways, they are driven to do so. Bullfighting is challenge. Men cannot live without challenge and tests.
Basically this is a story of love within the context of bullfighting, which is developed quite fully and in loving detail. It is a movie with themes of courage, honor and redemption. The title is apt.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't know who made up the dumb title for this pretty good movie but
I suspect it was the head of the studio, Herbert J. Yates, known far
and wide for his lack of taste. "The Bullfighter and the Lady." He
wanted to change the title of John Ford's "The Quiet Man" to "The
Prizefighter and the Colleen." He insisted on inserting his wife, Vera
Ralston, into movies that were generally so poor that her presence
served as small detraction.
In this film, directed by Budd Boetticher, torero Manolo (Gilbert Roland) wants to learn how to shoot skeet from American Johnny Regan (Robert Stack). In return, Manolo agrees to teach Regan the fundamentals of bullfighting. Regan turns out to have aficion, and he learns fast. He also gets mixed up with Joy Page as a local senorita, and he finds himself in culture shock, all mixed up by Latin conceptions of masculine honor and politesse. Showing off in the arena, he is responsible for Manolo's painful death by bull horn, but manages to redeem himself later with a particularly skilled performance, and then retires permanently, with Joy Page beside him.
Of all the bullfighting movies out there, this is the most didactic. Not that it places too many demands on the viewer, but at least you DO get to know that a veronica is the simplest possible pass. Well, we should learn something about the art -- or the sport, or whatever it is. Boetticher himself was a professional torero. In some ways, he was in real life at least as interesting as any of his actors. He always worked with a small budget and, at one point during the 1970s, found himself in Mexico trying to do a documentary on a famous torero while completely broke. As he put it, it's one thing to sleep in your car and live off roadside burritos when you're 21, but it's quite another to try it in your 40s.
Robert Stack isn't bad as the protagonist. In some of the shots, I could swear it was Stack himself doing the passes, rather than a stunt double in a blond wig. Of course this wasn't with a full-grown bull, just a young one. No more than about 500 pounds of bone and muscle. The bulls in the corridas reach about 480 kilograms, which, if my pocket calculator is correct, is half a ton. Who needs it? Stack, though, is not an expressive actor, exactly. With his blond hair and bleached eyebrows his features assume some of the properties of polished chromium. He performs at his best when looking intense, because his eyes slightly bulge. When he laughs, it's clear that he's enacting a role in a movie. Yet, he was an interesting guy too, born in Tokyo, trained in French. He's surprisingly muscular in a Turkish bath, with the build of an archer, a tiny waist, broad shoulders, and major pectorals on his shaved chest. And when he shows Manolo how to shoot skeet, he knows what he's talking about. He was first an actor, but after that came skeet at a competitive level.
Gilbert Roland had been around Hollywood too long, had played too many Latin sidekicks, to take any of this very seriously. He breezes through the part, and it comes as a kind of relief.
I happen to know a good deal about bullfighting because I have some experience, although, granted, they didn't have many bulls in Newark when I was a kid. In the hinterlands of Mexico, I once spotted a bull (or a steer or cow, some kind of bovine, anyway) in a corral, pulled my car over, hopped the fence, and to amuse my girl friend I began waving my jacket at the animal, calling, "Eh HEH, Toro," and all that. It rather surprised me when the beast noticed and began ambling towards me. I left -- pronto. It made me wonder just exactly why any purportedly sane human being would get into a ring with a half-ton bull, tease it, and then kill it. And none of that "art" stuff either. You want art, you can paint a picture of a bull's head on black velvet. All you can lose is the cost of the velvet and the paint that went on it.
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