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In 1909, Emiliano Zapata, a well-born but penniless Mexican Mestizo from the southern state of Morelos, comes to Mexico City to complain that their arable land has been enclosed, leaving them only in the barren hills. His expressed dissatisfaction with the response of the President Diaz puts him in danger, and when he rashly rescues a prisoner from the local militia he becomes an outlaw. Urged on by a strolling intellectual, Fernando, he supports the exiled Don Francisco Madero against Diaz, and becomes the leader of his forces in the South as Francisco 'Pancho' Villa is in the North. Diaz flees, and Madero takes his place; but he is a puppet president, in the hands of the leader of the army, Huerta, who has him assassinated when he tries to express solidarity for the men who fought for him. Zapata and Villa return to arms, and, successful in victory, seek to find a leader for the country. Unwillingly, Zapata takes the job, but, a while later, he responds to some petitioners from his ... Written by
Anthony Quinn had played Stanley Kowalski in the road tour of Tennessee Williams' play "A Streetcar Named Desire", and some critics thought he was better than Marlon Brando, who had originated the part. None of this was lost on Elia Kazan, who liked to foster competition between his actors if it was appropriate. On set, the competitive Quinn and Brando, who both liked and respected each other, bonded like the brothers they played. Ironically, Kazan had initially proposed Jack Palance, whom he had introduced in his earlier Panic in the Streets (1950), for the role of Zapata. Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck countered by offering Palance the role of Zapara's brother. The unhappy Palance then negotiated himself out of his Fox contract. Ironically, Palance had understudied Quinn in the road company version of "Streetcar," and when he was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Sudden Fear (1952), he was beaten by Quinn in "Zapata." See more »
When Zapata rides away across the plaza after a confrontation, his pistol falls out of his holster without his noticing. See more »
Where are you going?
I'm going home.
So you're throwing it away! Leave tonight and your enemies will be here tomorrow in this room at that desk. They won't walk away. They'll hunt you down till you get your rest in the sun with the flies at your face. Leave now I promise you you won't live long.
I won't live long anyway.
Zapata, in the name of all we fought for, don't go!
In the name of all we fought for, I'm going.
I won't go with you.
I don't expect you to. Now I know you. No field... no home...
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this was Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn at their best ---the entire supporting cast was superb.
Steinbeck hadn't written anything as powerful as this since he did his tale of the Okies during the depression. Zapata is truly one of the great heroes of the 20th century, and Brando captured this along with the frustration of trying to do the right thing and yet being hamstrung by the bureaucrats who manage to survive every change in government, no matter which way in turns.The final scene in the movie leaves Zapata as a legend --- did he die, or does he still live to help the millions of peons in Mexico.
Elia Kazan's direction was terrific.
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