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The middle fifties saw the production of an astonishing variety of
Westerns of high quality... Robert Aldrich followed "Apache" in 1954
with a cheerful, action-packed adventure called "Vera Cruz," which
starred Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster sporting a disarming but
treacherous grin throughout... Its chief highlight is a display of
sharp-shooting in which Cooper and Lancaster demonstrate the
effectiveness of the rifles they are trying to sell to the Emperor
Maximilian (George Macready) by snuffing out the torch flames ranged
round the palace balustrade...
"Vera Cruz" opens during the Mexican revolution in 1866 where two American adventurers decide to join forces and fight for whichever side pay them the most... The saucy Sarita Montiel, who has fallen for Cooper, implores them to fight for the rebels, while Cesar Romero, an aid to the Emperor Maximilian, asks them to fight on his side...
At a ball in the sumptuous Chapultepec Palace, the pair meets the vivacious Denise Darcel who appears as a colorful but doublecrossing French Countess, and soon agrees to escort her on the hazardous journey to Vera Cruz... Later, she informs them that she is actually transporting a gold shipment to the Emperor's forces... Shortly after, she offers to steal the gold and split it with them...
In spite of the strong presence of Gary Cooper who lines up on the side of the Juaristas, Burt Lancaster steals the show as the smiling, black-dressed American adventurer, unable to forget Mexico's shining gold...
"Vera Cruz", with excellent supporting cast, is filmed on location in Mexico... Cooper and Lancaster well know that when one outdraws and shoots the other, one is the "quick" and the other, the "dead." Ernest Laszlo photography, in SuperScope and Technicolor, captures well the Mexican scenery with glorious shots of Mexico City's famous Chapultepec Castle, and the pyramids of Teotihuacan...
Sarita Montiel whose sensuality draws lustful aggression from Bronson's peripheral tough-guy, Pittsburgh, flourished more beauty to this exciting Western...
This western film is typical of the 50's era. It was well made in excellent outdoor locations. "Coop" gave his usual professional touch which we came to expect of him & "Lancaster" was superb That "smile" really made his character and gave the humour that was needed to make a balanced film. The cast including Borgnine & Bronson added real class to the production. I saw the film as a fifteen year old teenager when it was first released, queuing for 2 hours to obtain entry into my home city's main cinema. Even after 50 years I still watch it with the same excitement & interest. They do not make films like this anymore. Modern films have no answer to it
The first 20 minutes of Vera Cruz are excellent, starting with the great
score by Friedhofer and the meeting of Cooper's and Lancaster's characters.
The most striking scene is in a plaza, with a great gunfight followed with
the meetings with the main players in the plot including a couple of hundred
revolutionaries and Cesar Romero, whose character serves the Emperor of
Mexico, Maximillian. This initial sequence of scenes are very well done,
have a tough and cynical feel about them, and seem a little ahead of their
time. After this point the movie becomes a more typical 1950s big budget
adventure film. It remains entertaining, but looses the sharpness that
these first striking minutes had. Only at the very end of the film does it
regain it's edge. It could have been an excellent film, but is still
entertaining and well worth watching.
Cooper and Lancaster are good as always and their usual on-screen personas compliment each other well.
The Mexican locations were great.
This film was very influential on the Italian filmmakers that would go on to create the spaghetti western. Stylistically the influence can be scene most in plaza scene. The plot filled with multiple double crosses and betrayals will also seem familiar to fans of the eurowestern, as does the primary character motivation -- greed. Also, this film may explain the large number of SW that involve Maximillian, Jaurez, and soldiers of fortune manipulating them.
One of the most influential western of all time, Vera Cruz depicts a Mexico rarely seen on the screen. The exchange of harsh words and quips between the top billed stars, Gary Cooper & Burt Lancaster throughout the movie is excellent. Actors like Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, Cesar Romero and Sara Montiel, at the beginning of their career was a solid support to the production. Excellent photography, taking in consideration the film is 50 years old. Excellent soundtrack, beautiful wardrobe and the hundreds of extras in a story that has all the ingredients to keep the vier' attention, make this movie one of the best crafted westerns.
This unpretentious and incredibly influential western began as a vehicle for Burt Lancaster with his production company's executives. He was looking for work as the film industry was being murdered by Congress's seat tax and its new hastily-created TV networks and payments to people to make movies abroad instead of in the U.S. He hired long-in-the-tooth but screen-wise Gary Cooper to play opposite him, and a script was developed by three veteran writers--Borden case, Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb. Its storyline featured groups of gunmen heading south to serve for pay as Empreror Maximilian of Mexico tried to put down the native revolution against his corrupt government. There is a bang-up opening as Ben Trane, Cooper, shoots his injured horse and buys another from Joe Erin, Lancaster. They are chased by Mexican officers; Cooper wonders why and Joe tells him he's riding the Lieutenant's horse, which he himself had stolen earlier. Ben leaves Joe behind when there is only one horse unharmed between them; he rides into a town where the Erin gang are waiting. They are about to attack him en masse when Joe shows up, just as Ben has beaten up Ernest Borgnine. Others in the gang include Charles Bronson in an early role, Jack Elam and James McCallion., et al. The next problem, is to settle who will lead the Americanos, Joe or a rival, powerful Jack Lambeert. A gunfight settles that question. The new recruits are take by Cesar Romero and Henry Brandon, Maximilian's chief men, to meet the Emperor. George Macready plays the french-born Maximilian, beautifully as always, at a grand palace party, where the Yankees put on a shooting exhibition and the Emperor tries his hand as well. Meanwhile, they have encountered Sarita Montiel, stealing Ben's money, and General Ramirez, beautifully underplayed by Morris Ankrum, who asks them not to join the Emperor's army; he turns out to be the head of the revolution; they escape his well-planned trap by threatening some children, but at least they realize what they are getting into. Their first assignment is to escort Denise Darcel, a Countess, and her coach to safety. Of course she turns out to be carrying gold, to pay Maximilian's forces elsewhere. Joe and Ben want the gold, and eventually they get it. But then comes the reckoning--between a Southerner, a man who had lost everything in the Civil War in a lost cause, and a man who regards all "softness" as a weakness and even killed his own mentor, years before...Ben wins the shootout and decides to turn the money over to the revolution, and keep Sarita Montiel for his own prize. This is a very tight script, a favorite film with male and female moviegoers. It has many pluses other than the actors and the strong situational dialogue. Robert Aldrich's direction is clean, straightforward and keeps the action moving in between interesting dialogue exchanges. The first-rate cinematography is by Ernest Laszlo,the very good costumes by Norma, production design by Alfred Ybarra; Hugo Friedhofer composed the excellent music. In terms of the acting, which dominates half this otherwise outdoor film, Cooper succeeds by underplaying; Lancaster later said he himself had started the film on too-high a level, and learned lessons that served him for years from Cooper during this feature's filming. Darcel does not seem like a Countess but gives her part energy; lovely Montiel has an odd accent but is very strong. Borgnine and Elam do well, and Lambert and the rest of the gang all do well. Brandon, Romero and Macready as usual steal their scenes. All in all, a western that satisfies, does not look fifty years old and has no slow points, no real defects. This is the sort of film Hollywood youthful corporate types cannot make any more; and it inspired a generation of Italian filmmakers including Sergio Leone. It is an adventure that should live long in the minds and hearts of fans of the Western genre.
VERA CRUZ picks up on a bit of business from the American Civil War
that is rarely discussed in our movies. Only a slight, similar comment
is brought up in the film ANOTHER PART OF THE FORREST, where John Dahl
plans to leave the south and fight in the Brazilian Army. It is 1870,
and Dahl (an ex-Confederate officer) decides to fight for an army from
the one large nation that still practices slavery. Many Confederates at
the end of the Civil War sought employment outside the United States,
where their military skills would be appreciated and they did not have
to live under the U.S. Flag. George Pickett (of the famous charge at
Gettysburg) was offered the job of Commander-in-Chief of the the army
of the Khedive of Egypt (but he did not take the offer).
Many of the ex-Confederates decided to go to Mexico, because during the Civil War Maximillian was pro-Southern (as Juarez was pro-Northern), and the French who supported Maximillian were pro-Confederate (unofficially) as well. Napoleon III of France saw the Confederates as one of those "nationalities" he championed in the name of his uncle's so-called revolutionary principles. He also had a belief that the United States was growing too potentially powerful. Throughout the first two years of the war, while Lee and Jackson were doing so well in the East, Napoleon III did all he could to get the British and himself to coordinate mediating a peaceful (i.e. "pro-Confederate") solution to the war. But every time it looked like that would occur, there would be a Northern victory (Antietam Creek, Gettysburg) that upset the plan. Also the release of the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 muddied the waters. It reminded the people of France and Britain that the South favored slavery.
Napoleon III was hoping a Southern victory would ensure his puppet Maximillian's Empire in Mexico would be secure. During the war he had conferences with a former Senator from California, Dr. William Gwin, who was pro-Confederate. Gwin wanted to have a portion of the Sonora state of Mexico set aside for Confederate emigrants to farm and mine.
All this collapsed on April 9, 1865 when Lee surrendered. VERA CRUZ follows the collapse of the Confederacy, and how Gary Cooper joins the exodus to link up with fellow former Rebels in Mexico, to support Maximillian. He also links up with Burt Lancaster, who leads a gang of gunslingers for hire, and the story turns on a huge gold shipment that is for Maximillain's forces. But in VERA CRUZ everyone sees this gold shipment as the key to a happy future for themselves or for their people. Cooper (the hero in the film) would like to use it for helping to rebuild the South. Lancaster and his gang (including Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson) see the riches for themselves. Maximillian (George Macready, in a very short scene - unfortunately - where he is not as sweet and well intentioned as Brian Ahearn had been in JUAREZ) - wants the money sent for future purposes. Cesar Romero and Henry Brandon are intending the money should go to France. Denise Darcel, a French aristocrat, wants the money sent to France to - for herself.
There are plenty of films about gold and how it brings greed out of everyone, and VERA CRUZ is one of the best. It is not settled until the end who will get the gold - and only after one last gunfight after the battle.
Vera Cruz is one of those westerns that came out so right, the great thing about it is that although it was big budgeted it did not try to make any statement, it just tried to tell a good story in the best way possible. That was quite an achievement at the time of "High Noon" and "Shane". Burt Lancaster is excellent, nobody after seeing this film will forget his smile, showing all his teeth. The scenery, the locations, and also the beautiful colours they all make this an outstanding western.
There is no honor among thieves, unless Gary Cooper is one of them. Compelling film about badass American gunslingers in Mexico is one of my favorite westerns. It's plot twist after twist, double-cross after double-cross, as a filthy gang of desperadoes led by Cooper and Burt Lancaster is hired to escort a "lady" across the Mexican hinterland.
Cooper is magnificent as a man who needs money so badly that he tries to wrestle his conscience to the ground, but he's topped by Burt Lancaster in one of his best (sexiest) performances. He's amoral and dangerous, yet charming and so sexy that words fail (cartoon wolf noises being more appropriate). Two compelling characters become both friends and enemies, all building up to a fabulous finish. A must-see!
Vera Cruz is an old fashioned buddy western with two dissimilar buddies
with 180 degree contrasting acting styles.
Since one of the co-stars was the producer of this, he got the showier part. But in truth I certainly couldn't see casting either one in the other's part.
Burt Lancaster was the producer and star and he got the scenery chewing role of Joe Erin, disarmingly charming and ruthlessly amoral gunfighter down in Mexico working for Emperor Maximilian for a price. He's leading a mini army himself of gunfighters that include among other, Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson.
Along the way Lancaster hooks up with Gary Cooper, former Southern Colonel Ben Trane, who's also looking to restart his life by making some money in Mexico so he can rebuild his plantation in Reconstruction Louisiana.
Basically these two play themselves or at least stay true to the image that we have of both Cooper and Lancaster.
The prize her is a big gold shipment that Maximilian is sending out of Mexico to pay for more troops from Napoleon III. The gunfighters are escorting it, but they don't know it. They think the job is to escort a squeeze of Maximilian's, nicely packaged in the shape of Denise Darcel.
Just about everyone in the film from George Macready playing Maximilian to Cesar Romero playing a French marquis down to Lancaster, Cooper, Darcel, and the rest of the gunfighters all have their own plans for the three million in gold they're carrying. Let's just say that it's no surprise where it winds up.
Morris Ankrum plays a solid version of a Juarista general and Mexican film star, Sarita Montiel, does one of two American films, the other being Serenade with Mario Lanza. She was and is a big name in the Mexican and Spanish cinema and no doubt her presence sold a few tickets south of the Rio Grande. She's an extraordinarily beautiful woman and she pairs with Cooper as Darcel pairs with Lancaster.
Some of the dialog is a bit hokey. I always laugh whenever I hear Darcel tell Lancaster "at heart you are French." But the action moves right along under Director Robert Aldrich and the climatic battle between the French and the Juaristas is well staged.
"Vera Cruz" is not a bad western but it could have been better. It's about
two soldiers of fortune (Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster) who venture into
Mexico following the American Civil War to hire themselves out to the
highest bidder between the forces of Emperor Maximillian (George Macready)
and the revolutionaries led by Morris Ankrum. It turns out that there is a
large shipment of gold that everyone is trying to get their hands on. There
are double crosses and triple crosses a plenty before the matter is finally
Cooper plays Benjamin Trane a former Confederate Colonel who rides in alone and meets up with grinning teethy all in black gunslinger Joe Erin (Lancaster). Erin has a gang that includes the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson (using his real name, Buchinsky) and Jack Elam. Jack Lambert heads up a gang that opposes that of Lancaster.
Cesar Romero plays the Marquis Henri de Labordere a senior but corrupt official in Maximillian's government and Henry Brandon plays his second in command. Denise Darcel and Sarita Montiel provide the female treachery, each after the gold for their own reasons and of course involving our heroes.
Cooper looks out of place as Trane, a little too long in the tooth to be convincing as the fast on the draw hero. Lancaster on the other hand, apparently was given his head by Director Robert Aldrich and goes way over the top flashing those pearly whites at every opportunity. It was interesting to see Borgnine and Bronson in early roles before they made it big. Romero dashing as always, steals the picture in my opinion.
The battles scenes are well staged and exciting and the wide screen photography is spectacular.
"Vera Cruz" is OK if you don't mind being blinded by the "whitest teeth in the west".
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