The young Mexican Pepe's beloved horse is sold to Hollywood star Ted Holt, leading to Pepe's journey to Hollywood to get the horse back, and Pepe's encounter with half the stars working in Hollywood at the time.
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In Mexico, Pepe is the good-natured ranch foreman of Sr. Rodriguez. Pepe's pride and joy is Don Juan, a magnificent white stud stallion that he raised from a colt for Sr. Rodriguez and that he refers to as his "son". As Sr. Rodriguez has decided to sell Don Juan at auction, Pepe enacts a plan to dissuade any interested buyers so that he can buy Don Juan himself. The plan doesn't work, as Don Juan is sold to washed-up Hollywood movie director Ted Holt - his current Hollywood status due to alcohol over-consumption - who wants to use Don Juan for his comeback project to be shot in Mexico with an all-Mexican cast except for an American female lead. Pepe decides to head to Hollywood and earn lots of money so that he can buy Pepe and bring him back to Mexico. In Hollywood, Pepe gets into one misadventure after another with a cavalcade of Hollywood movie stars, those misadventures based largely on Pepe's limited grasp of the English language, he often taking what is said to him in their ... Written by
"Pepe" premiered in Hollywood on December 27, 1960. The Columbia Pictures' feature, staring the Mexican film star Mario Morena, "Cantinflas," in the title role, was directed by George Sidney. A multitude of cameo appearances attempted to replicate the success of Mario Morena's American debut, notably, "Around The World in Eighty Days," produced in 1956 by Mike Todd. The Hollywood Hill top swimming pool sequence was filmed on property owned by Brian Aherne and Joan Fontaine. The Eastern property point overlooking Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, and the panorama to the West, was located at the end of North Crescent Heights Boulevard, adjacent Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard and Laurel Canyon. Columbia Studios' "Pepe" art director Ted Hayworth selected the location for the swimming pool scene-encounter. The studio built a full size swimming pool, on the bluff overlooking Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. The entire set was fabricated on the bluff for this scene, with the four columned two story (Aherne-Fontaine) mansion as the backdrop for reverse camera angle shots. Upon completion of filming, everything built for the setting was removed, with the property restored back to the original condition. During the mid 60's, after Aherne and Fontaine's divorce in 1959, the mansion hill-top was sold, abandoned, becoming a Sunset Strip hippie enclave fort; the mansion was demolished in the late 60's; Great Western, sub-dividing the hill-top, developed home sights selling for approximately $350,000 to $500,000 in the late 1970's. See more »
Now any film with as many stars as they gathered together for bit parts as Pepe will automatically get me watching it in any event. There's no way I'd give this a bad review.
But in terms of the film itself, it might well have been oversold back then. Cantinflas got rave notices for his performance as Passepartout in Around the World in 80 Days, but failed to win audiences in the English speaking world. So this time Cantinflas played the title role and Columbia Pictures gathered together just about every star who had a free minute or so to appear in this. When you consider that Around the World in 80 Days was also such an all star extravaganza, did any other performer in history ever command such support?
Not that he didn't deserve it. In Latin America, especially in his native Mexico, Cantinflas was a national icon. I think that it was no accident that all these stars wanted to appear with him, it certainly would boost their market value in the Latin American area to be identified with him.
Seeing this film again 46 years after it first came out and I did see it in the theater back in the day, I was struck with how similar the Pepe character was to Forrest Gump. Tom Hanks who got an Oscar for his performance of someone as guileless as Pepe also during that film ran into as many famous folks as Pepe managed to.
Columbia cheated a little bit by going to Las Vegas for part of the story. This was the height of the Rat Pack era and a whole lot of the cast from Ocean's 11 took time from filming that to do some ring-a-ding walk-ons here.
There are some nice musical numbers. Shirley Jones is in good voice singing the title song. A real treat is Cantinflas, Dan Dailey, and Maurice Chevalier doing a reprise of Mimi. My favorite though is a star that appears only by voice, but Judy Garland's The Faraway Part of Town which is heard over a radio should rank as one of the best songs she ever sang.
Seen almost a half a century later, I'd say Pepe was undeservedly panned by the critics back then and is worth looking at whenever it gets broadcast.
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