Showing posts with label Latino Images in Film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Latino Images in Film. Show all posts

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Viva Hollywood by Luis I. Reyes

Viva Hollywood 
The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film
by Luis I. Reyes
TCM and Running Press
Hardcover ISBN: 9780762478484
September 2022

"Latinx artists both in front of and behind the cameras are committed to creating entertaining, compelling stories, unforgettable characters, and indelible images of humanity that will bring a greater understanding of the society and the world we live in. They have a long history in the evolving art of motion pictures since its inception and are taking a more prominent place in the present and future of Hollywood and the world’s cinematic landscape.” — Luis I. Reyes

Hispanic and Latino artists have been part of the fabric of Hollywood from the very beginning. Because we are such a diverse mix of races and ethnicities, these actors and actresses have been cast to play a variety of roles that ranged from the exotic to the stereotypical and everything in between. Stars like Rita Hayworth had to change their name and appearance to become more mainstream. While others like Anthony Quinn had a look that was ethnically ambiguous enough that they were cast in everything except for their own ethnicity. Some represented certain ethnic types like the Latin lover, the spitfire/señorita or the bandito. Unfortunately, when there were big Latin roles to play, like Maria in West Side Story (1961), Hollywood preferred to cast white actors in brownface rather than their equally talented Latino counterparts. When Hollywood wasn't ready to make room for Latino artists to be their authentic selves, they persisted, carving a path for themselves and for future talent to change perceptions and open up potential for better representation.

In his new book Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film, author Luis I. Reyes takes on the monumental task of sharing the stories of the many, many Hispanic and Latino artists, both in front of and behind the camera, who contributed to film history in their own unique ways. The majority of the book focuses on the classic film history but there is still plenty of information about artists working today.

The chapters are organized both chronologically and thematically. I was was most interested in the discussions on early matinee idols, how the Good Neighbor policy opened doors for Latino artists during WWII, problem/race pictures of the 1950s and 1960s, and the influx of Latino-focused movies during the 1980s and 1990s. 

Each chapter includes individual biographies of key figures where relevant. Some of these individuals include: Gilbert Roland, Dolores Del Rio, Antonio Moreno, Ramon Novarro, Lupe Velez, Rita Hayworth. Carmen Miranda, Cesar Romero, Maria Montez, Olga San Juan, Ricardo Montalban, Anthony Quinn, Rita Moreno, Raquel Welch, etc.

Interior spread courtesy of Running Press via Edelweiss

Interior spread courtesy of Running Press via Edelweiss

Here are some interesting facts from the book:

  • “When [Dolores Del Rio] was promoted in the press as Spanish or Castilian being white and European was considered superior to being Mexican, with its Indigenous pedigree, a discriminatory view that has not wholly disappeared today—she quickly insisted on being correctly described as Mexican.”
  • “At the peak of her Hollywood career in 1945, Carmen Miranda was the highest-earning female performer in the United States.”
  • “After the war, Romero and his good friend and fellow Fox star Tyrone Power took off on a two-month goodwill promotional tour of Latin America, sponsored by the studio and the US State Department. Power, who had served as a marine pilot during the war, flew a twin-engine Beech aircraft on the twenty-two-thousand- mile trip aided by a copilot. Romero, who spoke Spanish, acted as principal translator.”
  • “[Xavier] Cugat decided to follow his musical calling, and inspired by the Afro- Cuban rhythms he was exposed to in his youth, he formed a Latin dance band with six musicians. This was a daring move in the 1920s, when Latin music was virtually unheard of in mainstream America except for the [Argentine] tango, which was labeled “gigolo music.”
  • “In 1969, actors Ricardo Montalban, Val de Vargas, Rodolfo Hoyos Jr., Carlos Rivas, Henry Darrow, Gilbert Avila, Luis de Córdova, Robert Apodaca, and impresario Tony De Marco formed Nosotros (the Spanish word for “we, the people”), an actors’ advocacy organization dedicated to improving the image of Latino/Latina and Spanish-speaking peoples in Hollywood movies, television, theater, and radio.”
  • Stand and Deliver has become one of the most widely seen movies of any made in the United States through all media platforms, but also because it has been showcased in middle schools and high schools across the country as an inspirational and motivational teaching tool.”

As with many other TCM and Running Press books, Viva Hollywood is beautifully designed. I enjoyed the color palette (red, gold, orange, light purple and teal) as well as the recurring Art Deco style motifs. 

With that said, I was mostly disappointed with the book, especially in how it presented its information. The themed chapters started with a few pages of history and context. These were interesting and I wish they were fleshed out essays. Instead they served like introductions to a series of Wikipedia style biographical portraits. There were so many of these that they became laborious to get through. I admire the author for cramming in as much information as he possibly could. There are so many artists covered from actors, actresses, directors, musicians, dancers, etc. You'll be hard pressed to find someone who was left out. However, this came at the cost of an enjoyable reading experience.

I would recommend Viva Hollywood as a reference guide to dip in and out of rather than a book to read from cover to cover. 

Thank you to TCM and Running Press for sending me a copy of Viva Hollywood to review! Please check out my reviews of other titles from their imprint.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Sundance: Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It

"She's an original and can't being that every minute of her life." — Norman Lear

Actress, singer, dancer, speaker, activist. Rita Moreno can do it all. Not only is she a natural performer but she lives for the spotlight. For someone who has such energy and passion for what she does, it's natural that her career as an entertainer has lasted as long as it has. Moreno battled sexual harassment, racism and toxic relationships and continued to thrive, broadening her horizons to work in every aspect of the entertainment industry. In doing so it is fitting that Moreno would become the first Latinx performer to earn the label of EGOT (winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). In paving her own way she helped forge a path for Latinx performers to come.

Directed by Mariem Pérez Riera, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It is a celebratory documentary that offers a polished look at Moreno's life and career. Talking heads include George Chakiris, Norman Lear, Justina Machado, Lin Manuel Miranda, Hector Elizondo, Mitzi Gaynor, Morgan Freeman, Eva Longoria, Gloria Estefan, Terrence McNally, Moreno's daughter, manager, among others. There are also interviews with scholars who offer perspectives of how Moreno's story fits into the history of Latinx performers. Front and center is Rita Moreno herself who shares her trials and tribulations as a Puerto Rican woman coming up in an industry that didn't quite know what to do with her. We learn about what she calls her "dusky maiden roles", her incredible rise to fame, her work in Singin in the Rain (1954) and West Side Story (1960), her torrid romantic relationship with Marlon Brando, her activism and her constant evolution as an artist. Along with interviews there are paper doll animations, scenes from her 86th birthday part and plenty of archival footage. The documentary paints a portrait of a woman who loves life and bursts with joy but also suffers from self-loathing. As a biographical documentary it's quite ordinary. It does allow its subject to shine which many will appreciate. Perhaps the most eye-opening moments for me were when Moreno divulged about her experience with sexual harassment and how that mirrored her role in West Side Story and her troubled marriage.

Highly recommended for fans of Rita Moreno and for Latinx viewers who want to learn more about one of our most important entertainment icons.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It premiered at the virtual 2021 Sundance Film Festival as part of their US Documentary competition.

There is no trailer for the documentary so here is an introduction by the director.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth with #DePelicula

I'm excited to join forces with Aurora of Citizen Screen to celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth with a special social media and blog campaign: #DePelicula. I worked with Aurora to expand this once Blogathon to reach a bigger audience using social media.

Message from Aurora of Citizen Screen:
Hispanic Heritage Month, the roots of which go back to 1968, begins each year on September 15 and ends on October 15. In previous years I’ve celebrated the month by hosting The Hispanic Heritage Blogathon. Although both years of that blogathon were great successes with bloggers spotlighting Hispanic players and Hispanic-themed movies and such to commemorate the imprint Hispanics have made on Hollywood, this year I’m doing something quite different. In a joint effort with the lovely and talented Raquel @QuelleLove of Out of the Past blog I am spearheading a social media campaign to spotlight Hispanic Heritage in movies and in entertainment.

What Raquel and I have in mind is a cross-promotion campaign using the #DePelicula hashtag in order to spread the word about actors, filmmakers or films that celebrate, depict or examine aspects of Hispanic culture in film and entertainment. I will be spotlighting several Hispanic movie-related themes and persons on this blog and posting #DePelicula-related content across social media. Raquel and I would love to have you join the effort. You are welcome to blog about a movie or person as you may have done in the previous blogathons or you can design a series of posts on a social media platform of your choice. The sky’s the limit and creativity is welcomed. If interested, here are the #DePelicula details:


How to participate:
1) Pick one platform: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube or Vine.
2) Pick a theme or type of content – this could be a focus on one Hispanic actor, several actors, filmmakers, movies or a combination of these.
3) Chose the Frequency: one post, daily posts or anything in between. Content should go up between 9/15 and 10/15.
4) Sign-up in the comments section below by letting us know your idea and/or plan. Please include your platform (with a link), theme and frequency.
5) Use the hashtag #DePelicula in all of your posts so we can easily share your content. Also, make sure the content is made public so everyone can see your #DePelicula posts.
6) Feel free to use the image above on any and all promotions, blog posts, etc. It is the official #DePelicula graphic.
7) Have fun! Follow the hashtag and encourage others to participate. Liking, retweeting, commenting and replying are encouraged.

While this event will focus primarily on “classic” Hollywood cinema and players, we recognize the impact Hispanics are making in films today so if you choose a contemporary Latin American actor, filmmaker or film, that’s fine, too. #DePelicula commemorates all Hispanic contributions to film and entertainment.

Help us spread the word and make this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month one for the social media record books!

If you can’t think of a topic or topics here are a few lists to get you started:

Latinos in Film from Wikipedia
Famous Hispanic from Ranker
Famous Hispanic Actresses from Ranker
Films Set in South America from Wikipedia
Golden Age of Mexican Cinema from Wikipedia
13 Films Set in Latin America
10 Early Film Actors You Need to Know
10 Early Film Actresses You Need to Know

Here's how I'll be participating:
Platform: Twitter @Quellelove
Theme/Type of Content: Quotes from Hispanic Actors and Actresses
Frequency: Daily

Will you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with us? #DePelicula

Monday, June 1, 2009

Guest Blogger Mercurie ~ Ricardo Montalban

The first entry in the June Guest Blogger series hails from Mercurie over at the excellent blog A Shroud of Thoughts. Mercurie is a pop culture expert and his posts are always well-constructed, well-thought out and highly informative. It's with pleasure that I present to you this post from Mercurie on the late great Ricardo Montalban.

I first encountered Ricardo Montalban on television. I am not sure it if it was his famous appearance as superman Khan Noonian Singh on Star Trek (a role in which he was so impressive that he reprised in The Wrath of the Khan), his guest apperance on Bonanza, or one of his many other guest appearances, but I remember him well from television in the Seventies.

It was only as a I grew older that I learned Ricardo Montalban was a bona fide movie star. He even had a contract with MGM. At a time when Hollywood was content to cast Hispanics in stereotypical roles, Montalban fought to improve the roles available to Latinos. Montalban's activism may well have hurt his movie career, but it helped improve the image of Hispanics in Hollywood.

Ricardo Montalban was born in Mexico City on 25 November, 1920, to parents who had immigrated from Castille in 1906. His older brother Carlos was already an actor in Hollywood when Montalban went to live with him as a teenager. It was not in Los Angeles, however, that Montalban would first be drawn into acting. It was on a trip with his brother in 1940 to New York City that Ricardo Montalban received a small part in the play Her Cardboard Lover and appeared in a Soundie, a short film that was essentially the predecessor of music videos (they played on specially made jukeboxes with small screens). Afterwards he appeared in the plays Our Betters and Private Affair.

Montalban returned to Mexico in 1941 when his mother fell ill. This was not the end of his acting career, as he made twelve movies in Mexico and became a star there. Because of his success MGM took notice of him and offered him a contract. He returned to Los Angeles to appear in the musical Fiesta with Esther Williams in 1947. For much of his early career Montalan was typecast as a "Latin Lover." With rugged good looks and a natural charm, Montalban excelled in such roles. In fact, he even became the first Hispanic actor to ever appear on the cover of Life in 1949.

While Ricardo Montalban had carved out a fairly lucrative niche for himself in Hollywood playing Latin Lovers, he also sought out better and more interesting roles. Among these was his first starring role, in the movie Border Incident (1949). There Montalban played Pablo Rodriguez, an agent of the Policia Judicial Federal working undercover to capture a band of smugglers. Rodriguez was a far cry from the sterotypical Mexican banditos which often appeared in Westerns, an intelligent, hard working officer of the law. It was very much a groundbreaking part, not only for Ricardo Montalban, but in terms of the way Hispanics were portrayed on the big screen.

Arguably, Montalban's movie career was at its peak in the years 1949 and 1950. He followed up his role in Border Incident with a role as Roderigues in the war movie Battleground (1950). Roderigues was a Latino from Los Angeles who was both respected and treated as an equal by his fellow soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division. Montalban followed this role with what might be his most impressive part aside from his role in Border Incident and his role as Khan in Star Trek. In John Sturges' Mystery Street (1950). Montalban's character, Lieutenant Peter Morales, is techincally Portugese American rather than Hispanic, but it still demonstrated his range and was one of those roles that helped open new doors for Latino actors. Lieutenant Morales was a police detective who had spent much of his career handling minor crimes when he is finally handed a major case. Morales is intelligent and street smart, and dedicated to his job. In many respects it was another groundbreaking role for Montalban.

For much of the Fifties Montalban continued to appear in films playing parts that were atypical for Hispanic actors at that time. He played a prizefighter who is worried his career might be coming to an end in Right Cross (1950). In My Man and I he played a Mexican farm laborer (1953). In Life in the Balance he played a man wrongfully accused of a series of murders. He would still appear as a Latin Lover, most notably in the film Latin Lovers (1953). Unfortunately, like so many actors who were not of Northern European descent, Montalban was often cast as other ethnicities. He played a Japanese man in Sayonara (1957), an Italian in The Saracen Blade (1954), and an Arab in Los amantes del desierto (1957). Montalban played Native Americans several times, starting with the role of Iron Shirt in Across the Wide Missouri (1951). Today it would be considered exceedingly politically incorrect for someone of purely Spanish descent, as Ricardo Montalban was, to play a Native American or an Arab. The reality of the time, however, was that Hollywood believed that anyone with a tan could play any ethnicity that was not Northern European. And it must be noted that Montalban always treated such roles with dignity and respect, never turning them into mere sterotypes.

Unfortunately MGM dropped Montalban in 1953 and film roles started to dry up for him by the late Fifties. It was in the late Fifties that he made his first appearances on Broadway, in Seventh Heaven (1955) and Jamaica (1957). It was also at this time that Ricardo Montalban first appeared on television. Throughout the years Montalban guest starred on such series as Climax, The Loretta Young Show (Loretta Young was Montalban's sister in law), Bonanza, The Untouchables, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Star Trek, and Police Story. He would be a regular on the night time soap operas Executive Suite and The Colbys. From 1977 to 1984 he played Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island.

That is not to say Ricardo Montalban ceased acting in movies. He played memorable roles in Cheyenee Autumn and The Train Robbers. And, of course, he reprised his role as Khan in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. More recently, he played the grandfather in the Spy Kids films.

Throughout his career, Ricardo Montalban worked to improve the image of Latinos in Hollywood and put an end to stereotyping. In 1970 he founded Nostros to improve the image of Hispanics on film. In 1999 the Ricardo Montalban Foundation was founded to stage Hispanic productions.

Ricardo Montalban was very much a pioneer in the film industry. His insistence on playing Hispanic characters with dignity and respect and speaking out against stereotyping may well have cost him roles. Although handsome, debonaire, and charming, he never became a Hollywood leading man. Regardless, in his fight to improve the image of Latinos in Hollywood, Ricardo Montalban was very much a trailblazer. His hard work paved the way for such Hispanic stars today as Salma Hayek, Benicio del Toro, and Andy Garcia.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Latino Images in Film Schedule for 5/28

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1983)

Lonestar (1996)

Popi (1969) - read Tommy Salami's take on this here.

My Family (1995) - superb contemporary Latino family drama

Terror in a Texas Town (1958)

While I'm not writing a proper review about this, I would like to post a little something about this Western being shown on TCM tonight. It's a very interesting little movie about Swedish and Mexican immigrants in a small Western town being run by corrupt and dangerous men. Sterling Hadyen stars as a George Hansen, a Swede, who comes to visit his father's farm only to find out that his father has been killed. A wealthy tycoon had hired a professional hitman/gunfighter to kill anyone who refused to give up their land, which it has been discovered to be oil-rich. His father's best friend, Jose Mirada (Victor Millan), a Mexican, witnessed the murder but is reluctant to give George information about the hitman who was hired to kill him. Hayden's character is determined to avenge his father and the corrupt men in the town, especially the gunfighter/hitman Johnny Crale (Ned Young), is worried that George knows too much and that his freedom as a gun wielding murderer is at stake.

I like the bond between the Swedes and the Mexicans. I think this has to do with me being a Latina and having formed a really great friendship with Jonas from All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!, who happens to be a Swede. If you get a chance to watch this/DVR it tonight, please do! Otherwise, it's available on DVD as well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Latino Images in Film Schedule for 5/26 & Winners of Giveaway

And the winners of the fabulous giveaway (as chosen by are...

Frank ~ Guest Blogger
Jonas ~ All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!
Mercurie ~ A Shroud of Thoughts
Tommy Salami ~ Pluck You Too!
Casey ~ Noir Girl

I will be e-mailing the winners today. Thank you to everyone who participated. If you missed out, there is still time to enter the sweepstakes at TCM's Latino Images in Film website.

Here is tonight's schedule for TCM:

Stand and Deliver (1988)
Walk Proud (1979)
Boulevard Nights (1979)
Badge 373 (1973)
Strangers in the City (1962)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Latino Images in Film ~ Greenwich Village (1944)

Greenwich Village (1944) is a Technicolor musical featuring the iconic talent Carmen Miranda. Don Ameche plays Kenneth Harvey, a composer who has got "sucker" written all over him. He visits New York in hopes of interesting composer Kavosy in his concerto. Instead, he gets sidetracked by the cast of characters that inhabits a Greenwich Village speakeasy. First there is owner Danny O'Hare (played by the wonderful William Bendix) who sees Kenneth's money and talent as a major draw. Then there is dancer/singer/entertainer Princess Querida (Carmen Miranda) who is tickled pink by "Kennys". Finally there is Bonnie (Vivian Blaine), the speakeasy singer who is the only person not trying to pull one over on Kenneth. Kenneth and Bonnie begin to fall in love but things get complicated when Kenneth is swindled out of money and his concerto. What's a good-looking, talented and in love man to do?

I hadn't realized that Carmen Miranda was born in Portugal and raised in Brazil until I researched her after watching the film. Confession: I don't consider Portuguese or Brazilian people to be Latino/Hispanic. Second Confession: While I am 1/2 Dominican, I'm also 1/2 Portuguese. So while some would consider me 100% Latina, I only consider myself technically 50% (but at heart I'm that full 100%). For me, Latino culture is intrisincally tied in with the Spanish language.

With that said Carmen Miranda is simply charming in this film as the Portuguese Princess Querida whose wiggle hypnotizes, whose personality dazzles and whose misuse of the English language absolutely charms. This is a quaint film. The storyline is pretty basic musical fare. It's fairly predictable and the only surprises seem to come out of the blue with almost no prior warning. I do however recommend this film highly to anyone who has been interested in watching a Miranda film but didn't know where to start. I was going to talk about the TCM clip in which Rita Moreno talk about Carmen Miranda's career. She calls Miranda "sad lady" and that she had much more potential but this was the hand she was dealt. Casey over at Noir Girl did such an excellent post, which spurred discussion among her readers including myself, that I direct you over to her site to read it. This was my first Carmen Miranda film and I saw her vibrant and electric and not sad or pathetic. I will definitely see more Miranda films in the future.

TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Thursday May 21st

Greenwich Village (1940)
West Side Story (1961)
La Bamba (1987)
The Mambo Kings (1992)
Cuba (1979)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Latino Images in Film ~ The Young Savages (1961)

The Young Savages (1961) stars Burt Lancaster as Hank Bell an assistant D.A. put on the case of three teenage Wops (Italians) that stabbed a blind teenage 'Spic (Puerto Rican) to death. At first the case seems really clear, this innocent blind kid out of nowhere gets brutally murdered by rageful strangers. However, the story unfolds and things are more complicated than they seemed. District Attorney is lusting after the governor's position and wants Bell to get the death penalty. Bell, who grew up in the slums with his fellow Wops, at first wants the same but starts to sympathize with old fiancee Mary DiPace (Shelley Winters) whose son was one of the three boys involved in the crime. Bell gets caught between two violent gangs Thunderbirds (Italians) and the Horsemen (Puerto Ricans), blood thirsty newspapermen, incapable cops, the loves of his life, and the list goes on and on. The film ends with riveting court scenes as the three Italian boys face their sentencing.

This is director John Frankenheimer second film and first with legendary actor Burt Lancaster. The cinematography is gorgeous. Many shots are layered and the mise-en-scene is dramatic with objects and faces frozen in the foreground and action happening in the background. The film deals with social issues in a way that only a '60s movie can do. The decade really opened filmmakers up to explore human nature more freely and with less restriction as the Code's reign was nearing it's demise. I place The Young Savages at the upper-echelon of superb dramatic movies! (Please read the excellent article on TCM's website about the film. Lots of great trivia and facts to be found there!)

I'm a bit torn about how the Puerto Ricans are represented in this film and find myself more ambivalent than offended. At first, the blind Puerto Rican boy is the epitome of innocence. His family, friends and neighbors all seem angelic in their mourning. However, as the story progresses the separation balance of evil on both sides changes with the Italians looking better and the Puerto Ricans looking worse and worse. We initially hate those three Italian boys but then we pity them. I'm not sure if this story would have worked in reverse with three Puerto Rican teens killing a blind Italian boy or if Bell would have been Puerto Rican, and in that case we wouldn't have had the wonderful Burt Lancaster in the starring role. This is such a great film than I really don't want to think to think ill of it but really in the end the representation of Latinos in this film can be considered poor at best. If you have any thoughts on these, please share!

Level of Brown Face ~ 0 out of 5 shades. 100% real Hispanic actors. Woot!

TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Tuesday May 19th

The Lawless (1950)
Trial (1955)
Cry Tough (1959)
The Young Savages (1961)
Blackboard Jungle (1955)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Latino Images in Film ~ Giant (1956)

Giant (1956) is a superb film which is often overshadowed by the fact that it was the iconic James Dean's 3rd and final picture. While Dean's performance is nothing short of amazing, I feel that this film has many other merits which are often overlooked. The family saga follows the story of the Benedicts and their Texas ranch Reata. Jordan Benedict (Rock Hudson) runs the ranch with the same old-fashioned sentiment that was handed down to him by his ancestors. He marries fiery and compassionate Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) who balances him out and also butts heads with him in the best way a wife can. Together they raise three children and we see how the family, ranch and the world evolves over the years. The family's story parallels the story of Jett Rink (James Dean) Jordan's arch-nemesis and the oil tycoon with a trouble soul.

I believe that Giant (1956) may be one of the best films ever made, and that is no hyperbole on my part. The first time I watched it I broke down in tears as I was so moved by the story. This epic is one of the best treatments on the social issue of racism and prejudice against Mexican-Americans or even Latinos in general. It exposes the prejudice while at the same time humanizing Mexican immigrants in a way that very few films have done. Jordan Benedict (Rock Hudson) has a clear idea about the separation between white Texans and Mexican "wetbacks". They work the same land but their lives are kept separate and social interaction is discouraged. When Leslie moves to Reata, she brings a compassion to her fellow human beings that disturbs Jordan. Many years later, when Jordan's son, Jordy (Dennis Hopper) marries Mexican nurse Juana, Jordan has to come to terms with his irrational prejudices.

Spoiler Alert - My favorite scene comes towards the end when Jordan Benedict takes Leslie, Luz and Juana to a restaurant. The owner of the restaurant makes a big fuss about serving Mexicans like Juana and her young son. When a Mexican family tries to eat there, the owner kicks them out. This angers Jordan who now sees all Mexicans as part of his family and Jordan and the owner get into a fistfight which results in the whole family being kicked out. This is quite a momentous scene as we see Jordan come full-circle.

For how wonderful this film is, it is big on "brownface". Sal Mineo is one of the worst cases. He is almost irrecognizable with his heavy brown pancake makeup. Even the Hispanic actors such as Elsa Cardenas (Juana) were given extra foundation for some ethnic enhancement. This film goes a bit overboard with almost everyone's make-up and I think that it in part has to do with it being shot in Technicolor. Several characters get specialized makeup to show the advancement of years and with the brownface, I feel like this film was in part an experiment on the use of makeup in film to enhance the visual elements. The merits of the story as a whole I believe outdo the offense of the brownface. It's lucky that the Best Make-Up Oscar was still a few decades away, as this film may have been a contender for that time!

Level of Brown Face ~ 5 out of 5 Shades.

TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Thursday May 14th

Mexican Spitfire (1940)
My Man and I (1952)
Giant (1956)
The Texican (1966)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Latino Images in Film ~ The Garment Jungle (1957)

The Garment Jungle (1957) is an industry-specific film noir focuses on the shady dealings in NYC's garment business circa mid-1950s. Walter Mitchell (Lee J. Cobb) of Roxton Fashions has a major dispute with his business partner over the formation of a union to protect the company's workers, many of whom are Latinos. Shortly thereafter the business partner dies in a freak elevator "accident". Mitchell has been paying gangsters to help protect his business from the union but is too busy to realize that they have killed his partner and best friend. Mitchell's son Alan (Kerwin Matthews) becomes part of his father's business right at the moment when the tension between the union and the workers, the executives and the thugs is about to get out of control. Alan meets worker Tulio, a frustrated union leader desperate for change even if it means neglecting his wife Theresa (Gia Scala) and child. When Tulio is killed by the gangsters, Alan is determined to make his deluded father see what's really going on and to cut the company's ties with the gangsters for good.

The screenplay was inspired by an expose written by Lester Velie and published in the July 1955 issue of Readers Digest called "Gangsters in the Dress Business". The Hispanic workers at the garment factory and represented in the film are overworked, underpaid and fed up with it. When they try to fight back, they are oppressed with extreme violence. In real life, a union worker was killed by gangsters and the footage of the funeral is used in the film. The exploitation of Hispanic workers is still an ongoing problem today so this film could definitely open up the opportunity to have some round table discussions.

This is a film in which the execution is poor yet the cultural concept is interesting enough it makes it worth viewing. The acting is so-so and the story is weighed down by poorly written dialogue and weak romantic sub-plots. I was a bit disturbed by the widow Theresa being passed off to a new man before the first husband was even dead. It's not something that happens in the story per-say but as the audience member you know that it's coming. I also found the inclusion of racism a little forced. It's as though someone said "hey we need some derrogatory terms thrown at these Latino characters, let's say ''spic bum' a few times, that should do it!" Otherwise, culturally this film is representative of a volatile time in American history and serves well as a vehicle of looking at the present through the past.

Level of Brown Face: 1 out of 5 shades. Italian is Hispanic enough in this film...

TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Tuesday May 12th

Tortilla Flat (1942)
... And Now Miguel (1943)
The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)
Salt of the Earth (1954)
The Garment Jungle (1957)

Friday, May 8, 2009

TCM Latino Images in Film Giveaway

I'm very blessed to be able to do another TCM related giveaway, this time in conjunction with their Latino Images in Film festival. This festival is by far my favorite and very close to my heart since I am a Latina who loves classic films. I really hope that you'll take the time to watch some of the films in the festival and really think about the representation of Latinos in these movies.

I will be giving away some Latino Images in Film themed composition notebooks to the winners of this contest.

How to Enter:

1) Check out the TCM's Latino Images in Film line-up and the TCM Originals video clips.

2) Add a comment on this post about which film in the line-up you want to see and why or have seen and what you thought of it. Or tell me something interesting you learned watching the video clips.

3) Bloggers, add a link or write an entry on your blog about TCM Latino Images in Film festival. If you are on Twitter, tweet about it to your followers.

4) Entries must be in by midnight Sunday May 24th. You can also e-mail the entries to Quellelove at Gmail dot com.

Winners will be announced Tuesday May 26th. They will be chosen at random. This contest is open to everyone. If you chose not to participate, you can always enter TCM's contest on their website for the same prize. You do however have a better chance of winning a notebook here!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Latino Images in Film ~ Border Incident (1949)

Border Incident (1949) is a gripping noir about the illegal smuggling of braceros (Mexican workers) into the US. Ricardo Montalban stars as Pablo Rodriguez, a Mexican undercover agent who is posing as a paisano/bracero in order to infiltrate a band of devious smugglers. Pablo befriends bracero Juan Garcia (James Mitchell) and the two form a close bond. As Pablo and Juan get smuggled across the border, American agent Jack Bearnes (George Murphy) who is posing as a dealer in forged immigration papers. However, the network of bandits are violent and determined to get their way and things get to get complicated and ugly really quickly.

I have to say, this was a very uncomfortable film to watch. It's very violent, not in terms of gore but with torture and murder. Plus there is also a pit of death where the illegal braceros are thrown in to die once they are no longer needed (yikes!). Some folks don't think it's technically a noir but it's got all the elements of a noir just in an atypical setting. This films merits I think lie in the performances of Ricardo Montalban and James Mitchell. They are our heroes and we root for them all the way.

You mean, you can make a film about Latinos with Latino actors?! No!!! The Mexican characters in this film are mostly played by Latinos, which makes a welcome change from Caucasian actors with olive complexions (or extra make-up). The only exception is James Mitchell, who I don't think is actually Hispanic but I could be wrong. The theme of illegal immigration and the exploitation of Mexican workers makes this film incredibly relevant today. The situations in the story are disturbingly real and I think this is a good movie for sparking some political discussions.

Level of Brown Face: 1 out of 5 Shades.

TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Tuesday May 7th

Bordertown (1935)
Border Incident (1949)
Right Cross (1950)
Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
Revenue Agent (1950)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Latino Images in Film ~ The Mark of Zorro (1920)

In The Mark of Zorro (1920), Douglas Fairbanks Sr. plays the title role of Zorro, a masked crusader out to defend and fight for the interests of the oppressed. In his world, this is everyone who is subject to the law (governor, soldiers, sargeants, etc) which is corrupt. By day, he is a soft, jaded rich boy with a delicate education from Spain, the motherland, but whenever the oppressed people of his community needs him, he transforms into the masked Zorro, a genuine hero full of masculine bravado and good intent. No one knows Zorro's true identity, not even his love interest Lolita who he is wooing as both versions of himself. Can he save his townspeople from oppresion and win the heart of Lolita? Zorro can do anything!

This silent classic was produced by Douglas Fairnbanks' production company and was the first feature film release of United Artists, which Fairbanks started with Chaplin and his wife Pickford among others. This was the first in a series of swashbuckling movies that Fairbanks did, which made him vastly popular. Fans of his son Douglas Fairbanks Jr. might remember him mocking his father's performance in the film Our Dancing Daughters. In the cast is also Noah Beery, brother of Wallace Beery and Walt Whitman, although no relation to the poet (darn!).

I thoroughly enjoyed this silent film. Fairbanks was quite acrobatic and his stunts were enjoyable to watch. The representation of Mexican/Spanish people in the film I thought was done very respectfully. What I found interesting is that although the main division is between the townspeople and the law, there is a cultural division between the light-skinned noble Spanish blood which is higher in ranking than the dark-skinned natives. As I am fascinated with early Dominican culture, these kind of cultural divisions always fascinate me.

Level of Brown Face: 2 out of 5 shades

Oh my! Those pants are rather tight, aren't they Mr. Fairbanks?

TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Tuesday May 5th

Ramona (1910)
The Mark of Zorro (1920)
Old San Francisco (1927)
Big Stakes (1922)
In Old Arizona (1929)
The Gay Desperado (1936)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

People En Español ~ Latinos Channeling Classic Film Stars

What seems like absolute perfect timing for TCM's Latino Images in Film, People En Español magazine came out with their annual issue Los 50 Mas Bellos de 2009 (50 Most Beautiful of 2009). In the current issue, the feature a handful of Hispanic celebrities dressed as classic film stars in their iconic roles. This kind of reinvisioning the past with contemporary stars is not new, in fact Vanity Fair does this all of the time (see my previous post about last year's March-Hitchcock issue). However, I was surprised to see People En Español participate. Pleasantly surprised. They are loose interpretations by all means but I'm glad they at least exist! Please make sure you check out the website or pick up a copy of the magazine. However, just to warn you that it really is in en Español!

Friday, May 1, 2009

TCM's Latino Images in Film Festival

After successful runs with their Asian Images in Film, Screened Out: Gay Images in Film and African-American Images in Film, Turner Classic Movies is giving my people their due with Latino Images in Film festival for the month of May. I have been super excited about this festival since I heard about it a few months ago on the TCM message boards. On Tuesday and Thursdays, TCM will air 5 films that deal touch upon Latino culture and issues. They also have a snazzy new site devoted to the festival (check it out here).

Why am I excited about this? Because I'm a Latina. I'm first generation American and my mother is 100% full-blooded Hispanic from the Dominican Republic. I am fluent in Spanish, I eat my arroz con habichuelas and have the cadera to prove it. What does it mean to be a Latina? For me it means maintaining the culture, learning about my heritage and embracing that Latina fire and passion that runs through my veins.

Classic films are predominantly Caucasian but it has been surprising to find out over the years how many films either have Latino characters or showcase Latino actors. With TCM's list of films for their festival, I have discovered even more!

In honor of Latino Images in Film, I'll be doing a month long series on this blog. For the first three weeks I'll be posting a review of one film on Mondays and Wednesdays before it airs the next day and will also include the following day's full schedule. I'll be reviewing a total of 6 films and all of them happen to be available on DVD just in case you don't have TCM. I hope this will encourage you to watch the films or at least be aware of the films that are out there. For the last week, I tentatively have planned a Latino Images in Film contest.

Each review will contain a summary, background information and what I think about the representation of Latinos in the film. I'll also include a rating level of "Brown Face". Brown face is what I call the Hispanic equivalent to Black face. This is when they take Caucasian actors and put some dark make-up on them to make them look more ethnic. They also used Mediterannean and olive-skinned European actors to look Latino and I also consider this a form of Brown face. I'll point out along the way the level of brown face in each film.

Disclaimer - I'm doing this purely because I want to and not because I was asked to.

I hope you'll enjoy the series!

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