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Viva Villa! Details

FULL SYNOPSIS

A far from factual filmed biography of Mexican patriot Pancho Villa, Viva Villa! was written by lengendary screenwriter Ben Hecht. We first meet the young Villa when his father is beaten to death after protesting Diaz' seizure of the Mexican peons' land. Pancho exacts a temporary revenge by knifing one of his father's killers, then heads for the hills, where he organizes a band of renegades. As he "matures," Pancho is played by child actor Phillip Cooper and adult star Wallace Beery. Though ruthless in his treatment of the rich, Pancho is a hero to the poor, who receive the spoils of Villa's raids. Befriended by American reporter Johnny Sykes (Stuart Erwin), Villa becomes internationally famous thanks to Sykes' articles concerning his exploits. Pancho also finds a strong ally in Don Felipe de Castillo (Donald Cook), who introduces the rebel bandit to Madero (Henry B. Walthall), the leader of the peon revolt. Madero convinces Villa to join forces with him, the better to oust the Diaz regime. His principal rival in this goal is ambitious General Pascal (Joseph Schildkraut), who intends to set up an even more despotic regime once Diaz is eliminated. Emerging victorious in his fight against the federales, Villa is encouraged to go back home by Madero. Illiterate and dangerously naïve, Villa quickly runs into trouble with the new government, giving Pascal a chance to humiliate his former "comrade in arms." Later, Pascal shows his true colors by assassinating Madero and assuming control of Mexico. Thirsting for revenge, Villa and his men go on a bloody rampage, culminiating in the ritualistic murder of the treacherous Pascal (he is staked out on an anthill and covered with honey). Made president of Mexico upon the elimination of Pacal, Villa once more finds himself in over his head. Unable to deal with political infighting, Villa retires to his ranch. One day, after running into his old friend Johnny Sykes (Stu Erwin), Villa is shot and mortally wounded by his onetime friend Don Felipe, who holds Pancho responsible for the death of his sister Teresa (Fay Wray). As he dies, Villa begs Johnny to tell him what his epitaph will be. Improvising quickly, Johnny tells of Villa's love for Mexico and his many accomplishments. Partially filmed on location in Mexico, Viva Villa was plagued with a multitude of production problems, not least of which was the diplomatic gaffe committed by Lee Tracy, the film's original Johnny Sykes: While standing on a balcony watching a military parade, an inebrieated Tracy relieved himself on the troops below and was immediately fired. Another crisis arose when the Mexican government objected to star Wallace Beery, on the grounds that Beery usually played villains or buffoons. Despite these and other setbacks, Viva Villa was finally completed under the assured directorial hand of MGM troubleshooter Jack Conway and the expert supervision of David O. Selznick. Though some critics objected to the film's violence, Viva Villa was a financial success. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

  • Release date:April 27, 1934

Awards

Awarded by
Nominee
Category
Year
Status
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Douglas Shearer Best Sound 1934 Nominee
Venice International Film Festival Wallace Beery Best Actor 1934 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Ben Hecht Best Adapted Screenplay 1934 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences John Waters Best Assistant Director 1934 Winner

Cast

Wallace Beery
as Pancho Villa
Leo Carrillo
as Diego
Fay Wray
as Teresa
Donald Cook
as Don Felipe
Joseph Schildkraut
as Gen. Pascal
George E. Stone
as Chavito
Stuart Erwin
as Johnny Sykes
Katherine de Mille
as Rosita
Frank Puglia
as Villa's Father
David Durand
as Bugle Boy
George Regas
as Don Rodrigo
Henry Armetta
Mischa Auer
as Military Attache
Emile Chautard
as General
Andre Cheron
as French Reporter
Phillip Cooper
as Villa as a Boy
Harry Cording
as Majordomo
John Davidson
Nigel de Brulier
as Judge
Sam Godfrey
as Prosecuting Attorney
Brandon Hurst
Chris-Pin Martin
Francis McDonald
as Villa's Man
Bob McKenzie
as Bartender
Belle Mitchell
as Wife
Leonard Mudie
as Statesman
Herbert Prior
Pedro Regas
as Staff
Charles Requa
Tom Ricketts
as Grandees
Julian Rivero
as Telegraph Operator
Adrian Rosley
Harry Semels
as Soldier
Paul Stanton
as Newspaperman
Charles Stevens
Arthur Treacher
as English Reporter
Michael Visaroff
as Russian Reporter
William Von Brincken
as German Reporter
Henry B. Walthall
as Madero
H.B. Warner
as Bit
Leo White
as Man
Clarence H. Wilson
as Jail Official
Phillip Cooper
as Villa as a Boy
Clarence H. Wilson
as Jail Official
H.B. Warner
as Bit
Michael Visaroff
as Russian Reporter
Nigel de Brulier
as Judge
Paul Stanton
as Newspaperman
Andre Cheron
as French Reporter
Arthur Treacher
as English Reporter
Julian Rivero
as Telegraph Operator
Harry Cording
as Majordomo
Belle Mitchell
as Wife
Leo White
as Man
Pedro Regas
as Staff
Tom Ricketts
as Grandees
William Von Brincken
as German Reporter
Harry Semels
as Soldier
Sam Godfrey
as Prosecuting Attorney
Leonard Mudie
as Statesman
Mischa Auer
as Military Attache
Henry B. Walthall
as Madero
Francis McDonald
as Villa's Man
Emile Chautard
as General
Bob McKenzie
as Bartender

Crew

Jack Conway
Director
Howard Hawks
Director
David O. Selznick
Producer
Ben Hecht
Screenwriter
James Wong Howe
Cinematographer
Herbert Stothart
Composer (Music Score)
Harry Oliver
Art Director
Edwin B. Willis
Set Designer
Dolly Tree
Costume Designer
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