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Viva Villa
Director: Jack Conway (Dir)
Release Date:   27 Apr 1934
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 10 Apr 1934; Bridgeport, CT opening: 26 Apr 1934
Production Date:   late Sep 1933--18 Jan 1934; addl scenes began 23 Feb 1934
Duration (in mins):   112 or 115
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Wallace Beery (Pancho Villa)  
    Leo Carrillo (Sierra)  
    Fay Wray (Teresa)  
    Donald Cook (Don Felipe)  
    Stuart Erwin (Johnny Sykes)  
    Henry B. Walthall (Francisco Madero)  
    Joseph Schildkraut (General Pascal)  
    Katherine de Mille (Rosita)  
    George E. Stone (Emilio Chavita)  
    Phillip Cooper (Pancho, the boy)  
    David Durand (Bugler boy)  
    Frank Puglia (Villa's father)  
    Francis X. Bushman Jr. (Calloway)  
    Adrian Rosley (Mendoza brother)  
    Henry Armetta (Mendoza brother)  
    Pedro Regas (Member of Pascal's staff)  
    George Regas (Don Rodrigo)  
    John Merkyl (Pascal's aide)  
    Charles Stevens (Member of Pascal's staff)  
    Steve Clemento (Member of Pascal's staff)  
    Carlos De Valdez (Old man)  
    Harry Cording (Majordomo)  
    Sam Godfrey (Prosecuting attorney)  
    Nigel De Brulier (Political judge)  
    Charles Requa (Grandee)  
    Tom Ricketts (Grandee)  
    Clarence Hummel Wilson (Jail official)  
    James Martin (Mexican officer)  
    Anita Gordiana (Dancer)  
    Francis McDonald (Villa's man)  
    Harry Semels (Soldier)  
    Julian Rivero (Telegraph operator)  
    Bob McKenzie (Bartender)  
    Dan Dix (Drunkard)  
    Paul Stanton (Newspaper man)  
    Mischa Auer (Military attache)  
    Belle Mitchell (Spanish wife)  
    John Davidson (Statesman)  
    Brandon Hurst (Statesman)  
    Leonard Mudie (Statesman)  
    Herbert Prior (General)  
    Emil Chautard (General)  
    Hector Sarno (Mendoza brother)  
    Ralph Bushman (Calloway)  
    Arthur Treacher (English reporter)  
    William Von Brincken (German reporter)  
    Andre Cheron (French reporter)  
    Michael Visaroff (Russian reporter)  
    Shirley Chambers (Wrong girl)  
    Arthur Thalasso (Butcher)  
    Chris Pin Martin (Peon)  
    Nick De Ruiz (Peon)  

Summary: In the 1880's, after his "peon" father dies from a whipping ordered by a greedy Spanish landowner, Pancho Villa stabs and kills the executioner and then flees into the hills of Chihuahua, Mexico. Many years later, the now grown Pancho enjoys a reputation as "The Cucaracha," a notorious bandit who robs and kills the wealthy and befriends the poor. One day, Pancho's army of avenging bandits is joined by American reporter Johnny Sykes, whom Pancho commandeers to write flattering, exciting reports about the bandits' exploits. As the term of Mexican president Porfirio Diaz reaches its height of bloody injustice, Pancho is called by Don Felipe, an aristocratic revolutionary, to see Francisco Madero, a gentle rebel known as "The Christ-Fool." Moved by Madero's patriotic words, Pancho agrees to help lead a revolutionary army and orders his men to become "soldiers of liberty." After Don Felipe, an aristocratic revolutionary, introduces notorious womanizer Pancho to his beautiful sister Teresa, Pancho rounds up the nation's poor and leads them into many battles. Although successful in combat, Pancho is reprimanded by Madero for killing the wounded enemy and is sent to take orders from General Pascal, who is about to attack government stronghold Santa Rosalia. When, however, Johnny mistakenly reports to his newspaper that the revolutionary army has already taken Santa Rosalia, Villa promises the journalist that his story will not be refuted and refuses to obey Pascal's orders to wait several weeks to attack. Villa's subsequent success at Santa Rosalia and at Juarez eventually leads to the abdication of Diaz and the naming of Madero as president. In spite of his victories, Villa is advised by Madero to return to the country and give up soldiering. Although suspicious of Pascal, who is accompanying Madero to Mexico City, Villa agrees to return to Chihuahua and disbands his army. Later, while Madero struggles to pass land reform legislation, Villa is arrested after his murderous henchman, Sierra, kills a bank clerk who had refused to give Pancho his savings after closing time. The day before Pancho is to be executed for the crime, Pascal, who is overseeing the killing, receives a telegram from Madero, which stipulates that Pancho is to be exiled. Crushed by the apparent betrayal of his beloved Madero, Pancho goes to El Paso, Texas, and becomes a drunk. In Mexico City, before his land reform measure is passed, Madero is assassinated by Pascal and his co-conspirators. Johnny eventually tracks Pancho to El Paso and inspires him to return to Mexico and oust Pascal. Although Pancho leads his "peon" army to a new series of victories, his brutal combat tactics outrage Don Felipe and Teresa. Desperate to possess Teresa, Pancho tries to force himself on her, and when she resists his advances, Sierra shoots and kills her. Later, following a long siege of Pascal's fortress, Pancho overthrows his enemy and condemns him to a slow, torturous death. As the new leader of Mexico, Pancho is overwhelmed with mounting economic problems and, once Madero's land reform is instituted, gladly relinquishes his authority. Back in Chihuahua, as he chats with Johnny outside a butcher shop, Pancho is shot to death by the revenge-crazy Don Felipe. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Jack Conway (Dir)
  Howard Hawks (Dir)
  William Wellman (Fill-In dir)
  John Waters (Asst dir)
  Red Golden (Asst dir)
  Arthur Rosson (Asst dir)
  Arthur Rosson (2d unit dir)
  Dick Rosson (2d unit dir)
Producer: David O. Selznick (Prod)
Writer: Ben Hecht (Scr)
  James K. McGuinness (Contr wrt)
  Howard Emmett Rogers (Contr wrt)
Photography: James Wong Howe (Photog)
  Charles G. Clarke (Photog)
  Clyde De Vinna (Addl photog)
Art Direction: Harry Oliver (Art dir)
  Matias Santoyo (Main title illus)
Film Editor: Robert J. Kern (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Int dec)
Costumes: Dolly Tree (Ward)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
  Juan Aguilar (Mus consultant)
  Charles Maxwell (Orch)
  Paul Marquardt (Orch)
  Maurice de Packh (Orch)
  Wayne Allen (Orch)
  David Snell (Orch)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
  Mike McLaughlin (Sd rec)
  Stan Lambert (Mixer)
  James Brock (Mixer)
Special Effects: Slavko Vorkapich (Transitional eff)
Production Misc: Carlos Navarro (Tech adv)
  Matias Santoyo (Tech assoc)
  Howard Dietz (General press agent)
Country: United States

Source Text: Suggested by the book Viva Villa by Edgcumb Pinchon and O. B. Stade (New York, 1933).
Authors: O. B. Stade
  Edgcumb Pinchon

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. 21/4/1934 dd/mm/yyyy LP4655 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Betrayal
  Loyalty
  Mexico--History
  Revenge
  Revolutions
  Francisco "Pancho" Villa
 
Subjects (Minor): Americans in foreign countries
  Assassination
  Attempted rape
  Bank clerks
  Brothers and sisters
  Chihuahua (Mexico)
  Combat
  Conspiracy
  Porfirio Díaz
  Drunkenness
  El Paso (TX)
  Executions
  Exile
  Juarez (Mexico)
  Francisco Indalecio Madero
  Mexico. Army
  Mexico City (Mexico)
  Murder
  Presidents
  Reporters
  Santa Rosalia (Mexico)
  Torture
  War injuries
  Whips and whippings

Note: In an onscreen foreword, the producers describe this film as "fiction woven out of truth." According to biographical sources, sixteen-year-old Doroteo Arango killed a man for molesting his younger sister and took refuge in the mountains, eventually changing his name to Francisco "Pancho" Villa. In 1910, while he was working as a bandit and part-time laborer, Villa was persuaded to participate in the Madero revolution against President Porfirio Diaz. After Madero became president, Villa, still a member of the irregular army, was condemned to death for insubordination by General Victoriano Huerta. Although the execution was stayed by Madero, Villa remained in prison until escaping to the United States in Nov 1912. After Madero was assassinated, Villa returned to Mexico and joined forces with Venustiano Carranza to defeat Huerta. Mutual distrust divided Villa and Carranza, who took over as president in 1914, and the civil war continued until late 1915. In early 1916, as a show of power, Villa executed sixteen U.S. citizens in Santa Isabel in northern Mexico and attacked Columbus, NM. Woodrow Wilson then ordered General John J. Pershing to lead an expedition into Mexico to capture Villa, but Pershing's efforts were unsuccessful. By 1920, after years of continued armed insurgency, Villa agreed to "retire" from politics and was given a ranch in Durango. Villa was assassinated on 20 Jul 1923 in Parral, Chihuahua. The HR review notes that the character of General Pascal was "more than a little suggestive" of Huerta.
       Contemporary news items and studio memoranda, some of them unidentified, note the following information about the production: A May 1933 HR news item announced that Wallace Smith was returning from Mexico after receiving approval from the government there to proceed with a script for Viva Villa written by Oliver H. P. Garrett. It is not known if any portion of Garrett's script was used in the final film. Jack Conway was announced as director at that time, and John W. Considine, Jr. as supervisor. Considine's participation in the production is doubtful. According to a 6 Sep 1933 memorandum from producer David Selznick to studio head Louis B. Mayer, Selznick paid writer Ben Hecht $10,000 to write a final script of Viva Villa . Selznick offered Hecht an additional $5,000 if he finished the script to the producer's satisfaction in two weeks. It has not been determined if Hecht met Selznick's deadline, but by the middle of Sep 1933, director Howard Hawks, a frequent collaborator with Hecht who is credited in modern sources as a contributor to the script, was already in Mexico City shooting preliminary scenes. Hawks and his crew were soon joined by Wallace Beery and other members of the cast. A 27 Oct 1933 DV news item announced that scenes were to be shot in "many towns in Mexico." After first rejecting the part, Lee Tracy agreed to play the role of Johnny Sykes in early Nov 1933 and went to Mexico for filming. According to Var , the role was based on John W. Roberts, a correspondent for the Hearst newspapers, who followed Villa around Mexico and reported on his exploits. By the end of the month, Tracy was fired from the production because of an alleged insult he made to a cadet in the Mexican Cadet Corps while standing on a hotel balcony during a Revolution Day parade. Contemporary sources do not specify the exact nature of the insult, and modern sources give conflicting reports of the incident. In addition to his firing, Tracy had his five-year contract at M-G-M terminated. M-G-M then replaced Hawks with Jack Conway, who supposedly had been the studio's first choice as director. Studio press releases assert that the replacement was made at Hawks's own request. (Modern sources note that, according to M-G-M contract writer John Mahin, Hawks was fired because of Mayer's dissatisfaction with Hawks's shooting pace. Modern sources claim that Hawks and Mayer fought physically over the matter.)
       Because of tensions between M-G-M and the Mexican government over the Tracy incident, the production left Mexico in late Nov 1933 and, except for second unit shooting, completed filming around Hollywood and at the studio. Some of Hawks's footage was destroyed when an airplane carrying the negatives from Mexico to El Paso, TX, crashed and caught fire. It is not known how much of Hawks's footage actually ended up in the finished film. Although Tracy claimed that reports of his behavior were greatly exaggerated, Mayer issued a formal apology to Mexican president Abelardo Rodríguez. The incident supposedly provoked attacks against American films in the Mexican press, which demanded that the second-unit company also be expelled from the country, and that all M-G-M films be banned from exhibition in Mexico. A 20 Nov 1933 DV news item reported that two Mexican newspapers were campaigning for the confiscation of all footage shot in that country and for the cancellation of the studio's permit to shoot there because they believed that M-G-M was guilty of bribery, "malnutrition of extras and degradation of Mexican characters." The Mexican press also complained about the casting of Beery, a comedian, in the title role and condemned the way in which Mexican history was being presented by American filmmakers. According to a 22 Feb 1934 DV news item, M-G-M executive Joseph M. Schenck went to Mexico City on a "secret" trip to confer with President Rodríguez about the revised script. When Schenck screened the film for Mexican government officials in late Feb 1934, only two scenes were found objectionable. The officials complained that the scene in which Villa makes his first entrance into Mexico City needed more soldiers and arranged for the sequence to be re-shot with the entire Mexican army. They also disapproved of a scene in which Beery drinks after a victory. According to the officials, Villa neither drank nor smoked. This scene was not eliminated from the final film, however. (According to a 1951 Time article, the then Mexican government censor objected to the scenes in which Villa disobeys General Pascal and raids Santa Rosalia to please the American reporter and banned the film's revival in Mexico.)
       Second unit location shooting was completed in Mexico City and Juarez in mid-Dec 1933, and approximately seventy-two reels of battle footage were shipped to M-G-M at that time. William Wellman took over directing for one week after Conway came down with the flu in late Dec 1933. Hecht was called in to write new sequences in mid-Feb 1934. In late Feb, before re-shooting began, Selznick also assigned Howard Emmett Rogers and James K. McGuinness to do additional script work. The exact nature of their contribution is not known. Retakes were shot in either late Feb or Mar 1934. A 9 Mar 1934 DV news item announced that M-G-M was sending cinematographer Clyde De Vinna to Mexico to shoot added background shots. According to advertisements for the film, Carlos Navarro, who is credited in the film as technical advisor, was "Mexico's Official Censor for pictures regarding Mexican themes" and acted as a liaison between the studio and the Mexican government. In that advertisement, Herbert Stothart thanks George Schneider for his help on the production. The exact nature of his contribution is not known. The same advertisement credits Slavko Vorkapich with the montage of "Villa's call to arms" sequence. A Dec 1933 HR news item announced that the editor was to handle the "direction of transitional effects." In addition to Tracy, who was replaced by Stuart Erwin, all the principal actors in Hawks's cast except Joseph Schildkraut and Beery were replaced, including Mona Maris, Donald Reed and Irving Pichel. After Maris' departure, several actresses, including Myrna Loy, Carmel Myers, Lila Lee and Dorothy Burgess, were tested for the role of Teresa. Before signing Erwin, M-G-M considered Roscoe Karns as a replacement for Tracy. Donald Cook replaced Donald Reed in the role of Don Felipe, and Leo Carrillo replaced Irving Pichel in part of Sierra. In early Dec 1933, Richard Bennett was tested for the role of Madero but lost the part to Henry B. Walthall. Prior to production, M-G-M negotiated with Gregory Ratoff for a part in the film, but the actor was not hired. Pancho Augustin Villa, Jr., the son of Pancho Villa, was announced in late Sep 1933 to play his father as a youth in the film. That part was played by Phillip Cooper, however. Early HR production charts include Pancho Lucas, Noah Beery, Jr. (Wallace Beery's nephew) and Raymond Borzage in the cast. It is not known if they were replaced, or if they appear in the final film. Later HR production charts include Leo White in the cast, but his participation in the final film has not been determined. A Sep 1933 HR news item announced that Selznick was bringing actor Joseph Schildkraut back to the screen after a two-year absence.
       Top tickets for the New York showing cost $2.20. Assistant director John Waters won an Academy Award for his work on the production. The film was nominated as Best Picture but lost to Columbia's It Happened One Night . Ben Hecht was nominated for an Academy Award for his adaptation, but lost to Robert Riskin, who adapted It Happened One Night . Douglas Shearer was nominated for Best Sound Recording, but lost to Paul Neal and One Night of Love . Viva Villa was selected as one of the ten best pictures of 1934 by the FD Poll of Critics. On 8 Mar 1934, a scene from the film script was performed on the NBC radio network. Al Jolson portrayed Johnny Sykes in the radio broadcast, which was repeated on 5 Apr 1934.
       Other films dealing with the life of Pancho Villa include a 1914 Mutual documentary, The Life of General Villa , directed by Christy Cabanne, and the 1916 Tropical Film documentary, Following the Flag in Mexico (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.1405 and F1.2468); two 1954 Mexican-made features, El secreto de Pancho Villa and La tesoro de Pancho Villa , both directed by Rafael Baledón; and Villa , a 1958 Fox production, directed by James B. Clark and starring Brian Keith and Cesar Romero. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   20 Nov 33   p. 3.
Daily Variety   23-Nov-33   
Daily Variety   29 Nov 33   p. 3.
Daily Variety   22 Feb 34   p. 1.
Daily Variety   9 Mar 34   p. 25.
Daily Variety   15 Mar 34   p. 4.
Daily Variety   26 Mar 34   p. 3.
Film Daily   2 Nov 33   p. 7.
Film Daily   24 Nov 33   p. 8.
Film Daily   12 Apr 34   p. 10.
HF   25 Nov 33   p. 12.
HF   23 Dec 33   p. 43.
Hollywood Reporter   29 May 33   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Sep 33   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Sep 33   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Oct 33   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Nov 33   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Nov 33   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Nov 33   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Nov 33   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Nov 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Dec 33   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Dec 33   p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter   14 Dec 33   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Dec 33   p. 3, 6
Hollywood Reporter   27 Dec 33   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jan 34   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Feb 34   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Feb 34   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Feb 34   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Mar 34   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Mar 34   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Apr 34   pp. 5-16.
Motion Picture Daily   27 Mar 34   p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald   10 Feb 34   p. 39.
Motion Picture Herald   7 Apr 34   p. 59.
New York Times   7 Apr 34   p. 59.
Variety   17 Apr 34   p. 18.

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