Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Californian (1937)

THE CALIFORNIAN, also known as THE GENTLEMAN FROM CALIFORNIA, is a mildly entertaining but fairly creaky low-budget film starring Ricardo Cortez.

Cortez plays Ramon Escobar, who returns to 1850s California from years of being educated in Spain, only to find that tax collectors are bankrupting his family and friends.

Ramon becomes a Zorro-esque character who steals money back from the evil tax men and returns it to the rightful owners. In his free time he courts lovely Rosalia Miller (Marjorie Weaver), who had been his childhood playmate.

Cortez and Weaver were the draws for me to try the film, and though they're pleasant, the movie doesn't have much more to offer, other than being a somewhat amusing peek at the lifestyle of mythical "Californianos," who according to the opening narrative crawl have a wonderful life but don't have to work much. The movie would be a little more interesting if it were at least available in a good print; I saw it on a murky Alpha DVD. This Sol Lesser production was originally distributed by 20th Century-Fox and apparently is now in the public domain.

It's a bit amusing, in the early scenes showing Ramon and Rosalia as children, they are close in age. Yet when the adult Ramon returns from Spain in the form of Ricardo Cortez, he's suddenly noticeably older than Rosalia, although the poor DVD print keeps the age difference from being as noticeable as it could be.

The young Ramon was played by Gene Reynolds, who became a highly regarded TV producer-director; Rosalia was played as a child by Ann Gillis, who was best known as Becky Thatcher in THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER (1938). Katherine DeMille plays a woman who betrays Ramon for a reward. I don't think I recognized anyone else in the cast.

The majority of Marjorie Weaver's films were made between 1936 and 1945. Her best-known role was probably Mary Todd Lincoln in John Ford's YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939). Weaver films previously reviewed here include SECOND HONEYMOON (1937), THREE BLIND MICE (1938), and MICHAEL SHAYNE, PRIVATE DETECTIVE (1940).

The movie was photographed at the Iverson Ranch by Harry Neumann. It was directed by Gus Meins. The running time is 58 minutes.

The Alpha DVD I watched used the title THE GENTLEMAN FROM CALIFORNIA. It can be rented from ClassicFlix or Netflix. It's also available for Amazon Prime members to stream at no extra charge.


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