Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Fighting Gringo (1939)

THE FIGHTING GRINGO is a standard-issue George O'Brien "B" Western, but it's one I especially enjoyed.

O'Brien plays Wade Barton, who is smitten with a pretty senorita (Lupita Tovar) and steps in to help when her father (Lucio Villegas) is forced off his land by unscrupulous Ben Wallace (William Royle). The greedy Wallace has also killed the brother (LeRoy Mason) of his fiancee (Mary Field) in order to own all her family's land.

This was simply a fun movie with O'Brien doing lots of joking, fighting, and romancing. I had a good time watching it, and the 59 minutes passed most pleasantly.

One of the enjoyable things about the movie was that it is the very first acting and stuntman credit for young Ben Johnson, who would have been about 20 when this was filmed. He's credited for a nonspeaking role as a "Mexican barfly," and sure enough, in a scene where Wade confronts Don Aliso del Campo (Villegas), I could freeze frame on a nice big closeup of Johnson's face over O'Brien's shoulder.

A decade later, both O'Brien and Johnson would act in John Ford's SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949) with Johnson playing Sgt. Tyree and O'Brien as Major Allshard.

I found a neat Western Clippings interview with Lupita Tovar, who appears to still be with us; she will turn 103 on July 27th! She was married to producer Paul Kohner and is the mother of actress Susan Kohner. She speaks of her friendship with George O'Brien and his family in the interview and shares that their daughters have been lifelong friends.

THE FIGHTING GRINGO was directed by David Howard. Howard helmed many of O'Brien's Westerns before passing on in 1941 at the age of 45.

It was filmed by Harry J. Wild in Southern California. Incidentally, there's a strange issue with continuity early on when the stage comes into town -- as two men look at the stagecoach out the window, the wounded driver is crumpled up at his co-driver's feet. Yet in an exterior shot as the stage pulls in, both men are sitting side by side.

THE FIGHTING GRINGO can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

February 2016 Update: THE FIGHTING GRINGO is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive in the nine-film George O'Brien Western Collection. My review of the DVD is here.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Wonderful review Laura. And bless Lupita Tovar for being 103! Wow. Imagine living such a long life. I'll definitely check out that interview.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Isn't that remarkable? I really enjoyed her interview and hope you will too. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Best wishes,

10:21 PM  

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