Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Fiesta (1941) - A ClassicFlix DVD Review

Today I returned to the ClassicFlix Streamliners set The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners Collection, Volume 4: The Musicals to watch the third and final film, FIESTA (1947).

I previously reviewed the other two films in the set, ALL-AMERICAN CO-ED (1941) and FLYING WITH MUSIC (1942).

It's been a while since I've reviewed a Streamliners film, so as a refresher, these were short "double two-reeler" movies produced by Hal Roach which typically ran 45-50 minutes. In the case of FIESTA, it clocks in at 45 minutes.

There's a tiny bit of romantic plot in the FIESTA screenplay by Cortland Fitzsimmons, but this film, more than the other two in the set, really feels like an extra-long musical short. It's admittedly a minor effort, but I enjoyed it.

Future New York City Opera star Ann Ayars (billed as Anne here) plays Cholita, whose return to her home causes her uncle (Antonio Moreno) to declare a three-day fiesta.

Cholita is accompanied by her fiance Fernando (George Givot), but he's a snobby city type not genuinely interested in Cholita or the festival. Meanwhile Cholita's childhood love Jose (Jorge Negrete, billed as George Negrete) is clearly the man for Cholita.

A decade later Ayars was one of the stars of Powell and Pressburger's THE TALES OF HOFFMANN (1951), which has just come out on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection. Ayars' subdued acting isn't any great shakes, but it's a pleasure to hear her sing, and I also enjoyed the dances with the women costumed in gorgeous dresses by a big-name designer, Travilla, working here on his very first film.

The movie was directed and choreographed by longtime movie choreographer LeRoy Prinz, whose earliest work included the crazy "Electricity" number in MADAM SATAN (1929); his final film was SOUTH PACIFIC (1958).

The prints in this set came from studio masters, and FIESTA differs from the other Streamliners I've seen to date in that the cinematography by Robert Pittack is in Technicolor. The print is somewhat soft and has almost the look of Cinecolor or Trucolor, with emphasis on reds, browns, and blues, but the swirling colors of those Travilla gowns are quite pleasing to the eye.

The music and dancing, the beautiful Technicolor and costuming, and the chance to learn more about the careers of Ann Ayars and LeRoy Prinz combine to make FIESTA a worthwhile 45 minutes for musical fans.

ClassicFlix has released six volumes of Streamliners over the last couple years; I've previously reviewed a number of films from these sets, with more still to come in the future. I've generally found even the weaker titles in the sets to be interesting for one reason or another, and some of them are quite good. (The "Taxi" comedies starring William Bendix have been my favorites.) The unusually short running times also help fit watching a movie into a busy schedule! Classic film fans should keep these sets in mind to try out for fun "off the beaten path" viewing.

Thanks to ClassicFlix for providing a review copy of this DVD.


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