Saturday, August 06, 2022

A Birthday Tribute to Leo Carrillo

Actor-Conservationist Leo Carrillo was born in Los Angeles on August 6, 1881.

Carrillo's family had deep roots in old California, and he followed in his ancestors' footsteps, playing a significant role in California state history along with his work as a character actor in the classic film era. Carrillo is also remembered for playing Pancho on TV's THE CISCO KID (1950-56).

Two of my favorite Carrillo film performances are as Mike Rossini, the gangster with gourmet tastes who hires Jean Arthur and Herbert Marshall as his cook and butler in IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935)...

...and Cesare the chef in Arthur's HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937), also starring Charles Boyer:

Off the screen Carrillo served for nearly two decades on the California State Parks Commission, and he is credited with having been instrumental in the state acquiring Hearst Castle.

A 2009 article in the Los Angeles Times detailed some of the varied aspects of Carrillo's life and work, saying his contributions on behalf of the state "left a cultural imprint arguably larger than his film legacy."

Today, a stretch of the California coastline north of Santa Monica is named Leo Carrillo State Park in his honor. The late, great Huell Howser filmed a show there called "Movie Beach" which can be streamed via Chapman University's Howser archives. Among the films shot at the beach is STEP BY STEP (1946), which I reviewed here last year.

Two California schools are named for Carrillo, one in nearby Westminster, California, about five miles from me, and another in Carlsbad, where his ranch was located.

Today the Leo Carrillo Ranch, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a 27-acre tourist attraction in Carlsbad, not far from San Diego. Huell Howser also filmed a show there which can be watched online. I'm hoping to visit before long!

Leo Carrillo was 80 when he passed away in Santa Monica on September 10, 1961. He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the same city; I paid a visit in 2019.

Leo Carrillo films previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: FOUR FRIGHTENED PEOPLE (1934), MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934), THE GAY BRIDE (1934), IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935), MOONLIGHT MURDER (1936), HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937), THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST (1938), TOO HOT TO HANDLE (1938), SOCIETY LAWYER (1939), LILLIAN RUSSELL (1940), PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943), GYPSY WILDCAT (1944).


Blogger Will McKinley said...

I love IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935), an underrated film we've talked about previously on Twitter. I had no idea about the public service component on his life. Great post.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

A very nice and well-deserved tribute to a man many of us grew up with on screen as Pancho.
I knew he came from an old and important family in the history of California but had no idea of his long public service alongside his movie career. A man to admire.

Since he was born in L.A. would it be safe to assume he actually spoke with an American accent in real life? I have never yet seen him in any film role where he didn't speak with a Hispanic accent, mangled or otherwise.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

A rare film in which Leo played the leading man opposite Grace Moore was “Love Me Forever”(1935). I saw it many years ago and enjoyed it. I don’t know if it is available anywhere.

1:07 AM  

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