Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Vera Cruz (1954).
Vera Cruz (1954). Cast: Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster, and featuring Denise Darcel, Sara Montiel, and Cesar Romero. Director: Robert Aldrich from a story by Borden Chase and considered one of the most influential Western films ever filmed. The film's Mexican setting, and attitude about violence was thought shocking at the time, and changed the future of Westerns such as The Magnificent Seven, The Wild Bunch, and the films of Sergio Leone.
The story begins as the American Civil War is ending, and Mexico is beginning a revolution against Maximilian, some North American ex-soldiers head to Mexico to offer their services to either side. Ben Trane, who was a Confederate major during the Civil War, and Joe Erin, a western outlaw, meet up in Mexico when Ben has to replace his injured horse. Later, in a small pueblo, Ben receives a very cold welcome from other North Americans who, recognizing Joe's horse, assume that Ben has killed him and are about to beat him up when Joe comes forward. Joe then talks Ben into joining his mercenaries, and they meet with the Marquis de Labordere, who represents the emperor and offers to pay them well. When Ben goes to help a young Mexican woman, Nina, he is rewarded with the theft of his wallet. After Gen. Ramirez, tries to force their hand, Ben, Joe and their men join the marquis to Mexico City. There they attend a society ball at the emperor's home. Joe is very much out of place, but he and Ben manage to charm the Countess Marie Duvarre. Maximilian agrees to pay the men fifty thousand dollars in gold to take on the special mission of escorting the countess through Juarista territories to the port of Vera Cruz, where she will leave for France. The marquis and a troop of lancers led by Capt. Danette, will also join them. Ben and Joe soon believe that the coach is carrying more than the countess...
I thought Vera Cruz, was an excellent film, loved the wonderful score by Friedhofer. My favorite scene was in the plaza, with a great gunfight followed with the meetings of the main characters in the plot including hundreds of revolutionaries and Cesar Romero, whose character is the Emperor of Mexico, Maximillian.
Produced by Burt Lancaster's production company for $1.7 million, it grossed over $11million.
Burt Lancaster was quite happy to let Gary Cooper have top billing, knowing that he had more box office pull than he did.
Eli Wallach has said that the Mexican government was so upset about the negative portrayal of Mexicans in the film that they insisted that the making of The Magnificent Seven (1960) be monitored by censors.
This film is sometimes called the "first spaghetti western," due to the influence on the Italian directors such as Sergio Leone who popularized the genre.