Comedy · Musical

A Mexican Revenge

Dolores del Rio plays Pat O'Brien like a two-bit Image: kdsjf dksljf
Dolores del Rio is dressed for revenge. Image: Dawn’s Dolores del Rio

They say revenge is a dish best served cold.

We (as in, yours truly) are not very skilled in the “getting even” department, which is why we’re paying close attention to a 1935 comedy about Mexican folks getting even with American folks.

In Caliente is a stylish 1930s musical comedy with dazzling choreography by Busby Berkeley. It stars the über-glam Dolores del Rio as a Mexican-born dancer who is unable to forgive a New York magazine editor for disparaging her talent in print.

Pat O’Brien plays said editor, a rapid-speaking, short-tempered man who believes yelling is better than talking. He is also the worst kind of critic because he writes reviews of performances without ever seeing them.

In his magazine, O’Brien wrote that del Rio was “a bag of bones” and “onion soup without the onions.” (Whoa! Watch that smart mouth of yours, O’Brien.)

So, if you were Dolores del Rio and you knew this cad was vacationing in your hometown the same time you were, would you be tempted to get even? Exactly.

Fortunately for del Rio, O’Brien becomes smitten with her as soon as he sees her, and who could blame him? She’s the Hollywood Gold Standard: thin, beautiful, well dressed. She’s the type who exercises in chiffon.

del Rio and her manager (Leo Carrillo) use O’Brien’s feelings to leverage their revenge. (“His name is engraved on my heart in letters of blood,” says a seething Carrillo.) These two carefully plot their revenge until – uh oh! – del Rio discovers O’Brien is not quite the beast she thought he was and, despite everything, she may be falling for him.

Drat. Another Hollywood story where True Love derails revenge and no one wants to get even any more.

Or do they?

(actor) loves to do business with Americans. (Screencap by yours truly)
Leo Carrillo (left) loves doing business with Americans.

The most interesting revenge in this movie doesn’t involve del Rio at all. It involves the citizens of Caliente.

Caliente, as portrayed by the movie, is a resort town overrun with Americans who can’t spend money fast enough. These Americans are used to having a Certain Level of Service. For instance, they need people to carry luggage, drive taxis and mix cocktails. By default, these thankless tasks must fall to the residents of Caliente.

Not only that, the Americans have turned Caliente into the ideal American resort, with gentrified tennis courts and chaise lounges by the pool. The Americans don’t really want to be in Mexico, they just want to say they’ve been.

What’s a local resident to do?

Whenever possible, the film shows locals cheerfully hustling Americans at the card table or over-charging them to have their picture taken on a mule. A local band charges a small fee to play at your party, but it’ll cost you more if you want them to leave.

There is a wonderful scene (on the golf course!) where Carrillo hustles O’Brien’s assistant (Edward Everett Horton). Carrillo explains del Rio is a great artist but not a business woman and that she’ll need “a little something in advance.” Horton promptly writes a cheque.

See? These locals are only doing what the Americans want, and that is to ease money out of those alligator-skin wallets.

In Caliente is a frilly and beautifully-filmed movie with a talented cast and memorable music. However, you may find yourself rooting more for the residents of Caliente than the main characters.

In Caliente: Dolores del Rio, Pat O’Brien, Leo Carrillo. Directed by Lloyd Bacon. Written by Jerry Wald and Julius Epstein. Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., 1935, B&W, 84 mins.

This post is part of the HOLLYWOOD HISPANIC HERITAGE blogathon hosted by Movie Star Makeover and Once Upon a Screen. Be sure to read all the other contributions!

7-dolores

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30 thoughts on “A Mexican Revenge

  1. *adds to wishlist* Awesome review! I can’t believe I’ve never heard of the film. I’m tempted to borrow the line “onion soup without the onions” in a future movie review. Really harsh stuff, haha.

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  2. I saw this many years ago, I think in adolescence, but had forgotten it entirely until your splendid review brought it back to life for me. All thanks! Now to try to find time to dig the movie out for another round . . .

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    1. This movie makes me laugh because it’s quite ridiculous.

      I hear what you’re saying about making time for movies. I have a lengthy Must-Watch list..so lengthy in fact, I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to see them all – ha ha!

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  3. Ruth, you just can’t miss with In Caliente, especially here at Team Bartilucci HQ, because my dear late mom just adored Dolores del Rio, bless her (Mom had great taste in fabulous clothe-horses :-), and with Busby Berkeley, no less! The backstory about the citizen sounds like a hoot, and hey, the locals have to eat, too! I’ll definitely check this out — another witty and wonderful post to you, my friend! 😀

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  4. Paddy beat me to it! LOVE that “exercise in chiffon” line and it’s perfection with regards to Del Rio. Fantastic read, Ruth! It seems I visit your blog just to add pictures to my “must watch” list and this is another one I’ve never seen, but looks like it’s right up my alley. “Pictures taken on a mule” – HA!! Love this. Thanks ever so for taking part in this blogathon – and right after your week-long stint in O Canada. Super woman!!

    Aurora

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  5. I’ve heard of this film but still have not seen it. A great cast. You write in a very breezy style which is perfect for someone with a short attention span like myself. The wardrobe does look sexy and gorgeous. You have me sold on this movie. I look forward to looking more at your posts. I’m also glad you mentioned Leo Carrillo, a perfect subject for Hispanic Heritage month as well.

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  6. I don’t wish to lower the tone, but del Rio was a TOTAL BABE! I watched Flying Down to Rio for this blogathon but I think In Caliente is my favourite of all her roles. She suffered from being typecast as the ‘Latin Lover’ but I think she manages to break out of it more in this film. Also, I think I prefer Berkeley’s more sedate (ha!) choreography 😉
    Astaire who?

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    1. Ha ha! “Sedate Busby Berkeley choreography”! Yes, our Dolores is ultra glamorous, isn’t she? She does a very good job in this film. Her character has to shoulder a lot of the scenes and she seens comfortable doing that.

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  7. Wonderful review! I had no idea that this film offered such a clever satire on condescending American tourist behavior or that so much of it focuses on how the locals get their subtle revenge. I must confess, I only knew In Caliente from short clips (and one hilarious blooper that captured a candid Busby Berkeley shouting at his crew and calling for more revealing costumes).

    Thanks for giving me a reason to sit down and watch this through! Your disappointment in del Rio’s lack of revenge follow-through is also totally relatable. Glad to know I’m not the only one who gets angry when love gets in the way of a nice juicy comeuppance 🙂

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    1. This film does get in a few digs re: foreign tourists which is refreshing.

      Must see the Busby blooper you mentioned. Sounds great! Will look for it on YouTube.

      Revenge – It’s always wonderful when all is forgiven in real life…but sheesh! A little comeuppance once in a while wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it?

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  8. Dolores looks gorgeous in the first image. Now I have to see this!
    You made a good point about Caliente (and many other real towns in Latin America): Americans use as a resort, but locals have all the tough job. No wonder we would root for the locals.
    And I really need to start using the sentence (“His name is engraved on my heart in letters of blood”
    Thanks for your always kind comments.
    Kisses!

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  9. Adding it to my list. Like you, I may not live long enough to get through it, thanks to your recommendations, Ruth, but that is a happy problem to have. Sounds like some great lines in this one. And doesn’t everyone exercise in chiffon?:)

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