- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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A Mexican watching Paul Muni in brown face
I know 1930s Hollywood was not the height of racial tolerance, but the fake "Mexican" accents are grating. I can forgive Paul Muni because he's such a wonderful actor (and Jewish). I found the whole journey for Johnny Ramirez from idealistic young lawyer to hood a little implausible. Muni was a little hammy in some of the scenes. One of my favorite scenes- after he graduates from law school singing La Cucaracha, accurately ("The cockroach cannot walk because it needs marijuana to smoke"). And Muni's Spanish was excellent too!
Quite a Rivetting Drama: Davis & Muni
Paul Muni plays Johnny, a Hispanic man who has earned his law degree but loses a case and is disbarred. Johnny makes his way to a night club to work. There he falls for the boss' conniving wife, Marie (Bette Davis). Wanting to be with Johnny instead of her husband Charlie, Marie makes Charlie's death look like a carbon monoxide accident in their garage. Free to be with Johnny, Marie and he beef up the night club. But Marie's jealousy causes her to blame Johnny for Charlie's death. While he's on trial, Marie takes the stand and falls apart revealing the truth. I think this title had the effect of misleading audiences. "Jaurez" with Davis and Muni is about Mexico. "Bordertown," obviously is not. It's a superb film noir acted quite well by Davis and Muni.
Robert Osborne's The Movie Fan Man
If it weren't for Robert Osborne's vast knowledge of older films' histories & contexts, I'd likely be left in the dark about "Bordertown." I just watched & taped the film & Osborne's comments. What's interesting about "Bordertown" is that Bette Davis doesn't play a part that's the least bit anti-Hispanic. But, even though the Hollywood code was following the new law to be friendly with Hispanic neighbors, Margaret Lindsay's character still remains anti-Hispanic towards Paul Muni's type-cast Hispanic character. I like it lots that Bette Davis wouldn't play the parts of supremacists (of any kind I've yet to witness).
Early Bette Davis Performance
This 1935 cultural conflicts film had to adhere to code of the era that demanded a change in US relations with Latino nations. Yet, Paul Muni was type-cast, as he was in "Jaurez," with no lack of ethnocentricity by Margaret Lindsay who won't marry him become of cultural differences. That's why I prefer Bette Davis' performance. Even at her age, she wouldn't play a supremacist character, unless it was to be a villain shown in a negative light for being less than egalitarian. It matters. Because humans learn best through being engaged & exposed to performance art.
My ratings of "Bordertown"
- Victoria Oberzan
I agree with the comment already posted about Paul Muni's acting ability. He simply becomes his characters--it does not seem as if Muni is acting. During the examination of Hispanics in American cinema, please do not forget Muni's film "Juarez." I think it is important to note how Hispanic historical figures were portrayed in twentieth century cinema.
Paul Muni : Screen legend
- Armando Barajas
Paul Muni is probably the least appreciated of 1930's and 40's screen legends . His body of work is without equal . His portrayal of the young Hispanic lawyer who never finds his place in society is typical of Muni's ability to connect and convey the experience of people different from us . He has allowed us to walk in the shoes of a Polish coal miner, a French scientist , an Italian gangster ,and of course the wrongly convicted man in a chain gang. Bordertown is a film that conveys Hollywood's attitude about ethnic interaction and its consequences. A young Betty Davis and Paul Muni provide this film with a chemistry that lifts the material. The film is more than just another story about a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, but a view America's attitude about Hispanics in the 1930's.