- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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- kevin sellers
If you can get past the irony of a film that deals powerfully and honestly with racism employing a Jewish kid from Chicago by way of the Ukraine to play a Latino from L.A. then you'll be rewarded with a nice, tawdry James M. Cain-ish type tale about greed, ambition and prejudice in Cal/Mex country. Director Archie Mayo paces his story well and creates a strong overall mood of tawdriness and sleaze. I especially like it that the protagionist, Johnny Ramirez, is not depicted as the typical PC Saintly Victim Of Bigotry. Instead the screenplay, by Laird Doyle and Wallace Smith, chooses a more realistic and thus more interesting path by portraying Ramirez as a hot headed, not very good attorney who is obsessed with money and worldly success. And Muni, although a bit stiff at times, manages to convey these qualities quite convincingly. I also liked Margaret Lindsey's slumming, snobbish socialite who rejects Ramirez's proposal of marriage because "we're from different tribes, savage." Lindsey is an actress I haven't seen much of (although I fondly remember her performance in "Scarlet Street") but after watching her in this I plan to correct that oversight. In addition to the irony I described in my first sentence is the additional one of Bette Davis being the weakest member of the three leads! (I mean, this hardly ever happens). Put simply, she is mannered and over the top from beginning to end. So let's give it a solid B for Muni and especially Lindsey and the 1930s noir atmo.
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 ina 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.