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Trivia Question #1: What film was the supporting feature for the legendaryCitizen Kane during its premiere run in New York in 1941? Answer:The Mexican Spitfire's Baby.
Between 1939 and 1943, the Mexican-born Lupe Velez teamed withrubber-legged one-time Ziegfeld Follies star Leon Errol for a seriesof eight fast-paced, slapstick comedies about the adventures of a fieryLatin singer (Velez) married to an advertising man. Her efforts to embrace domesticitywere aided and just-as-often undermined by her husband's eccentric Uncle Matt(Errol), who bore a striking resemblance to British whiskey baron LordBasil Epping (also Errol) and, in one installment, Epping's valet. Itwasn't exactly Noel Coward, but the series was popular enough with ruralaudiences to keep RKO studios churning out entries until Velez decided tomove on to other projects.
Velez was at a career low-point when RKO studio head George Schaeffertapped her for the lead role in The Girl from Mexico (1939), inwhich she starred as a singer brought to the U.S. by ad man Donald Woods.The film did so well, Schaeffer, who also was instrumental in bringingOrson Welles to RKO, signed her to a contract that kept her playing Carmelita andsimilar roles for four years. For the other seven films, the seriescapitalized on a nickname that Velez's energetic performances and offscreenbehavior had earned her early in her Hollywood career, "The MexicanSpitfire." Made for pennies, these B films provided the second half ofdouble features with more prestigious films, though in many cases, theyproved more popular than the films they supported. Other constants in the series were director Leslie Goodwins, who helmed all eight movies, and Elisabeth Risdon, cast as Velez's snobbish aunt by marriage, who spends every Spitfire film trying to break up the relationship so her nephew can find a more suitable wife.
Carmelita's adventures encompassed everything from smuggling (MexicanSpitfire's Elephant, 1942) to seeking a divorce (Mexican Spitfire OutWest, 1940). For The Mexican Spitfire's Baby (1941), the studio teased audienceswith the possibility of an addition to the family, only to reveal that thewar orphan Carmelita and her husband try to adopt is really a full-grownand very seductive Frenchwoman named Fifi (Marion Martin). New to theseries is Charles "Buddy" Rogers, who took over the role of Carmelita's husband from Woodsand would keep the part for two more films. (Walter Reed would play thehusband in the series' final two entries). In addition, ZaSu Pitts joineda string of character comics -- including Cecil Kellaway, Tom Kennedy, AlanCarney and Mantan Moreland -- who graced the series with theirwork.
Trivia Question #2: Which Mexican Spitfire regular would go on towin an Oscar&;? Answer: Although putting "Mexican Spitfire" andOscar® in the same sentence seems something of an oxymoron, Rogerswould win the Motion Picture Academy's® Jean Hersholt HumanitarianAward in 1985. The third (and last) husband of silent-screen legend MaryPickford, Rogers became extensively involved in charity work in the '60s,often acting on behalf of his wife, who preferred to stay out of thelimelight. It was hardly his first brush with Oscar®, however. He wasalso the star of the first Best Picture winner, Wings, in1927.
Producer: Cliff Reid
Director: Leslie Goodwins
Screenplay: Charles E. Roberts, Jerry Cady, James Casey
Based on a story by Charles E. Roberts
Cinematography: Jack MacKenzie
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff
Cast: Lupe Velez (Carmelita Lindsay), Leon Errol (Uncle MattLindsay/Lord Basil Epping), Charles "Buddy" Rogers (Dennis Lindsay),Elisabeth Risdon (Aunt Della Lindsay), ZaSu Pitts (Miss Pepper), MarionMartin (Fifi).
by Frank Miller