Cast & Crew
In a small Mexican town, famous matador Antonio Morales is teaching his students bullfighting techniques when he receives word that his wife has gone into labor at their villa. Accompanied by his assistant, Chato Vasquez, Antonio races home and arrives only minutes after his wife has given birth to a baby girl. Antonio, who had hoped for a son that he could model after himself, or mold in his own image, is deeply disappointed when he learns that his new baby is a girl. His disappointment soon turns to joy, however, when the doctor informs him that his wife has had twins, and that the second baby is a boy. After naming his son Mario and his daughter Maria, Antonio boasts to his friends that Mario will become the best matador in the world. Mario and Maria enjoy a happy childhood and grow up to become the best of friends, helping each other whenever they can. When Mario is old enough to enter the bullfighting ring, his father begins a rigorous training regimen. While Mario shows only mild interest in the sport, Maria becomes a bullfighting expert and secretly takes lessons from Chato. Mario's lack of enthusiasm for the sport is shared by his mother, who fears for her son's life and tries to protect him from his father's demands. When Mario composes a sophisticated musical suite, his mother realizes that he is a prodigy and encourages him to continue his music studies. On the day before Mario and Maria's twenty-first birthday, Maria tells her brother that she sent her fiancé, Jose "Pepe" Ortega, to Mexico City to deliver the manuscript of his suite to the famous symphony orchestra conductor Maximino Contreras. Maximino is greatly impressed by Mario's composition and travels to the Morales villa to invite Mario to study in Mexico City. Maximino arrives at the villa just as Mario is about to fight his first big bullfight. Antonio forbids Maximino from meeting Mario before the fight, and sends him away with a promise that he will tell Mario about his visit after the fight. Antonio is proud of his son's performance in the ring, but neglects to tell him about Maximino's visit. Determined to meet Mario, Maximino follows him to the town of Puebla, where the young man is set to fight his next bullfight. During the bullfight, Maximino manages to get close enough to Mario to meet him and ask him why he did not reply to his invitation. When Mario realizes that his father had deliberately kept the news of Maximino's visit a secret from him, he walks out of the bullfighting ring in anger and leaves for Mexico City. While Antonio is disgraced the following day by newspaper accounts that call Mario a coward, Maria vows to find her brother and restore her family's good name. Hoping to lure her brother back home with a publicity stunt, Maria disguises herself as Mario and fights a bullfight under his name. Maria's plan works when Mario hears about the fight and leaves Mexico City to find her. He finds Maria just as she is being attacked by a bull. Mario saves Maria from further harm by jumping into the ring, and the public's respect for the Morales family is restored. Antonio later makes amends with his son, and finally gives him his consent to study music with Maximino.
Wilfred M. Cline
Angel Ortiz De Villajos
Leocadio Martinez Durango
Miriano Bolanos Recio
Luis Martinez Serrano
Edwin B. Willis
Hollywood's infatuation with Latin America peaked in the 1940's, helped by the government's "Good Neighbor Policy," which encouraged economic and cultural exchange. Some studios, like RKO, even set up studios or production units in Mexico to make Spanish-language films. MGM added the Latin touch by shooting on location, and by recruiting Hispanic stars. Ricardo Montalban was fluent in English, had done theater in New York, and made films in his native Mexico, when he was signed to a contract by MGM. Fiesta was his American feature film debut. Montalban's love interest in the film was another up-and-comer, Cyd Charisse. She'd been playing small roles, and been a featured dancer in such musical extravaganzas as Ziegfeld Follies (1946) and Till The Clouds Roll By (1946). Montalban was not a trained dancer, but he partnered passably, and smoldered admirably. Their dance in Fiesta was so sizzling that they shared another the following year in The Kissing Bandit (1948), this time with Ann Miller as Charisse's rival for Montalban's terpsichorean favors.
The company shot on location for three months in the village of Puebla, Mexico, staying in the town's sole hotel. After shooting wrapped for the day, the actors and some crewmembers relaxed over drinks. One evening, the cocktail hour stretched out to several, and by the time they were ready for dinner, the dining room had closed. Esther Williams' husband, Ben Gage, was furious. He got into a fracas with hotel staff, which ended with Gage and the makeup man being hauled off to jail, and Williams going along. The studio got Gage off, but according to Cyd Charisse, the makeup man took the rap and was jailed for a while. Charisse also suffered a bout of amoebic dysentery, and she, Williams and co-star John Carroll were nearly gored by a bull.
Screenwriter Lester Cole shared a credit for the script of Fiesta. It would be one of his last. Cole's career ended abruptly the year this film was released when he was cited for contempt of Congress as one of the "Hollywood 10" who challenged the House Un-American Activities' right to ask questions about political affiliation. Cole spent a year in prison, and was blacklisted in the film industry.
The impressive musical sequences and Technicolor photography in Fiesta more than make up for its preposterous story. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Johnny Green's scoring. Montalban never became a major star, but he and Charisse both went on to successful careers at MGM. And Esther Williams, who was billed above the title for the first time in Fiesta, still stands alone as the movies' only aquatic superstar.
Director: Richard Thorpe
Producer: Jack Cummings
Screenplay: George Bruce, Lester Cole
Editor: Blanche Sewell
Cinematography: Sidney Wagner, Charles Rosher, Wilfred M. Cline
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, William Ferrari
Music: Johnny Green; Fantasia Mexican based on Aaron Copland's El Salon Mexico; songs by Luis martin Serrano, Angel Ortiz de Villajos, Bolanos Recio & Leocadio Martinez Durango, and Los Bocheros
Principal Cast: Esther Williams (Maria Morales), Ricardo Montalban (Mario Morales), Akim Tamiroff (Chato Vasquez), John Carroll (Jose "Pepe" Ortega), Mary Astor (Senora Morales), Cyd Charisse (Conchita), Fortunio Bonanova (Antonio Morales)
C-103m. Closed captioning.
By Margarita Landazuri
The onscreen credits contain the following written acknowledgment: "We wish gratefully to acknowledge the friendly cooperation of the Mexican government and the genuine hospitality of the Mexican people, without whose assistance the filming of this picture in their country would not have been possible." The film marked the American film debut of actor Ricardo Montalban, who had previously starred in Mexican films. Hollywood Reporter production charts and contemporary news items indicate that actor Carlos Ramirez was set for a featured role, but he did not appear in the released film. A September 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Leonard Smith was set as the director of photography, but the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined. News items in Hollywood Reporter indicate that prior to the start of principal photography, some shooting took place in Puebla and Mexico City, Mexico in October and November 1945. It is possible that Smith shot these sequences but they were not included in the film. Most of the picture was filmed in Mexico in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puebla and Querétaro. A December 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that M-G-M restored to its original state the Hacienda San Antonio Chatlou, which was used as a location for the fiesta sequences. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. The Variety reviewer called the picture a "Technicolor trailer for Mexican-American goodwill."