HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH is here once more ( Sept. 15th ~ Oct. 15th ) and in Hollywood’s Golden Era, Hispanics have been represented in a variety of ways. This month, the world of classic film blogs will feature the talents of many Hispanics in films. Two popular bloggers: ( Aurora ) ONCE UPON A SCREEN and ( Raquel ) OUT OF THE PAST will use all platforms of social media to feature the Latino experience in films. Look for the hashtag #DePelicula on Twitter, FaceBook, Tumblr and Instagram and peruse to your heart’s content.
In Film Noir, there is nothing better than to see a man engineer his own destruction. Maybe that’s why I love the genre. Arturo de Córdova is handsome enough and believable enough to fit that bill nicely. I made several trips to the Museum of Modern Art here in NYC to see their collection of Mexican films noir last summer during their Mexico At Midnight programming. Boy did I get an education in just how Mexico handled films from their golden age of cinema, and got an eye-fullllll! ( But more about María Félix another time. ) In “En La Palma De Tu Mano” ( “In the Palm Of Your Hand” ) directed by Roberto Gavaldón, de Córdova is cocksure and confident…the perfect mark.
He plays a psychic. A dyed-in-the-wool, crystal ball-gazing, palm-reading, sooth-saying, phony baloney. This film brings “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Nightmare Alley” to mind. I enjoy the chockful of plot “In the Palm Of Your Hand” has. De Córdova is a smooth operator. He has a long-term girlfriend who he:
- Sleeps with
- Takes for granted
- Uses to get her to funnel clients to him from her beauty salon
It’s an ingenious idea using salon customers; after all, a beauty salon is fraught with women letting their hair down < a-hem > and revealing all sorts of secrets, which in turn Psychic de Córdova pretends he knows. Why she does this for him is anybody’s guess in film noir; love, I suppose. Actress Carmen Montejo makes us sympathize with her for loving this cad. She’s a nice girl. Love. Obsession. You know how it goes. The girlfriend lets de Córdova know of a customer who has just come into a lot of pesos thanks to a conveniently deceased wealthy husband. This is de Córdova’s “victim” who’ll pay off big. A black widow. Ev’ry Noir needs one.
He’s not above lying, manipulating, bamboozling, blackmailing or sweet pillow-talking his way to get her money. This will be his last score because with her money, he can quit the phony sooth-sayer business and start anew with his girlfriend.
…And if you know film noir like I know film noir, you know that ain’t never gonna happen!
He calls the shots as he wades deeper and deeper into the Black Widow’s quicksand. The Widow is played by Leticia Palma. She’s cruelly beautiful and laughs in his face. But she has to play the game too if she wants de Córdova’s help. She gets him to:
- Dump his girlfriend ( Cad! Bastido! )
- Kill her nephew-in-law / lover
- Bury him and
- Dig him up again.
Ha!…And de Córdova thinks he’s calling the shots.
In film noir, bad decisions dig a hole for the hero. He’s not all bad. de Córdova does show an iota of compassion to an illiterate newspaper stand lady, whose son is in the military. Director Gavaldón has good command of suspense. He crafts a wonderfully tense moment when a pesky traffic cop offers to help the runaway couple ( Palma and de Córdova ) with a flat tire…while there’s a corpse in the trunk.
De Córdova is put through the ringer in this film. He goes from cocksure to frazzled to defeated. The hunter gets captured by the game. I will not spoil the ending for you. It is pure genius. It actually shows you fate doesn’t have to trip you up. It can stand in the corner and watch you hoist yourself on your own petard.
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If you wish to play catch~up to explore Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage click on these banner for 2014 and 2015.
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