CREPÚSCULO aka TWILIGHT (1945)

Since 2014 Once Upon A Screen’s Citizen Screen has been celebrating the contributions of the Latino community in classic films with her annual “HOLLYWOOD’S HISPANIC HERITAGE BLOGATHON.” And that time is upon us again:

Now listen, if we leave it to Hollywood and our old ‘Good Neighbor Policy’ you may see a whole array of Latino cultures represented by nothing but big sombreros, bullfights and banditoes. Whole civilizations were built without Hollywood’s and America’s help. If one takes a gander of different Latino cultures from their OWN vantage point and film industry, that is a whole different kettle of frijoles. ( Ugh!! ) A few years ago MoMA ( the Museum of Modern Art ) presented their “Mexico At Night” series of Mexican film noir from Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema. I went a couple of times, seeing the staggering beauty of Dolores Del Rio in her native language, and the force of Nature that is María Félix who blew me out of my seat. For my entry this year, I’d like to write just a little about 1945’s “Crepúsculo”. 

This movie is more melodrama than film noir. And with my third screening at the MoMA I was becoming more and more familiar with the 40’s Mexican stars. Arturo de Córdova brings a smile to my face and I’m beginning to know him. He’s a good solid leading man who probably wasn’t going to get those chances opposite Hollywood’s elite leading ladies. I looked forward to seeing what scrapes he’s going to get into with THIS film. ( I write of another of his films here ).

In “Crepúsculo” ( aka “Twilight” ) de Córdova plays a successful surgeon tortured by a guilty conscience. Told in flashback, de Córdova troubles begin when he goes to a sculptor’s studio before his European trip to meet his good friend, and becomes mesmerized by a statue…but when he sees its live human model, he’s a complete goner. ( Things happen instantaneously in Mexican films…they don’t waste time, boy. ) Lucía, the model ( played by the beautiful Gloria Marín ) winds up becoming the wife of his good friend Ricardo ( actor Manuel Arvide ).

  
The Wife                                           The Best Friend

De Córdova has done nicely to resist temptation. ( If nothing else, these movies teach me no one can resist a Mexican woman ) but to no avail. He wants her and they have an affair.

“Because I can’t bear the torture of seeing you and of not seeing you. I don’t know which of the two is more intolerable.”

De Córdova: “What I can’t believe is that you fled from me that day.”
Marín:           “I did it so that our love would be perfect…after that perfect night. You don’t know that by losing you, I hoped to win you forever.”
DeCórdova: “You destroyed my life!”
Marín:         “I destroyed myself as well.”

Lucía has a younger sister, Cristina ( ~ Lilia Michel with Hollywood girl-next-door looks ) who develops a crush on the older de Córdova. This is the hornet’s nest de Córdova  walks into when finally fulfilling a social obligation to spend the weekend at his friend’s house. He’s been trying to stay away from Lucía, but she’s not having that and wants to risk every thing.

  

Aye yi yi.

  
[ Sheesh! The lovers do a poor job of hiding their guilt. ]

Something’s gotta give, and does during that weekend. Desire, resistance, recriminations, pregnant pauses, crashing music and a lot of cigarette-smoking take place in this movie. De Córdova’s got it bad…and that ain’t good. Neither de Córdova nor Marín can keep the guilt to themselves which makes her husband suspicious. All three have voice-overs and close-ups letting us know just what’s going on inside them.

…And the husband has a plan of his own.

How will this all play out. I’ll not spoil anything for you. You can see the movie for yourself.

We shouldn’t wait for the once~a~year annual reason to explore Mexican cinema, or acknowledge the contributions of creativity throughout the Hispanic diaspora in movies. Aurora at Once Upon A Screen offers a great guide, with these blogathons to get you started:

 

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IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND (1951)

 

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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 Gavaldónde Córdova is cocksure and confident…the perfect mark.

PALM ( IIII )

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

PALM ( VI )

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. 

PALM ( II ) PALM ( VII )

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.

PALM ( III )

…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. 

PALM ( V )

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. 

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

If you wish to play catch~up to explore Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage click on these banner for 2014 and 2015.

 

HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE ( 2014 ) - 1HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE BLOGATHON ( 2015 )
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“LA OTRA” ( 1946 )

DEL RIO

“The two most beautiful things in the world are
the Taj Mahal and Dolores del Rio.” – George
Bernard Shaw.

But more on that later…

Aurora’s Once Upon A Screen blog is hosting its second annual Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon. And what better way for me to contribute to Hollywood’s Latino history than by talking a little about one of the most beautiful women who ever graced classic films.

HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE Banner #1

I wanted to explore something new and exciting so I checked out the Mexican film noir series held at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art back in July. I saw Dolores Del Rio in “La Otra”. When it started and I saw twin sisters and the giant dog I disappointedly said to myself “Dead Ringer”!!!  I was disappointed only b’cuz I knew what was going to happen in this movie as I’d already seen the Bette Davis 1964 film.

Well I was wrong. Dead wrong.

DOLORES ( III )

Though both movies share the same plot, “La Otra” ( “The Other One” ) is darker, more intense and more sensual than the 1964-version and that is for one reason and one reason alone: Dolores Del Rio. Del Rio does a good job establishing two distinct personalities in playing twins. Yes, one is good ( María ) and ‘la otra’ is bad ( Magdalena ); but the extra kick is to see María still keep her own persona while impersonating Magdalena. See, it’s not only about being different. It’s what preys on the mind of a good person who does something wrong. Very very wrong.

This is film noir and noir is all about descent. And so…Del Rio descends.

LA OTRA ( II )

There is something about good María that is ultimately really not so good. She can’t seem to be happy. She can’t seem to be satisfied. She wants. She lacks. There’s an under-lying resentment of what her rich sister possesses, and trust me Magdalena doesn’t make it easy. Her rich husband has just died so she has it all. She flaunts her wealth. The good María has a faithful boyfriend who loves her. But in not recognizing, acknowledging what she has, María throws away all that’s worth having…for money.

Like any good old film noir from the time period, we follow our hapless heroine down a slippery slope of bad decisions paved with guilt and fear. Hell, as soon as she gets into her sister’s rich digs, María gets spooked, scared and pops some Nembutals. ( Guess this murder / identity-stealing thing is not all it’s cracked up to be. ) I love that the plot sticks close to her and doesn’t stray to extraneous characters. We see her machinations of deceipt up close and personal:

  • María’s cold-blooded murder,
  • forging legal documents in an ingenious way,
  • writing out checks like there’s no tomorrow,
  • duping people she doesn’t know ( but who knew her sister ).

There’s also the emotional toll all this takes on María that Del Rio delivers equally well.

LA OTRA ( VI )

Entering the plot, Magdalena’s lover re-surfaces. Uh-oh. And he’s complicit in having helped Magdalena murder her rich husband. Double uh-oh. And María is aware of NONE of this when she takes over her sister’s identity! ( You can imagine how many UH-0Hs THAT would be ). Now, she may act haughty enough to end the relationship, but ye olde ex-lover Fernando ( played with infuriatingly sleazy smarminess by Víctor Junco ) proffers blackmail…with “benefits.” Poor girl. I don’t what’s worse for María:

  • giving up her ill-gotten gains to this blackmailing sleazebag or
  • going to bed with this blackmailing sleazebag…a man she doesn’t even know

It’s a cinch our María was a virgin, so this turn of events has got to be a triple whammy of degradation. He doesn’t care if she doesn’t love him. Fernando still gleefully collects his pound of flesh. Aye yi yi, the irony!

DOLORES ( IIII )

Even more ironic is María’s faithful boyfriend, Detective Robérto Gonzalez ( played with poignant sadness by Agustín Irusta ) sent to investigate María’s ( ‘fake’ ) murder and later, the theft of a valuable painting. Here is the scene that really gets me. In the detective’s consoling and questioning the fake Magdalena, Robérto speaks of his deep love for María. How trippy it is for María to hear herself spoken about in the third person. And trippier still…María as Magdalena speaks of a lost love TO her lost love. Upping the tension, Robérto, even thinks the faux Magdalena SOUNDS like María. But of course that’s impossible, he thinks. I LOVED and felt that daisy chain of incredible regret and heartbreak from both the Detective and María. There’s something epically Shakespearean about unknowingly talking to the person you want to talk to. ( Don’t worry…I won’t bring up “Vertigo” and the duality issue. Sheesh!  )

The film uses one unfortunate musical element in its score – the Theremin – which brings to mind 1950’s sci-fi films I love. I knew silly music would set this modern audience off on a tangent of giggles, which I hoped wouldn’t happen. I did hear those slightly annoying giggles for some of the other films to be featured in this festival – you know, when the action would tip the scale into melodramatic territory. But what modern Gringo audiences have to understand, is that besides this film being from another era, the Latin culture has flourishes of emotions and pregnant silences that other cultures don’t quite use; it is a teensy soap opera, but ssssssssssshhhh!

LA OTRA ( V ) DOLORES ( X )

“La Otra” follows Dolores Del Rio closely as her best-laid plans turn to guacamole. She is wonderful in it and is in almost every scene. Her training in silent films helps her wordlessly depict anger, fear, love and regret. The writers ( Robérto GavaldónRian James and José Revueltas ) add some twisty turns as Del Rio spins a web that only entraps her in its matrix. As I watch her in this I’m perplexed as to why she wasn’t really used a lot in 1940’s Hollywood. ( Well yeah, sadly, we all know the major “why” ).  But even if she didn’t get those A-list parts Stanwyck and Davis tackled, ( or be in “woman’s pictures” ), she could have still been in the very next tier of talent. She is a perfect actress for the forties. I think Del Rio would have made a marvelous Lady MacBeth; I can see her ambition…being the woman behind the man. And I can definitely see her be the woman who pushes the man…off a cliff. Hollywood should have used her more.

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DOLORES ( IX )

“When I returned to Mexico, I joined with people eager to create the Mexican cinema. We were full of dreams and had no money whatsoever, but we were able to achieve something and open markets for our films all over the world.” – Dolores Del Rio

Forgive me this one minute of gushing before I turn the floor back over to Aurora’s blogathon. Apparently I don’t truly know Del Rio’s career. Surely I know her name, recognize her in photos, and have seen Flying Down to Rio Bird of Paradise along with bits, pieces and snippets of her other films. I know her but I’m not deeply familiar with her. Imagine the full Monty of sitting in the first row at MoMA, seeing this movie on the big screen and this face appears…in close-up:

DOLORES DEL RIO...DOLORES ( VIII )

DOLORES ( VII )

DOLORES DOLORES DEL RIO DOLORES ( IV ) DOLORES ( XI )

I couldn’t believe it. I was hit for a loop! Those close-ups director Robérto Gavaldón gives Del Rio show a regal ancient flawlessness I’ve never seen in movies, and I’m talking GeneHedy, Vivien, Elizabeth, Ava and Jean. And then the mole, just puts everything in high gear. Honestly, I didn’t even understand what I was looking at. I’m going to have to re-read my friend’s, Fernando’s post for last year’s Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon on Dolores Del Rio. You can click the Ramón Novarro banner for more of this year’s crop of posts…or Cesar Romero’s for last year’s as well:

HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE Banner #2  HISPANIC HERITAGE BLOGATHON 2014

 

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