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Monday, February 22, 2016

FIESTA -- Movie Review by Porfle

FIESTA (1947) was shot on location in Mexico and features Esther Williams and handsome young newcomer Ricardo Montalban as twins Maria and Mario. Their father, Señor Morales, once a celebrated bullfighter forced into retirement by a crippling injury, has high hopes for Mario to take his place in the ring.

But Mario has other ideas--he dreams of being a concert pianist and composer, while it is Maria who aspires to carry on the family bullfighting tradition. Well, it's a cinch things are going to get complicated before the eventual happy ending.

Esther and Ricardo make a smart-looking couple in their matching outfits and are a likable brother and sister act. I was surprised to find Montalban to be an excellent dancer, as he demonstrates several times during the film.

Cyd Charisse, not quite the stunner she would become and hardly resembling the seductive vamp from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (although there's a hint of it in the red-hot flamenco number she performs with Ricardo), plays Mario's devoted fiancee Conchita.

Esther barely gets close to the water in this one, giving her a chance to prove that she can carry a role without breast-stroking her way through it.

Montalban's intense performance as the musician who's expected to be a bullfighter is a major component of the film, but the main draw is seeing Esther's Maria fulfilling her brother's destiny in the ring by posing as him.

Esther looks way tuff in her form-fitting matador outfits and moves beautifully. Little matter that the matador stand-in doing the actual bullfighting bears scant resemblance to her.

Akim Tamiroff is very likable as the Morales family's old friend, Chato Vasquez, while John Carroll as "Pepe Ortega" convincingly plays a man who wants to forget all this bullfighting nonsense and get married to Maria ASAP.

Fortunio Bonanova (CITIZEN KANE, KISS ME DEADLY) is good as the prideful and unyielding father, Señor Morales. Mary Astor (THE MALTESE FALCON) adds extra class as his long-suffering wife, who hates bullfighting and wants Mario to follow his own dreams.

FIESTA is filled with lots of festive Mexican music, including a pre-rock'n'roll version of "La Bamba", and Montalban deftly mimes playing piano to Aaron Copland's thrilling "El Salon Mexico" in one of the film's most effective scenes.

But best of all are the large-scale bullfighting sequences, which should give Esther's fans a whole new appreciation for the sport. She's one muy bonita matador.



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