It is amazing how often, even with hundreds of channels, there is nothing on TV. At this time of day, I tend to favor movies. I seem to like shoot 'em ups, comedies, and then everything else. I don't think I have ever watched a musical on purpose. Today, it didn't really matter what I watched. There was something therapeutic in the surfing and searching. As Seinfeld once noted in his eponymic sitcom, I was not really watching TV, I was more interested in what else was on TV.
Like some kind of modern prospector, I was looking for some nugget of gold. Harold and Kumar? Interesting but not today. The Road Warrior, the Mel Gibson original? Almost. Diary of a Mad Black Woman? Mmmm... no. I, Robot... oooh, science fiction with Will Smith. I made a mental footnote of the channel and kept surfing. Dr. Strangelove? Bull Durham? One of my all time favorites, Groudhog Day. Nah, nope, uh uh. TCM, not surprisingly, was airing a black and white movie. Wallace Beery was starring. This had possibilities.
It was movie I was not familiar with. Besides Treasure Island, how many Wallace Beery movies could I name anyway? This one was called Viva Villa! The film is a Hollywood, thus fictionalized, biography of the Mexican revolutionary Franciso "Pancho" Villa (1878 - 1923). Villa joined the cause of Francisco Madero and helped him to overthrow of Porfirio Diaz. Pancho Villa is a Mexican hero often being portrayed as being dedicated to bettering the existences of the peasants.
Wallace Beery? Really? He was a horrible Villa. It was like he was portraying Wallace Beery pretending to be Pancho Villa. His tried to speak in a Spanglish accent and, well, he sounded ridiculous. Too much of his Missouri roots came through in his Mexican accent. Everyone else in the film had much better accents. Oddly, he wasn't much different as Long John Silver but was infinitely more believable to me. It mattered not. This MGM film was a success back in 1934 when it was made. It was nominated for a few Academy Award categories but being up against classics like It Happened One Night, The Thin Man, and The Gay Divorcee, it did not win. It grossed $1.9 million and a profit of $87,000. These are minimal numbers by today's standards but solid performance the era in which it was made. The crowds liked the movie and its star, Wallace Beery.
I suppose TCM showed this film in honor of it being Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo honors the Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862, in which the Mexican army defeated the French. The holiday is bigger in the US than in Mexico and often confused with Mexican Independence Day here. Mexican Independence Day is actually September 16. It kind of all makes sense that TCM would show this caricature of Pancho Villa played by Wallace Beery for a Mexican holiday that we have blown out of proportion. I was definitely entertained by it all.