For Reel

Mexican Spitfire (1940)
June 20, 2016, 12:42 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Leslie Goodwins
3.5 Stars
Mexican SpitfireWhen The Girl from Mexico, a low-budget programmer starring Lupe Velez, found unexpected success in connecting with audiences, RKO Radio Pictures rushed a sequel only six months later titled Mexican Spitfire, giving the namesake to a series that would last a total of eight films. Unlike the Maisie series (which was happening concurrently with the Mexican Spitfire films), this second installment picks up almost exactly where the last one left off, including the same characters and continuing the action established in the first picture. And, in almost every way, it is a total improvement. For starters is that Leon Errol is treated as the asset that he was (so much so that he risks overexposure in a dual performance), and specifically the film handles his relationship with Velez remarkably well—their greeting at the beginning of the picture is a touching one, conveying the excitement of old friends reconnecting in a way that is entirely convincing. Furthermore, just as Errol’s contributions are recognized, screenwriters Joseph Fields and Charles E. Roberts find worthy material for Linda Hayes and Elisabeth Ridson as Dennis’ (Donald Woods) ex-fiance and aunt, who now conspire to reconnect the former lovers and push Carmelita out of the picture. If women fighting over a man is nothing unusual for the genre, the dynamic plays out in a progressive way if only because Carmelita is wrought as particularly crafty and not to be undone by simple tricks. Mexican Spitfire is constructed as a standard screwball comedy in the way that it indulges mistaken identities and romantic misunderstandings, but the unique characterizations and especially the relationship between Velez and Errol makes the formula feel new.

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