For Reel

The Girl from Mexico (1939)
June 20, 2016, 12:35 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Leslie Goodwins
2.5 Stars
The Girl from MexicoAfter she was discovered as a replacement for Dolores del Rio in 1927’s The Gaucho, Lupe Velez had success in transitioning to sound pictures but the studios didn’t quite know what to do with her. She was hot-shotted around town, appearing in supporting roles for Fox, United Artists, and RKO Radio Pictures, and wasn’t quite in her element until the latter of those studios cast her in The Girl from Mexico, an unexpected hit that would launch a series of films that would brand her as Carmelita, the Mexican Spitfire. In the first installment, Velez is discovered by New York ad man Dennis (Donald Woods), who brings her to the big city with a nice contract. Unable to restrain the firecracker that is Carmelita, Dennis finds his life set into disarray when his fiance (Linda Hayes) gets jealous and his uncle Matt (Leon Errol) indulges Carmelita’s every desire to see the town. Woods is a poor romantic pairing with Velez—as a performer, he is level-headed and calm, but not in a way that compliments Velez’s schtick. The biggest problem is that the two simply have no sexual chemistry, and Woods as the straight man tends to treat Velez more as a pet than as a love interest (which is also undoubtedly part of the script, which sees Carmelita as little more than an exotic animal run roughshod over a bourgeois family). There are some laughs here and there, and Velez is both stunning and capable of delivering lines like, “Love is a wonderful thing. It makes your heart go bumpety-bumpety-bump… like a baby falling down the stairs!” with such an irresistible enthusiasm that she keeps audiences laughing with the film rather than at it. If she deserves better material (and a better co-star), one can see why audiences would want to revisit the character over the next several years.

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