It’s been my intention for a while now to dedicate some time to classic films from the golden age of Mexican Cinema, many of which I watched as a child on television much in the same manner as I did the Hollywood productions I fell in love with. A few months back while researching topics for the Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon I ran into De Peliculas Clasico, a Televisa-owned network dedicated to golden age Mexican films. I set my DVR to tape several, but haven’t had the time to watch any until today.
LAS ABANDONADAS (The Abandoned or Abandoned Women) directed by Emilio (El Indio) Fernandez is one of the many movies filmed in Mexico during the 1940s that depicts a strong, sympathetic female protagonist who ends up a woman of ill repute through no fault of her own. This theme was popular in Hollywood productions as well for some time. Circumstances, necessity and a society that judges unmarried mothers harshly make for a tough life, but despite the odds these women survive with dignity. LAS ABANDONADAS stars Dolores Del Rio as Margarita who is such a woman.
Before I continue I must mention that as I watched LAS ABANDONADAS I was surprised to see how similar its story is to Antonio Moreno’s SANTA (1931), Mexico’s first talking picture, which stars Lupita Tovar. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a remake, but the first part of the story is nearly identical. I also thought of King Vidor’s STELLA DALLAS (1937) as I watched – thematically these bear similarities as well as central to both stories are mothers who sacrifice all for their children.
In any case – in LAS ABANDONADAS the character of Margarita is abandoned by her fiance, finds out she’s pregnant, is outcast by her father and has to do what she can to survive. Life leads her to a brothel where Margarita climbs up the ranks until she is the most glamorous of hostesses all the while providing for her young son from afar. It is while she is at the top of her game that she meets General Juan Gomez (Pedro Armendariz) who is immediately taken with her. My absolute favorite moment in the movie, in fact, is when the General sees Margarita for the first time. The woman, who is now called ‘Margot’ is standing at the top of the grand staircase in the dance hall she works at. Standing at the foot of the stairs the General looks up and says “come down and prove to me you’re more than an illusion.”
Then… he literally sweeps Margot off her feet offering her the moon, the stars and a lifetime of happiness, which she feels unworthy to accept given her past. Margot’s also afraid to tell him she has a son. It turns out, however, that the General is a good man and is willing to take her son as his own…that is…before a twist in the story – the irony – that it’s his past that resurfaces to ruin their lives.
LAS ABANDONADAS is one of several movies Del Rio and Armendariz made together and it’s no wonder they became one of the most legendary couples in Mexican Cinema. Their chemistry is wonderful. Dolores delivers a great performance as Margarita. Aged 40 when she made the film Del Rio convincingly plays the character from a young girl to a glamorous prostitute and on to a poor old woman – a span of about forty years. For her efforts Dolores received the first of her four Ariel Awards (the Mexican equivalent of the Academy Award). ABANDONADAS also received Ariel nominations for Best Director, Best Actor (Armendariz), Best Actress in a Minor Role for Fanny Schiller, Best Actor in a Minor Role for Arturo Soto Rangel, Best Editing and Best Sound.
Pedro Armendariz is also fine as the General, a role not unlike several others he played – the tough, militant with romantic undertones. Armendariz like Dolores Del Rio is beautiful to look at. I’ll add that when he smiles the screen literally lights up. Handsome devil!
Note worthy – both Del Rio and Armendariz worked with director Emilio Fernandez on several movies – successfully. As their efforts translate to the silver screen the team creates a force to be reckoned with. So – if you get the chance to see it I highly recommend LAS ABANDONADAS. Those who saw it upon its release would agree. Despite the difficulties the movie had with censors who held up its release until “sexually suggestive” scenes were removed, it was both a critical and commercial success.
This is one of “El Indio’s” movies I have not yet seen! Now I’m dying to see it! Thanks for the review.
Beautiful review. I’d really love to watch it. Stella Dallas was an excellent movie. Barbara Stanwyck did a superb job in it.
Aurora, thanks for your review. I remember watching three of Dolores and Pedro’s films in 2008; this one, Bugambilia and Flor Silvestre and while I enjoyed them, the high expectations I had were not met. Perhaps the anticipation I had for years was so huge that it was unfair to the movies. Dolores has been an actress who has fascinated me early on. In general I found that the three films had not aged well in terms of the acting style. I will make a point of revisiting them. On the other hand, when I was finally able to Watch María Candelaria this year, it pretty much met my expectations and to me it is the best of the films they made together in México. They also co-starred with Henry Fonda in the USA in Ford’s marvelous, atmospheric and allegorical drama The Fugitive. As for Mexican films, to me Emilio Fernández La Perla, with Pedro Armendáriz y María Elena Marques, is the absolute masterpiece of the 1940s. Distinto Amanecer (1943), directed by Julio Bracho, starring the unique Andrea Palma and Pedro Armendáriz, arguably Mexico’s best actor is also good. I have been buying some Mexican films from the 1940s and 1950s with Jorge Negrete, Dolores, María Félix, Pedro Infante, Miroslava….which I must see soon!! 😃
Thanks so much for stopping by for a visit. I think your point is an important one in that the stylized acting does take some getting used to. Honestly, I don’t find it different than American b-pictures of the era, but more stylish. I have to revisit a few of the movies you mention myself.
It is always pleasure to stop at your “joint” 😉 Aurora. You know what? I think it depends on the actors. Some actors’ acting style, like for example Ann Harding’s is very natural (IMO) and doesn’t look outdated, but with others it is different. The thing is that to me at least, in some Latin American films of the ’40s and ’50s, the acting appears as somewhat melodramatic and artificial, bebit A or B pictures, which doesn’t happen to me with American or British films of that Era. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I am from Latin America. It happened to me especially with Dolores’ acting in those films, not with Pedro’s. Alltjis enlightening exchange has encouraged me to watch those films again. Thanks Aurora!! 😃
Aurora, sorry for the typos. It is so difficult to me when I write on an iPod….”bebit” meant to be “be it”….and “Alltjis” meant to be “All this”.
No worries! I do typos all over the place because I use an iPhone. No es facil. 🙂