Pancho Villa Films

Wednesday, March 16 by Mason Kaho

Pancho Villa is a legend in Mexico and his name is well-known around the world, making it no surprise that there are a number of Pancho Villa films floating around for your enjoyment. He led a daring revolution in Mexico in the mid-19th century and the stories of his bravery,and close calls make for great dramatic content. He was the subject of some of the earliest films ever made, and Hollywood even makes movies about him to this day.

  1. “And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself.” This Pancho Villa film was made for TV, and is one of the most expensive TV productions in history. Latin star Antonio Banderas plays the titular role—not Pancho Villa, as the title suggests—in a movie that is based on the making of a movie … specifically, a documentary called “The Life of General Villa,” which was made in 1914 but is now lost to history. Villa was an old man at the time the original film was made, and this movie shows some of the politics, big-studi fighting, and other issues that cropped up during the shooting, told through the eyes of the man who was put in charge of the project.
  2. “Villa Rides.” This Pancho Villa film stars the legendary Yul Brynner—who, being famously bald, sported a wig for the movie—as the revolutionary. Brynner’s pull on the project was so strong that he successfully demanded a script change; the original called for a cruel and violent Villa, which he was not comfortable with. Robert Mitchum shared top billing with Brynner and plays an American in Mexico in search of fortune. Charles Bronson also stars in the movie.
  3. “Viva Villa!” Wallace Beery, an actor who had 250 films and an Oscar to his credit, plays Villa in this Pancho Villa film. The original role was given to actor Lee Tracy, who was fired from the film after he got drunk and urinated off a balcony onto a—real-life—military parade. The movie was the biggest money maker of 1934 and was nominated for the Oscar for best picture. The film is adapted from a biography.
  4. “Life of Villa.” This Pancho Villa film is a documentary, made in 1912 when Villa was at the end of his life. It is a silent film, starring Villa himself and interspersing real footage with reenactments and fictitious creations to paint a portrait of Villa’s life. During filming of the movie, Villa insisted that the director shoot an actual execution-by-firing-squad of federal prisoners. Back in Hollywood, however, studio executives thought the footage was too graphic and cut it.
  5. “¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa!” This Pancho Villa film is different than many made about the man in that it is not an homage to him, but focuses on his cruelty and vicious tactics. The film is about a group of idealistic young men who decide to join up with Villa, only to realize he is a cruel leader who does not care about them. The movie was one of the first major film productions in Mexico, and while it bankrupted the film that made it, it is today considered one of the great films the country has produced.
Do you like this story?

COMMENTS

  1. March 16, 2011 10:58 pm

    DeeDee

    Re: The Antonio Banderas TV special.- Banderas actually portrayed Villa in this production. Villa had run out of money and was getting really bad American press during th course of the revolution, so he contacted the famous director D W Griffith and persuaded him to do an actual film of the war, in order to raise money. Banderas played Villa in the special and did a remarkable job of bringing this fascinating and controversial historical figure to life.