Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Robert Stack, Joy Page, Gilbert Roland, Virginia Grey, John Hubbard, Katy Jurado, Ismael Pérez, Rodolfo Acosta, Ruben Padilla, Darío Ramírez
Written by: James Edward Grant, based on a story by Budd Boetticher, Ray Nazarro
Directed by: Budd Boetticher
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 124
Date: 04/26/1951
IMDB

Bullfighter and the Lady (1951)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Budd and Guts

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmmaker Budd Boetticher was once an athlete who traveled to Mexico, fell in love with bullfighting and trained to be a matador himself. This led to a job as a consultant on the movie Blood and Sand (1941), which led to a filmmaking career of his own. The opportunity to make Bullfighter and the Lady, produced by John Wayne and loosely based on his own story, must have been a dream for him. Indeed, it was on this film that he decided to use "Budd" instead of "Oscar."

Robert Stack stars as Chuck Regan, an arrogant American who visits Mexico and decides to learn bullfighting, partly to impress the beautiful Anita de la Vega (Joy Page). He begins working with the veteran Manolo Estrada (Gilbert Roland), but his ego gets him in trouble, and he must eventually redeem himself.

The bullfighting sequences are clearly done with love and and ferocious attention to detail, almost documentary-like, a uniquely personal movie for its time, but the rest of the movie is only fairly average. Nevertheless, Boetticher earned his first and only Oscar nomination for Best Story, even though the movie was heavily edited from its original 124 minutes down to 87 minutes. Happily, the new DVD and Blu-ray release by Olive Films restores it to full length.

I was lucky enough to see this on the big screen, along with Seven Men from Now at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley in 2001 with Mr. Boetticher in attendance. After the films ended, he talked and answered questions late into the night, and was still talking when I had to leave to catch the last train back into San Francisco. Sadly, he died in November of that year.

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