Friday, June 10, 2011

And Still More Douglas Fairbanks: The Americano

I finally saw the last of the movies Douglas Fairbanks made in 1916, The Americano. I've updated the list of thumbnail reviews I posted last week, but in case you don't want to look back, here is what I wrote:

For the sake of love, justice and, of course, adventure, a young American mining engineer (Fairbanks) intervenes in a Latin American revolution. Although this a straight action-adventure picture, Fairbanks relies as much on wit and guile as physical prowess and given the picture's setting, it's a short step from here to The Mark of Zorro, the film that in 1920 established Fairbanks as history's first and greatest swashbuckling action hero. Alma Rubens plays the love interest.

A word of warning: Tom Wilson, playing the part of Fairbanks's sidekick, wears black-face makeup throughout to portray an African-American, which modern audiences will, at best, find insensitive if not outright offensive. I won't pretend to defend the use of black-face here or anywhere else other than to say that the practice was standard for the era.

Trivia: Filmed on location outside of Tijuana, Mexico, Fairbanks and his crew were taken hostage by one of the local militias fighting in that country's civil war. After paying a ransom, Fairbanks and his crew hustled themselves across the border and finished the film in San Diego, California.


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