Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fiesta with Esther Williams, A Short Review

I'm a big fan of Esther Williams movies. I don't get a thrill from the Busby Berkeley-like swim routines. I don't even get much of a thrill from Miss Williams. But, she was often given fine scripts and paired with outstanding leading men. One good example was Fiesta (1947), which I saw for the umpteenth time again recently.

Here's a short review...

Esther Williams shines in one of her better vehicles here. She's ably co-starred with a very young and stunningly talented Ricardo Montalban. In this American cinema debut film he acts well, plays a piano concerto with gusto, and dances superlatively. The evidence for the last is on display in a couple of outstanding numbers with the best female dancer in film history, Cyd Charisse, who has a minor supporting role.

The story is an echo of a romantic Renaissance tale adapted to then-modern Mexico. A proud father and famous ex-bullfighter pressures his son, Montalban, into becoming a bullfighter. But the son's real love is composing music (supplied behind the scenes by the American genius Aaron Copland). Complications ensue, including Esther secretly taking his place in the ring after a family argument. All is resolved to everyone's satisfaction at the end, including stoic Mother, played by Mary Astor in one of her best roles.

Along the way there's a superb rendition of Copland's El Salón México. We're also treated to one of MGM's finest dance duets with Montalban and Charisse, choreographed by the ABT ballet master Eugene Loring.

All of the supporting cast do a fine job as well — with Akim Tamiroff the standout as loyal sidekick and second father figure to Esther. There are also a few bloodless bullfights (displaying some fine balletic moves all their own) to flesh out the entertainment.

More than the usual '40s MGM musical froth, there's some real substance here - the importance of family bonds, the value of honor, pursuing a life's passion - topped off with some extraordinary music and dance.

No comments: