Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hollywood's Hispanic Heritage blogathon: TITO GUIZAR

Tito Guizar
1908 - 1999

The 1935 movie Under the Pampas Moon starring Warner Baxter features a charming musical interlude set at a Paris cafe.  The maitre d played by Paul Porcasi announces "Ladies and gentlemen, an internationally famous tenor is present this evening, Senor Tito Guizar."  Tito, and his guitar, then regale the crowd with Fox composer Cyril Mockridge's tune Veredeta to the delight of the crowd.  How does one become an internationally famous tenor?  Practice!

Tito Guizar was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.  Tito's parents had different visions for his future.  To please his father Tito attended Columbia University as a medical student, but encouraged by his mother also studied music.  Fans are grateful that music won out, opening many doors for the young man.  One of the doors in 1920s NYC led to nightclubs and speakeasies.  One can well imagine the good looking fellow with the golden voice being popular with the lady customers, and his classical repertoire making him a favourite with some of the more notorious habitues.  Doors to more legitimate concert halls such as Carnegie Hall also opened wide where, along with the popular classics, Tito treated audiences to his favourite ranchera songs.  

Los Angeles became Tito Guizar's home base of his radio program, Tito Guizar y su Guitar.  Appearances in film were the natural next step in his career.  Tito's eventual record of 45 film credits began with specialty spots in Hollywood shorts such as Rambling 'Round Radio Row and The Big Casino.  Eventually added to the list would be the likes of The Big Broadcast of 1938, St. Louis Blues with Dorothy Lamour, The Thrill of  Brazil with Ann Miller and Blondie Goes Latin with Penny Singleton.  The majority of Tito's movies were made in Mexico beginning with 1936s Alla en el Rancho Grande.  The film was extremely successful and gave Tito a place in movie history as the first big screen Mexican "singing cowboy".



For the next seven decades, Tito's career would include Mexican and American movies, television guest spots, recordings and concerts.  By his side for 57 years was his wife, singer Carmen Noriega, in a marriage Tito described as "idyllic".  The couple had three children and five grandchildren at the time of Tito's passing.

I first became acquainted with the talented singer through two movies he made with Roy Rogers.  Republic Studios boss Herbert Yates was a fellow who knew how to stretch or find a dollar, and pairing two such popular singing cowboys could only enhance profits south of the border.   Tito was billed third in these movies, right after Trigger.



In 1947s On the Old Spanish Trail screenwriter Sloan Nibley throws in everything but the kitchen sink.  Roy is on the hook for a $10,000 loan that the Sons of the Pioneers have taken out for their traveling tent show.  Singing star of the show Jane Frazee has caught the eye of gypsy/outlaw Tito Guizar to the ire of his on-again-off-again girlfriend Estelita Rodriguez.  The gypsies are following the tent show and are suspected of robberies that occur every place the show plays.  The robberies are tainting the show's image which is why the Sons of the Pioneers can't pay back the loan which puts Roy on the hook.  It just so happens that there is a $10,000 reward on the gypsy who is a suspect in the crimes.  Whew!  Oh, and did I forget to mention that Charles McGraw is the show's road manager?  PS:  Deputy Andy Devine walks in his sleep.

I can imagine some youngsters in the audience feeling perturbed with On the Old Spanish Trail for a preponderance of singing and romance, but director William Witney still gives us plenty of chases and fisticuffs.  Roy and Fred Graham, or Roy's stunt double Joe Yrigoyen and Fred, mix it up like they mean it.  Personally, I'm a fool for all the singing.  The title tune is melodic and Bob Nolan's Here is My Helping Hand nice and peppy.  Roy and Jane do a very nice job on My Adobe Hacienda.  Tito gives forth with a show stopping Guadalajara and a few bars of Donizetti's Una furtiva lagrima in the jailhouse.  The aria runs out of steam when, overcome with beauty, Andy Devine tries to sing along.

Estelita Rodriguez
1928 - 1966

A lot of the energy of the movie comes from Estelita Rodriguez, a talented singer/dancer/actress from Cuba.  At Republic Estelita specialized in stock Hispanic females of a fiery nature.  She may be most familiar to audiences today from the role of Consuelo in Rio Bravo.  Estelita and Tito were featured in three films together.  Her acting chops nicely complimented his appealing personality.


The old gang is reunited the following year for The Gay Ranchero.  In this Nibley/Witney outing there is a little more emphasis on action and comedy.  Estelita is as fiery as ever, but this character has the airs and wardrobe of a runaway heiress.  Tito is her on-again-off-again bullfighter/pilot boyfriend.  Jane Frazee and Andy Devine operate a small airline that transports customers to a spa run by the Sons of the Pioneers.  They also transport gold which is a magnet for crooks led by George Meeker.  Roy plays Sheriff Roy Rogers.

The crooks in this film mean business and even go so far as murdering two pilots.  The touching tribute to lost comrades is reminiscent of bigger budgeted flight pictures such as Only Angels Have Wings.  The final showdown between Roy and the last of the outlaws is an outstandingly staged moment in the film.  On the musical side Roy, Jane and the Pioneers have a big band style vocal of Wait'll I Get My Sunshine in the Moonlight which is quite enjoyable.  Tito's showstopper is Granada, along with the popular standard You Belong to My Heart.

Tito Guizar
"El pasado es polvo, el future, no mas una brisa. Si quieres ser feliz, vive por ahorita!"
The past is dust and the future a passing breeze. If you want to be happy, live for the moment!

The Gay Ranchero is a tighter film than On the Old Spanish Trail, but I find both pleasant entertainments that have a special place in my heart for introducing me to the wonderful "internationally famous tenor" Tito Guizar.


Kay (@KayStarStyle) of Movie Star Makeover and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen host Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage blogathon, October 11th and 12th.  There is much to appreciate.


25 comments:

  1. This is the first I've read about Tito and he is fa-bu-lous! Handsome and what a terrific voice. You referred to his being popular with lady customers and I can certainly see why.

    I'm going to look for more of him on YouTube. Thanks for posting this!

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    1. Isn't he dreamy? YouTube is full of wonderful clips. Tito's many fans have been busy.

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  2. What a lovely post. I've seen Tito in several of his Spanish-speaking films, more so than Hollywood productions, but have never seen Alla en el Rancho Grande, which was such a landmark movie for the Mexican film industry. Must see it! NOR did I know Tito's career was that long. I have seen On the Old Spanish Trail and The Gay Ranchero, however, and love how you describe them. Such a fun group of characters and both movies offer a great time. Also love your shout-out to Estelita. :)

    Terrific!! And a huge THANKS for taking part in the Hispanic Heritage event.

    Aurora

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    1. It was my pleasure to take part in this wonderful blogathon. I'm learning so much from so many. I'm so very pleased you liked my tribute to Tito.

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  3. I have fond memories of watching those two movies (and many other Roy Rogers films), and I still love re-watching a good musical B-Western every so often. And Tito Guizar had an amazing voice—even as a kid I was impressed by his "Granada."

    I agree with you about The Gay Ranchero being the better film—On the Old Spanish Trail has a bit of a muddled plot, which I thought lost steam a little in the second half, but there's lots of individual fun moments. I always got a kick out of the bit at the end where McGraw finally loses patience with Graham's antics and hauls off and socks him. It's always amusing when the villains get to quarreling among themselves. :)

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    1. Fred Graham was so funny in the scenes where was punch drunk. Who knew he had that in him?

      I've often wondered if Roy, Bob and Tito ever sat around the set having a jam session. I'd like to think so, and boy, would I have liked to have been there.

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  4. This was a lovely tribute, Caftan Woman! I also have fond memories of Roy Rogers' films and appreciate your salient comments!

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    1. Thank you. Those movies still hold up for me and its nice that the memories retain their luster.

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  5. Fabulous intro to Tito; I can't wait to find out more about this fabulous character. Thank you for sharing!

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  6. I enjoyed this very much because I'd never heard of Tito! I did recognize Estelita Rodriguez, from both RIO BRAVO (as you noted) and JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER (she wasn't the daughter, thank goodness).

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    1. Thanks, Rick. Estelita deserves a more detailed look. I bet you wouldn't even mind if she were a vampire!

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  7. A wonderful tribute, C.W. (And great life advice from Tito Guizar) I know I watched all the Roy Rogers films when I was a kid but darn if I can remember much about them. I just get a nice feeling when I see Roy and Dale and Trigger. But I do remember that Roy was the best horse back rider I think I've ever seen. I think his films may have made me a life long horse enthusiast even if I did live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. :) I don't remember Tito but I must have seen him. I'm going to check youtube. I like the idea of this blogathon, and what with me being a old Latina, I should have joined in. But truth to tell, I didn't hear of it until I saw your post.

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    1. Yvette, I'm so pleased you stopped by. You'll find tons of Tito Guizar clips on YouTube.

      I know what you mean about Roy's movies. The titles aren't always readily available in my memory as they start to run together. I still get a cozy, nice feeling watching Roy, Dale and the gang riding, singing and putting those bad guys in their place.

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  8. A very entertaining article about a person I had only a very fleeting knowledge of. I like westerns and I like musicals, so am always happy to visit a singing cowboy flick. Sounds like there's two here I need to investigate.

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    1. Thanks, Kevin.

      With Tito and Roy it's a battle of the fancy shirts!

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  9. Handsome guy alert! I hadn't heard of Tito before and your post got me really interested in him. He sure had talent and a nice piece of advice for us.
    Am I the only one who thinks that Tito Guizar y su Guitar is the best name for a radio show ever? :)
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)
    Kisses!
    http://www.criticaretro.blogspot.com.br/2014/10/alegria-e-sensualidade-douglas.html

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    1. D'oh! I don't know how I missed your article. Great piece on the legacy of Zorro.

      I'm glad to have given you a "handsome guy alert"! LOL

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