Mexican cinema 1930-1950
After the Mexican Revolution, Mexico’s film industry went through a period of stagnation due to political issues and instability and a lack of funding. Around 1930 the Mexican film industry was re-engaged by means of good and not so good films – the latter ones being of low quality and containing poor arguments. During World War II the Mexican cinema reached its Golden Age, greatly due to the support of North American movie studios which reinforced existing Mexican studies as a mass-media strategy to keep control over this country’s market.
Mexican cinema of the 1930s
In the early 1930s, Sergei M. Eisenstein, renowned among filmmakers worldwide, reached one of his most important moments during his time in Mexico. Unfortunately, as it has happened throughout history to other prodigy filmmakers, Eisenstein’s Mexican adventure ended suddenly, leaving behind “¡Qué viva México!”, one of the first sound films, between 1930-1932.
Incorporating sounds in movies represented an opportunity to develop a national film industry in Mexico. “Santa” (1931) by Antonio Moreno, “El compadre Mendoza” (1933) by Fernando de Fuentes, and “La mujer del puerto” (1933) by Arcade and Boytler are some of the most successful films produced during this period.
The Golden Age of Mexican cinema (mid ‘30s – ‘40s), good and bad movies
The Golden Age of Mexican cinema joined together a thriving industry with remarkable filmmakers and superb artists which allowed to produce great quality and commercially successful films. “Allá en el Rancho Grande” (1936) by Fernando de Fuentes, “Ahí está el detalle” (1940) by Juan Bustillo Oro, “¡Ay, qué tiempos aquellos, señor Don Simón!” (1941) by Julio Bracho, “María Candelaria (Xochimilco)” (1943) by Emilio Fernández, “Los tres García” (1946) by Ismael Rodríguez and “Nosotros los pobres” (1947) by Ismael Rodríguez are some of the most important films produced during that time.
In his book, “Luz en la oscuridad”, Francisco Sánchez tells the story of Mexican cinema in the 1930s, sustaining that even though the armed movement was fading in institutions around 1910-1911, the topic was still fresh enough to bring to life two great movies directed by Fernando de Fuentes: “El compadre Mendoza” (1933) and “Vámonos con Pancho Villa” (1935).
Ironically, Francisco Sánchez considers some movies from the following year and by the same director, Fernando de Fuentes, among those films that were not so good such as: “Allá en el Rancho Grande”, featuring Tito Guizar singing, “Crucita” featuring the beauty Esther Fernández, and the courageous merrymakers and gamblers, as sung in “El corrido de Juan Charrasqueado”, showing the most conventional films; one of the greatest interpreters was the singer Jorge Negrete, a handsome pop icon with a powerful voice thrown into the limelight in the modest film “¡Ay, Jalisco, no te rajes” by Joselito Rodríguez in 1941.
Other remarkable films of this era include “Los tres García” (19479) by Ismael Rodríguez which made Pedro Infante, a Mexican idol, famous; soon after that, he features in “Nosotros los pobres”, one of the most watched Mexican films in addition to “Ustedes los ricos” and “Pepe el toro”. During those years, Pedro Infante also features in films such as “¿Qué te ha dado esa mujer?”, “A toda máquina”, “Ahí viene Martín Corona” “Dos tipos de cuidado”, “Oveja negra”, “El inocente”, “Escuela de vagabundos” and “Escuela de rateros”.
In the 1940s a great globally known comedian, Mario Moreno Cantinflas, became famous. He jumped from the marquees at the circus to the big screen creating his own globally known language in comedy, referred to as “cantinflesque”.
Another rising star during that period was Pardavé, one of the most important comedic actors in the history of Mexican cinema who was known for turning frowns upside down, mockery into joy and failure into life. According to Nalle in the chronicle “Joaquín Pardavé, el actor de mil caras”, Pardavé was able from a very young age to understand the rhythm of the streets in the marquees and zarzuelas.
According to Javier García-Galiano, on the introduction chapter of the book: “Roberto Gavaldón, filmmaker”, Roberto Gavaldón rose as a filmmaker with great technical skill, working on movies with carefully thought themes written by renowned authors, and a comprehensive team of artists and film industry professionals such as: José Revueltas, Mauricio Magdaleno, Luis Spota, Manuel Fontanals, Gunther Gerzso, Alex Phillips, Gabriel Figueroa, Raúl Lavista, and others.
Emilio “El Indio” Fernández (actor), Mauricio Magdaleno (writer), Gabriel Figueroa (photography), Dolores del Río (actress) and Pedro Armendáriz (actor) were contacted by Films Mundiales studio in 1943 to take part in the most successful project from its time. Their first work together was “Flor silvestre”, the film in which Dolores del Río made her début in Mexican cinema.
Subsequently, Emilio Fernández filmed “María Candelaria”, winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1946. Fernández, who had developed his own style had such a great impact in the industry that his interpretation of rural Mexico became a stereotype in the filmmaking industry and the mental picture of Mexico around the world.
Mauricio Garcés became another icon in Mexican cinema during these years, known as a hunk, a womanizer and a Casanova with a great sense of humor.
Mexican cinema in the 1950s
Mexican cinema in the ‘50s was greatly changed on one hand by unionism, which corruptly imposed themes and actors, and on the other hand by censorship or self-censorship imposed by the private sector which managed the funding for movies and infested the national and Latin American screens with underdeveloped films that played an alienating vile role. The sole purpose of these projects was getting money from the public funds of the Cinematography Bank as well as the box-office success of films that only intended to take advantage of a potentially illiterate audience. Poor quality films made during this period are now known in Mexico as “churros”. New filmmakers looking to work on projects during this period not only had to deal with unionist bureaucracy but also with governmental paternalism.