Viva Villa! (1934) - Rotten Tomatoes

Viva Villa!1934

Viva Villa! (1934)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Viva Villa! Photos

Movie Info

A far from factual filmed biography of Mexican patriot Pancho Villa, Viva Villa! was written by lengendary screenwriter Ben Hecht. We first meet the young Villa when his father is beaten to death after protesting Diaz' seizure of the Mexican peons' land. Pancho exacts a temporary revenge by knifing one of his father's killers, then heads for the hills, where he organizes a band of renegades. As he "matures," Pancho is played by child actor Phillip Cooper and adult star Wallace Beery. Though ruthless in his treatment of the rich, Pancho is a hero to the poor, who receive the spoils of Villa's raids. Befriended by American reporter Johnny Sykes (Stuart Erwin), Villa becomes internationally famous thanks to Sykes' articles concerning his exploits. Pancho also finds a strong ally in Don Felipe de Castillo (Donald Cook), who introduces the rebel bandit to Madero (Henry B. Walthall), the leader of the peon revolt. Madero convinces Villa to join forces with him, the better to oust the Diaz regime. His principal rival in this goal is ambitious General Pascal (Joseph Schildkraut), who intends to set up an even more despotic regime once Diaz is eliminated. Emerging victorious in his fight against the federales, Villa is encouraged to go back home by Madero. Illiterate and dangerously naïve, Villa quickly runs into trouble with the new government, giving Pascal a chance to humiliate his former "comrade in arms." Later, Pascal shows his true colors by assassinating Madero and assuming control of Mexico. Thirsting for revenge, Villa and his men go on a bloody rampage, culminiating in the ritualistic murder of the treacherous Pascal (he is staked out on an anthill and covered with honey). Made president of Mexico upon the elimination of Pacal, Villa once more finds himself in over his head. Unable to deal with political infighting, Villa retires to his ranch. One day, after running into his old friend Johnny Sykes (Stu Erwin), Villa is shot and mortally wounded by his onetime friend Don Felipe, who holds Pancho responsible for the death of his sister Teresa (Fay Wray). As he dies, Villa begs Johnny to tell him what his epitaph will be. Improvising quickly, Johnny tells of Villa's love for Mexico and his many accomplishments. Partially filmed on location in Mexico, Viva Villa was plagued with a multitude of production problems, not least of which was the diplomatic gaffe committed by Lee Tracy, the film's original Johnny Sykes: While standing on a balcony watching a military parade, an inebrieated Tracy relieved himself on the troops below and was immediately fired. Another crisis arose when the Mexican government objected to star Wallace Beery, on the grounds that Beery usually played villains or buffoons. Despite these and other setbacks, Viva Villa was finally completed under the assured directorial hand of MGM troubleshooter Jack Conway and the expert supervision of David O. Selznick. Though some critics objected to the film's violence, Viva Villa was a financial success.


Wallace Beery
as Pancho Villa
Fay Wray
as Teresa
Donald Cook
as Don Felipe
Joseph Schildkraut
as Gen. Pascal
Stuart Erwin
as Johnny Sykes
David Durand
as Bugle Boy
Phillip Cooper
as Villa as a Boy
Frank Puglia
as Villa's Father
John Merkyl
as Pascal's Aide
Harry Cording
as Majordomo
Sam Godfrey
as Prosecuting Attorney
Tom Ricketts
as Grandee
James Martin
as Mexican Officer
Francis McDonald
as Villa's Man
Harry Semels
as Soldier
Julian Rivero
as Telegraph Operator
Bob McKenzie
as Bartender
Dan Dix
as Drunk
Paul Stanton
as Newspaperman
Mischa Auer
as Military Attache
John Davidson
as Statesman
Brandon Hurst
as Statesman
Leonard Mudie
as Statesman
Henry Armetta
as Mendoza Brother
Adrian Rosley
as Mendoza Brother
Hector V. Sarno
as Mendoza Brother
Arthur Treacher
as English Reporter
William Von Brincken
as German Reporter
Andre Cheron
as French Reporter
Michael Visaroff
as Russian Reporter
Shirley Chambers
as Wrong Girl
George Regas
as Don Rodrigo
Clarence Wilson
as Jail Official
View All

Critic Reviews for Viva Villa!

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (1)

It's a big, impressive production which sets out to make Wallace Beery's Pancho Villa appear as a somewhat sympathetic and quasi-patriotic bandit. But Beery's characterization... lets Pancho down too much.

February 23, 2012 | Full Review…

The whole film fails as a social document; revolutionary ideals become purposeless when there are no causes.

February 3, 2021 | Full Review…

As it is, we have a relentless piece of entertainment.

April 17, 2020 | Full Review…

This picture is noisy, violent and occasionally brutal. It is also spectacular, authoritative and intensely interesting. Wallace Beery as Pancho Villa has never been better. A picture for the hardier-minded.

July 22, 2019 | Full Review…

There is also no denying the fact that Wallace Beery is not everybody's Villa.

June 12, 2019 | Full Review…

A sparky Hecht screenplay enlivens this high-gloss western.

January 31, 2012 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Viva Villa!

Wallace Beery plays Villa as a stereotype which takes away from the role that Pancho Villa played in the history of Mexico and frankly makes them all a bit ignorant for following him. We need a more accurate portrayal.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

Viva Villa! Quotes

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