Thursday, April 1, 2010
Pepe (1960) George Sidney
This peculiar movie is interesting to watch for the dozens of cameo appearances by Hollywood stars, and to see the famed Mexican comedian, Cantinflas (Pepe). He’s treated disparagingly throughout the movie (“What are you, a juvenile delinquent?” “No, I’m a Mexican”) but always comes out on top. Along with Cantinflas, Shirley Jones and Dan Dailey play roles while everybody else plays themselves. Some of the writing is just hilarious with clever wordplay between the naive Pepe and those trying to take advantage of or mock him. There are too many stars to mention and if you’re not an old movie fan, you’ll miss many of them (even Jay North/Dennis the Menace makes an appearance).
Here a few favorite scenes to watch for and appreciate:
The great Ernie Kovacs playing an immigration officer when Pepe is passing through.
Bing Crosby crackin’ wise about Bob Hope.
Jack Lemmon appearing in his “Some Like It Hot” drag (“There’s got to be a better way of making a living. I don’t know how they stand it (removing high heels).”
Bobby Darin, with Andre Previn on the piano, giving a wonderful performance in the nightclub.
In the same nightclub, a dance sequence with Shirley Jones and talented dancers Matt Mattox (one of the brothers in Seven Brides...) and Michael Callan with a beautifully choreographed knife fight.
The scene with Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis showing off Cantinflas’ physical comedic abilities.
Dan Dailey doing an impression of Edward G Robinson, to Edward G Robinson.
Maurice Chevalier in a funny scene with Cantinflas and Dan Dailey centering around “Mimi” (do-do, re-re?).
Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin bantering with Cantinflas in the Sands Hotel (also watch for Cesar Romero with Cantinflas: “Voo doo?” “No, I do.”).
Card trick scene with Jimmy Durante - Cantinflas speaks his part almost entirely in Spanish and the whole scene is great.
So, some funny/clever dialogue, humorous cameos, the comedic talents of Cantinflas (who some call the Charlie Chaplin of Mexico), not much of a plot, several outstanding performances, and some nicely filmed Mexico street scenes (cinematography by Joseph MacDonald), make up this strange and sometimes entertaining movie. It’s certainly worth one watch.