Mexican Spitfire (film series)

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Vélez with Leon Errol in Mexican Spitfire (1940)

Mexican Spitfire refers to a series of seven comedy films released by the RKO Pictures between 1940 and 1943 starring Lupe Vélez and Leon Errol. The movies were a comedy featuring the character of Carmelita Lindsay (Lupe Vélez), a sympathetic and temperamental Mexican singer who leaves her career and her native country to meet Dennis Lindsay, an elegant and handsome American businessman. The series is a sequel of the 1939 film The Girl from Mexico which first introduced Carmelita and the other characters of the series. The argument is based mainly on the culture shock facing Carmelita in her new married life, especially when she gets to know the family and friends of her husband. She finds in her husband's uncle, Matthew 'Matt' Lindsay (Leon Errol), a friend and a perfect accomplice and companion of adventures, as they both get into trouble and situations usually caused by their scheming and by the volatile temperament of Carmelita. The plot often took a back seat to gags, many of them supposedly ad-libbed by Vélez and Errol during filming.

Films in the series[edit]

Each film is not simply a comedic film, but a satire of the cultural shock and stereotypes of the Mexican people (and Latin American people in general) in the American society at the time.

In popular culture[edit]

The series could well be considered as the direct antecedent of the sitcom Modern Family of the ABC. On Modern Family, the Colombian actress Sofía Vergara’s award-winning performance of Latina spitfire Gloria affirms the show’s nostalgic representation of white masculinity, helping to soothe racial anxieties through a familiar figure of domestic Latina femininity. At the same time, Vergara’s complex representation of Latina motherhood also provides a unique moment of visibility, creating a rupture in the show’s narrative of white resentment. Given the hypervisibility of negative news coverage about Latinos and the continuing invisibility of Latino characters on primetime television, Vergara/Gloria produces a potentially transformative representation of Latinidad at a time of increasing sociopolitical hostility towards Latino immigrants and ethnoracial minorities.
The performances of Latina spitfire characters beginning with Lupé Vélez and Dolores del Río’s Good Neighbor films in the 1940’s often focused on the comedy of errors created by intercultural miscommunication and the comedic tensions inherent in the romantic relationship between the Latina star and her white US paramour. (Vélez’s portrayals in a series of “Mexican Spitfire” movies generated the popular Latina stereotype). Also referred to as the “female clown,” the ideological role of the spitfire archetype was to make foreign Latin America less threatening through humor while celebrating the potential for intercultural exchange and heterosexual romance. Vergara’s Gloria performs a familiar ideological role as the spitfire in Modern Family. As a contemporary Latina spitfire, she is ultimately coded as ethnically safe through her ability to serve as an intercultural bridge and comedic foil to her white upper-middle class second-husband and his family.[1]

Mexican Spitfire has also been compared and contrasted to I Love Lucy. Both feature Latino-Anglo couples, with a sweet troublemaker wife. Lucy reverses the racial makeup, but outbursts of frustrated Spanish from the Latino partner remain a theme.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Modern Family’s Latina Spitfire in the era of White Resentment, Isabel Molina-Guzman, University of Illinois
  2. ^ Bernardi, Daniel; Green, Michael (2017-07-07). Race in American Film: Voices and Visions that Shaped a Nation [3 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 535–587. ISBN 9780313398407.