|Directed by||Elia Kazan|
|Written by||John Steinbeck|
|Produced by||Darryl F. Zanuck|
|Edited by||Barbara McLean|
|Music by||Alex North|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$1,900,000 (US rentals)|
Viva Zapata! is a 1952 biographical film directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando. The screenplay was written by John Steinbeck, using Edgcomb Pinchon's 1941 book Zapata the Unconquerable as a guide. The cast includes Jean Peters and, in an Academy Award-winning performance, Anthony Quinn.
To make the film as authentic as possible, Kazan and producer Darryl F. Zanuck studied the numerous photographs that were taken during the revolutionary years, the period between 1909 and 1919 when Zapata led the fight to restore land taken from common people during the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz.
Kazan was especially impressed with the Agustín Casasola collection of photographs and he attempted to duplicate their visual style in the film. Kazan also acknowledged the influence of Roberto Rossellini's Paisan (1946).
Emiliano Zapata (Brando) is part of a delegation sent to complain about injustices to corrupt longtime President Porfirio Díaz (Fay Roope), but Díaz dismisses their concerns, driving Zapata to open rebellion, along with his brother Eufemio (Quinn). He in the south and Pancho Villa (Alan Reed) in the north unite under the leadership of naive reformer Francisco Madero (Harold Gordon).
Díaz is finally toppled and Madero takes his place, but Zapata is dismayed to find that nothing is changing. Madero offers Zapata land of his own while failing to take action to distribute land to the campesinos who fought to end the dictatorship and break up the estates of the elites. Zapata rejects the offer and seeks no personal gain. Meanwhile, the ineffectual but well-meaning Madero puts his trust in treacherous General Victoriano Huerta (Frank Silvera). Huerta first takes Madero captive and then has him murdered.
Steinbeck meditates in the film on the tempting military force and political might, which corrupts men. As it becomes clear that each new regime is no less corrupt and self-serving than the one it replaced, Zapata remains guided by his desire to return the peasants their recently robbed lands, while forsaking his personal interests. His own brother sets himself up as a petty dictator, taking what he wants without regard for the law, but Zapata remains a rebel leader of high integrity. Although he is able to defeat Huerta after Madero's assassination, as a result of his integrity, Zapata loses his brother, and his position.
Although in the end Zapata himself is lured into an ambush and killed, the film suggests that the resistance of the campesinos does not end. Rumors begin that Zapata never died, but is instead continuing to fight from the hills, feeding the campesinos a sense of hope. As several scenes suggest, over the years, the campesinos have learned to lead themselves rather than look to others to lead them.
- Marlon Brando as Emiliano Zapata
- Jean Peters as Josefa Zapata, his wife
- Anthony Quinn as Eufemio Zapata
- Joseph Wiseman as Fernando Aguirre
- Arnold Moss as Don Nacio
- Alan Reed as Pancho Villa
- Margo as Soldadera
- Harold Gordon as Francisco Ignacio Madero
- Lou Gilbert as Pablo
- Frank Silvera as Victoriano Huerta
- Florenz Ames as Señor Espejo
- Richard Garrick as Old General
- Fay Roope as Porfirio Díaz
- Mildred Dunnock as Señora Espejo
- Henry Silva as Hernández, the peasant who challenges 'president' Zapata (uncredited)
- Ross Bagdasarian as officer (uncredited)
Filming and casting
The film tends to romanticize Zapata and in doing so may distort the true nature of the Mexican Revolution. Zapata fought to free the land for the peasants of Morelos and the other southern Mexican states. Additionally, the movie inaccurately portrays Zapata as illiterate. In reality, he grew up in a family with some land and money and received an education. John Steinbeck wrote a book titled Zapata. The original screenplay was written by the author and the book contains a newly found introduction by Steinbeck, the original proposed screenplay, and the official movie script.
Barbara Leaming writes in her biography of Marilyn Monroe that the actress tried and failed to obtain a part in this picture, presumably due to Darryl F. Zanuck's lack of faith in her ability, both as an actress and as a box office draw.
Viva Zapata! received generally positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that of 18 reviews, 61% of critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.2/10. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times gave a highly favorable review and commented that the film "throbs with a rare vitality, and a masterful picture of a nation in revolutionary torment has been got by Director Elia Kazan." Variety, however, criticized the direction and script: "Elia Kazan's direction strives for a personal intimacy but neither he nor the John Steinbeck scripting achieves in enough measure." Senator John McCain listed Viva Zapata! as his favorite film of all time.
Awards and nominations
|Academy Awards||Best Actor||Marlon Brando||Nominated|||
|Best Supporting Actor||Anthony Quinn||Won|
|Best Story and Screenplay||John Steinbeck||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction – Black-and-White||Lyle R. Wheeler, Leland Fuller, Thomas Little and Claude E. Carpenter||Nominated|
|Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture||Alex North||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Film from any Source||Nominated|||
|Best Foreign Actor||Marlon Brando||Won|
|Cannes Film Festival||Grand Prix||Elia Kazan||Nominated|||
|Best Actor||Marlon Brando||Won|
|Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures||Elia Kazan||Nominated|||
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Mildred Dunnock||Nominated|||
|International Film Music Critics Association Awards||Best New Recording of a Previously Existing Score||Alex North, Jerry Goldsmith and Royal Scottish National Orchestra||Nominated|||
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- Solomon, Aubrey (January 1, 1988). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 247. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
- 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
- Thomas, Tony (November 6, 1975). The Films of Marlon Brando (second ed.). Citidel Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0806504810.
- Zapata. May 1993.
- Crowther, Bosley (February 8, 1952). "THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; Marlon Brando Plays Mexican Rebel Leader in 'Viva Zapata!' New Feature at the Rivoli". The New York Times.
- McCain, John. "FAQ - United States Senator John McCain". www.mccain.senate.gov.
- "The 25th Academy Awards (1953) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
- "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1953". BAFTA. 1953. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
- "Festival de Cannes: Viva Zapata!". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- "5th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
- "Viva Zapata! – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
- IFMCA (1999). "1998 FMCJ Awards". IFMCA. IFMCA. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
- "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.
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