Le Chanteur de Mexico (1956)
A film directed by Richard Pottier

Genre: Comedy / Musical / Romance

Review published:


Le Chanteur de Mexico photo
The impresario Monsieur Cartoni is planning to stage an operetta in Mexico with his star singer, Michel Morano. Alas, his plans are thwarted when Morano refuses to set foot in the country, through fear of running into the wealthy virago who once wanted to marry him. Cartoni has no choice but to replace Moranao with another equally accomplished singer who resembles him, but who?   Passing through a small Basque village, he has his answer: Vincent Etchebar, a man who sings like an angel. Unfortunately, Vincent is reluctant to appear in an operetta and, even if he did accept Cartoni's offer, the diva Eva Marchal will never agree to work with an unknown singer...
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

Francis Lopez's popular operetta, first performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in the early 1950s, is lavishly reinterpreted for the big screen in this sumptuous musical directed by Richard Pottier. By this time, the Spanish singer Luis Mariano had become one of the most popular musical stars in Europe (as big an attraction as The Beatles would be in the next decade) and no one was better placed to take the lead role, having proven his talents as both an actor and singer in a string of box office hits that included Andalousie (1951), Violetas imperiales (1952) and La Belle de Cadix (1953). The real casting masterstroke on Le Chanteur de Mexico was the pairing of Mariano with another prominent star of the period, the comic actor Bourvil, who was himself a more than able musician. It is no surprise that the film was an instant hit, attracting an audience of 4.8 million in France alone. Sadly, Mariano's next venture with Bourvil, Sérénade au Texas (1958), was to prove a disastrous misfire, partly as Mariano's popular appeal had begun to wane with the advent of a new musical phenomenon, rock music.

At a time when French cinema was predominantly monochrome and struggling to throw off the mantle of post-war austerity, colourful musical extravaganzas like Le Chanteur de Mexico came as a welcome moral-booster, matching the vitality and enjoyable kitsch appeal of the very best MGM musicals. Whilst the film suffers (as most film musicals do) from its lumbering pedestrian plot and threadbare characterisation, the boisterous extravagance of its show-stopping musical numbers more than redeems it. Pottier's direction is at best workmanlike, occasionally downright uninspired, but who can forget the slow tracking shot up the Eiffel Tower with Mariano singing as he and his entourage of happy workers paint Paris's most famous monument?  Or the beautiful ode to friendship that Mariano croons with Bourvil as they trail a flock of sheep across the lush French countryside?  Le Chanteur de Mexico may not have endured as well as some of the great American musicals but, on the strength of its uplifting, effortlessly choreographed musical numbers, it easily qualifies as a classic, a particularly welcome treat for any fan of Mariano and Bourvil.

© James Travers 2013

The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.

Other recommended comedy/musical/romance films include the following: Sam Wood's A Night at the Opera (1935), Olivier Ducastel's Crustacés et coquillages (2005), Vincente Minnelli's Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Stanley Donen's On the Town (1949) and Stanley Donen's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).

Where to watch this film

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Film Credits

  • Director: Richard Pottier
  • Script: Raymond Vincy, Jesús María de Arozamena, Félix Gandéra (story)
  • Photo: Lucien Joulin
  • Cast: Luis Mariano (Miguel Morano), Bourvil (Bilou), Annie Cordy (Cri-Cri), Tilda Thamar (Eva Marchal), Gisèle Grandpré (La Tornada), Pauline Carton (La tante de Cri-Cri), Paul Faivre (Le cousin Bidache), Manolo Morán (Martínez), Angelvin (Le speaker du radio crochet), Robert Dalban (Le portier du théâtre), Fernando Rey (Cartoni - l'impresario), Robert Thomas (Un secrétaire de Cartoni), José Blach, María Dolores Cabo, Rachel Dorange, Anika Dove, Lydia Dubourg, Freddy Foh, Manuel Guitián, Yvonne Jacquemot, Los Mariachis, Francisco Matos, Luis Mendiola, Mario Morales, Guillermo Méndez
  • Country: Spain / France
  • Language: French
  • Support: Color
  • Runtime: 103 min

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