MEXICAN SPITFIRE erupted to gales of guffaws in 1940 as the sequel to the previous year’s The Girl From Mexico, and officially launched the ‘Spitfire’ series that saw six more installments over the next four years. Five cast members return to wreak havoc on fussy relatives, fancy dinner parties and assorted innocent vowels.
Picking up where ‘Girl‘ left off, singer & walking-TNT-vial ‘Carmelita Fuentes’ (Lupe Velez) is now Carmelita ‘Lindsay’, having convinced ‘Dennis Lindsay’ (Donald Woods) to make a Señora out of a señorita. In Carmelita’s case, that’s making an earthquake out of a volcano, with heavy casualties in the pronunciation ward. Adjusting to married life and a new country is made harder by the obstinate attitude of ‘Aunt Della’ (Elisabeth Risdon) and vengeful scheming from discarded fiancée ‘Elizabeth’ (Linda Hayes). Our side gets assistance from rumpus-reveling ‘Uncle Matt’ (Leon Errol) who also serves to impersonate pompous moneybags ‘Lord Basil Epping’.
Woods is better this time around, Risdon and Hayes amusing as before. Taking the volume down a speck without losing a mite of velocity or vitality, Velez is even funnier this time, and Errol, promoted to co-billing, goes her one better with his withering blitherer ‘Lord Epping, sent up as the Stuffiest Englishman in History. Velez and Woods lay the table for Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz and the ‘Ricardo’s, as perhaps the first mixed-marriage couple in movie history played for affection instead of treachery or tragedy.
Written by Charles E. Roberts and Joseph Fields, directed by Leslie Goodwins. “Directed” seems inadequate when you watch Velez and Errol at full throttle: “unleash” is more like it. The writing merely sets a plot template for Lupe and Leon to run riot over with improvisational anarchy, and there are some extra giggles when you see in some scenes that Velez is struggling to hold in her hilarity over Errol’s pushing the envelope. A team to beat. Trying to steer them, Goodwins would direct and Roberts would write all seis sequels. Rowboats in a typhoon. *
Made for $106,000, it grossed in the neighborhood of $600,000, in 2022 about $11,163,000. With movie tickets in ’39 averaging 23 cents, that means roughly 2,609,000 patrons got a load of laughs for their two bits worth. With Cecil Kellaway and Charles Coleman. 67 minutes rips by.
* Followed later in 1940 by Mexican Spitfire Out West, then Mexican Spitfire’s Baby in 1941. For ’42, a triple play, of Mexican Spitfire At Sea, Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost, and Mexican Spitfire’s Elephant. The wackiness wrapped up in 1943 with Mexican Spitfire’s Blessed Event.
In 1951, screenwriter Roberts would try another tack, with 22-year-old Cuban actress Estelita Rodriguez. But Cuban Fireball didn’t light subsequent fuses. The fetching and feisty Miss Rodriguez would later have a neat part in Rio Bravo. Ironically, at the time of her death in 1966 she was hoping to star in a bio of Lupe Velez. Like Lupe, she had a tempestuous life to match her screen persona, and like Velez, Estelita’s death had suspicion attached to it. At least, probably because she wasn’t as well known, Rodriguez was spared the smear-job that lie peddler Kenneth Anger foisted on Velez in his bestselling garbage ‘Hollywood Babylon”.