4 March 2012 | AlsExGal
Richard Barthelmess is an early talkie Robin Hood...
...although the setting is California after the Mexican American War. Barthelmess plays Don Francisco Delfina, a Spanish nobleman of old California who finds himself considered a peon by the conquering Americans in spite of his education and refined manners. When he is sent by his uncle to deliver 3000 head of cattle to American Peter Harkness in San Francisco, Don's attention to a senorita that Harkness considers his girl gets him tied to a post and whipped, something that is only stopped by the sheriff of the territory. "The lash" though physically not that harmful in this case, leaves an emotional scar of humiliation on proud Don Francisco. In retaliation he delivers the cattle to Harkness by setting them loose to stampede the town that received him so poorly and then becomes a bandit, robbing the gringos of their ill-gotten gains and giving to the poor Mexicans of California in return.
The acting is transitional. Stars that were accustomed to the silents such as Mary Astor and Richard Barthelmess still talk in that halting speech pattern so typical of the silent stars in the process of transition. Lesser known stars, recruited from stage to screen, talk more naturally. Even though the sound mix is Vitaphone, which usually required a static indoor environment, there are quite a few outdoor scenes and all involve quite a bit of camera motion, so this is not your typical static over-talkie talkie.
There is one humorous scene in which Don Francisco's sister is explaining the origin of the term "gringo" to her suitor, an American. She comes up with some story about a song American soldiers sang with the words "the green goes over the flag" or something similar. There have been other folk etymologies that have the origin being other American songs such as "Green Grow the Lilacs". However, since the term dates back to the eighteenth century, more than likely gringo just means someone who speaks unintelligibly - someone speaking Greek - which is how the Spanish saw those who spoke English.
This is an early talkie worthy of your time if you are a fan of Richard Barthelmess or are interested in early sound films. It is one of the better early efforts at drama during the year 1930 by Warner Brothers, which was still a struggling up-and-coming studio at the time.