21 March 2006 | bkoganbing
Tragic Romance Along the Navajo Trail
In viewing Laughing Boy today I counted elements of Camille, Romeo and Juliet and Duel in the Sun in the plot of this Indian love story.
Ramon Novarro plays the title role and he's a Navajo from way off in the rural part of the reservation. Lupe Velez is also a Navajo, but an orphan who is the live in mistress of William B. Davidson.
It's doomed from the start. Lupe's been living too long in the white man's world and Ramon's family simply will not accept her. It ends bad for both of them.
I've got a mixed reaction to the film. I've got to give some credit to MGM at that time for even attempting to make a film showing Indians as three dimensional people. They do in fact include some stereotypes, but give the studio credit for trying.
Both Lupe and Ramon were big stars in the silent era and did make the transition to sound. They both had pleasant speaking voices. But both led lives that given the times should have been more discreet. They were both descending into B films at a steady pace. In Ramon's case the vogue for Latin lovers which crested with Rudolph Valentino in the silent era with Ramon as one of his imitators had long passed. MGM had trouble casting him.
Laughing Boy might have been a better film if MGM had been trying to build Lupe and Ramon up instead of looking to be rid of both.