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  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was my first look at Donald Woods in any kind of role, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't representative of his usual kind of character. In the story he portrays Michael O'Brien, undoubtedly Irish, but living in a Mexican village in Paradise Valley, whose residents remain virtual prisoners of an evil overseer named Juan Mendoza (Anthony Warde). There were times when it sounded like O'Brien's accent wavered between Mexican and a traditional Irish brogue, so that seemed a little distracting. Realistically, it didn't make much sense that an Irishman would be in love with the daughter of a Mexican blacksmith; his role would probably have been better served by casting Duncan Renaldo or Gilbert Roland. But maybe they were busy.

    Anyway, that was one twist the movie had to offer. There was another idea in the picture that I hadn't seen before as well, which turned out to be fairly clever. When some gold nuggets turn up in the valley, O'Brien and blacksmith Garcia (Byron Foulger) hit upon the idea of smelting the gold and casting it into the bells he's about to make. It all comes in handy for the film's dramatic finale when the village strongman Gueyon (Paul Newlan) brings the curtain down on Mendoza's villainy.

    Oh yes, can't forget the ladies. O'Brien's love interest in the picture is Maria Garcia, ably portrayed by Gloria Warren. The smarmy Mendoza has designs on marrying Maria, but doesn't mind being distracted by a dancing senorita named Nita (Shirley O'Hara). I couldn't imagine what Nita saw in Mendoza, but they say love is blind.

    It's unlikely "Bells Of San Fernando" would ever find it's way to a cable channel, probably your best bet is to pick it up as I did as part of a two hundred fifty Western movie collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. The set contains a bunch of titles I'd never heard of and seems to be a great sampler for cowboy actors like Donald Woods that you might not ever get a chance of seeing. It also contains a lot of the public domain titles of John Wayne, Roy Rogers and others you've probably seen already if you're a fan, but having them all together in one place is a convenient way to go.
  • The Bells Of San Fernando is an independent production and small wonder that no studio would touch it. It was written by Duncan Renaldo who made the hero of his Spanish California drama a wandering Irishman played by Donald Woods complete with phony brogue and all.

    Monte Blue is a Spanish Don who owns the land in San Fernando Valley. But he lives in Spain and turns over the affairs of his estate to overseer Anthony Warde. Warde who runs the place like Kim family runs North Korea wants to marry Gloria Warren, but she likes Woods. In addition there's gold discovered here some fifty years before the Gold Rush. The priest wants to make a church bell using it as an alloy. But others have more secular ideas about what to do with it.

    This was one strange story and hard to believe it came from one of the people who played the Cisco Kid. Warde comes over like Snidely Whiplash, Woods' accent is totally unconvincing and the story is laughable.

    After seeing this, no one wanted to make the San Fernando Valley their home.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Take a burly Irishman with a sense of fun but a hot temper and toss him in with some Mexican Americans in the early days of the San Fernando Valley, and you've got enough macho tension to change the course of their ruthless government. Donald Woods is fiery and in love with sweet Gloria Warren (an obvious Caucasian playing a Mexican senorita). She is coveted by the ruthless head of the San Fernando Valley who has vowed to keep strangers from getting in and the residents from getting out. (How Woods got in is never explained.) Anthony Warde is Juan Mendoza, the ruthless head of the valley who announces his engagement to the shocked Warren at a valley fiesta. Shirley O'Hara (another typical Spanish name) is Nita, the hot-tempered castanet clicking femme fatal with designs on both Woods and Warde who is another equivalent of the type of roles Myrna Loy played early in her career and that Rita Moreno would be typecast in when she first made her film debut.

    The film starts off rather slowly, showing the supposedly happy country folk at their daily work, living without fear until Warde shows up to express his interest in Warren. Everything explodes into exciting action once Woods makes his objections to Warde's claims, basically beating the macho Mexican into a pulp and writing his death sentence. Then, the chase is on, and two goals are established. Warde wants to see Woods cut down like a bull in the ring, and Woods is determined to bring peace to the land and win the lovely Warren back so the bells of San Fernando can finally ring in harmony. It's all entertaining, if simple drama, but it is done so well in spite of the miscasting of obvious white folks in Mexican/Spanish roles. Byron Foulger is good as the local priest who is sort of a Friar Tuck to Woods' obvious Robin Hood.