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.
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