Jun 15, 2011

7 reasons why I LOVED "Way of a Gaucho" (1952)

Have you heard of the concept bio-compelled viewing? No? Well, that's OK, because I just coined it. According to my dictionary,

Bio-compelled viewing: The movies you just need to [re]watch after reading or watching a biography of someone related to cinema.

Example: this post.

I know, I know, I'm bombarding you with Gene Tierney movies, but since I watched her bio on Youtube I've been trying to check more of her films. When I heard that she and Rory Calhoun came to neighbor country Argentina to shoot Way of a Gaucho (Jacques Torneur, 1952 ), well, I just needed to watch it! That was totally a bio-compelled viewing, you know? 

1.- Well, the first reason why I absolutely loved this movie is the story it presents. Basically a gaucho is a cowboy/peasant from some regions of South America, especially Argentina. The story, based on a novel by Herbert Childs and adapted/produced by Philip Dunne (How Green Was My Valley, ETC), takes place in the 1870s: Martín (Rory Calhoun) is a gaucho, step-brother of a rich (and kind) landowner. In the very first minutes he commits a crime and is sent to the army, which leads him to face different situations. 

2.- The second reason, is that it was filmed in Argentina (at least most of it) in Technicolor. You really don't know how it feels to watch a classic movie shot in a place you can actually relate to. No, you know TOO well; I didn't know. And it was a great feeling. Watching the mountains, the pampas, South American flora and fauna...it was just mind blowing! And the fact that Rory Calhoun and Gene Tierney were playing the leads made everything cooler :)

3.- The third aspect I loved from this movie is that overall the characters weren't stereotyped. Martín is a guy that is fighting against everything, sometimes his decisions are not the best and he ends up seeing the errors of his ways . This movie is really a drama of a man that feels displaced and doesn't know how to fight against it. On the other hand, the "enemy", a major played by Richard Boone, wasn't really bad, he was doing what he thought it was correct, just like Martín. Also his step-brother isn't the usual rich guy that doesn't care about the rest, he tries to protect Martín. That makes everything more interesting.

4.- Another element that was a great surprise is that Jacques Torneur, Philip Dune and the crew really cared about presenting accurate historical and artistic details. The costumes are precise, they even included a special kind of boot wore by the gauchos that was made with horse leather; the way they depicted Tehuelches (one of the many natives that lived down here) was very accurate, using boleadoras and spears to face the enemy; the army is wearing the old typical uniform "inspired" in the French one (we copied it here in Chile too) and also using the guns of the time. They also decided to cast all but the major parts in Argentina.

5.- The fifth reason is Rory Calhoun. I just had seen him in How to marry a millionaire and didn't get my attention then. But I'll never forget his Martín Peñalosa. Rory is the kind of people that look gorgeous from certain angles. Well, the angles here are all flattering. But the most important thing is that he knew everything about horses, just like Martín. And that enriches the experience of watching this film:

In this case I didn't mind that Tyrone Power refused to play the lead.

6.- We've discussed Gene Tierney's presence on screen: she's always luminous and she's always effective. Her character, Teresa, a woman from the city, is so in love with Martín that she's willing to make all the necessary efforts to be with him. Teresa shows vulnerability in some scenes: Gene makes you suffer with her.

7.- And the last reason is that the characters almost almost almost got to Chile. At some point Martín and Teresa have to escape and they head to Chile (yay!). But when they're almost there (here)....

...a certain event occurs and they have to go back (damn it!). But at least Chile gets three (3) mentions :)

Well, I hope I've picked your interest; I invite you to know a bit more about South America by watching this film.

A very interesting study of this film can be (partially) found here (Google Books: Jacques Tourneur: the cinema of nightfall).


  1. Clara,
    You picked an interesting subject in Gene. I don't care for Westerns or Rory Calhoun but I enjoyed your write up on Way of a Gaucho enough then the gorgeous scenery that I'll give it a try. My 'must see' list is getting so dang long thanks to all of you wonderful bloggers.
    I think you should host us so we can all fly out to see your beautiful country. : )

  2. Hi,
    I saw your comment at my blog and I'd be happy to exchange links. I'll add you to my blogroll right away.

  3. Patricia Nolan-HallJune 16, 2011 at 5:54 AM

    Wow! This sounds like a real winner. You have intrigued me and "Way of a Gaucho" moves to the top of my must-see list.

  4. Thank you, Page. Hope you like it and enjoy it as much as I did! And, yeah, if you ever come to Chile, you can stay at my casa & we'll watch classic movies non-stop :)

  5. Thanks Norma! You've been added to my blog roll :) Hope you liked my site!

  6. Yay, I really hope you like it, I watched it twice (almost three times) and it was a great experience, even when they didn't shoot at my country, but in neighbor Argentina :) Thanks for your comment!



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