In Old Arizona Reviews
When you get past that aspect of the film, In Old Arizona is a decent story about a bandit with a heart of gold. I love that, even in this era well before the production code, they still felt a need to make the Cisco Kid a good guy. The nice thing about this movie is that it also makes the Sergeant sympathetic, even though he?s trying to catch our hero. This dynamic makes it so we don?t know how the end will play out and who will win. The actual conclusion of the film is pretty daring, and one that surprised me a little. It wasn?t enough to make me love the movie, but I appreciated that the story wasn?t totally predictable. Perhaps the most frustrating part of this movie (aside from the understandably bad sound quality) was that they didn?t quite have enough story to fill the runtime. There was a lot of moments where I felt the movie drag, and that?s probably why I noticed all the little sound experiments I mentioned earlier, because they were extending things when I just wanted to see what happened next. I can see film historians needing to watch In Old Arizona because of the progress it made, but for most people I?d say you can skip this one.
This movie is the first full-length talky western and directors, Irving Cummings and Raoul Walsh did an excellent job showing the audience what new layers sound can add to a film. Ham & eggs sizzling in the pan, the clomping of the horse hooves, the music and singing, and of course people's accents were all new and wonderful then. Although Warner Baxter sounded more like Bela Lugosi than a Mexican.
This was only the second movie that introduced us to the Cisco Kid and was the closest adaptation to O. Henry's short story, The Caballero's Way. There was a silent version in 1914. In this movie, he was more of a lovable rogue than the Gentleman of the Old West that Duncan Renaldo portrayed on television and there is no Pancho (Leo Carrillo) side-kick either.
The Cisco Kid (Warner Baxter) is a thief and ruthless killer but holds a special soft spot for his girl, Tonia Maria (Dorothy Burgess) who, well, is kind of a gold-digging slut. The story opens with Cisco robbing a stage coach of it's gold box. He takes a locket from a passenger, but pays her in gold for it. The locket is given to Tonia in one of his visits.
The local Army is tired of this character running around their territory and the Commanding Officer assigns Sergeant Mickey Dunn to bring him in, dead or alive. Mickey is a New York player who is as charismatic as Cisco and maybe as good a shot. When Mickey finds that Tonia is Cisco's girl, they play right into each other's hands. Plus, the $5,000 reward is very appealing to Tonia. Cisco might have met his match this time.
I'm guessing this can be attributed to the fact this production was mainly based around the fact it was the first "talkie" western. And boy do they talk. In fact, they talk just for talking's sake. Sometimes they sing, but they mostly talk. It's all just to show off the 1 track audio, which sounds terrible for today, as the audio is so low I had to set my home theater to full blast just to hear them. The film was nominated for cinematography, but there's only one or two scenes that are filmed decently. The film is filled with jump cuts that are bad by any days standards, and characterizations are constantly switching.
The film is a curiosity though. It's a lot more provocative than most Hollywood productions of the time, but that doesn't make it worth it.