This post is part of Swashathon -- A Blogathon of Swashbuckling Adventure, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently. We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the film debut of Douglas Fairbanks.
The Cisco Kid, the Robin Hood of the West, was unusual because he was a Hispanic hero in American movies, on American radio and television and in American comic strips and comic books. Cisco and his trusty sidekick Pancho were a caballero, a knight, and his companion. But that is not the way the Cisco Kid started.
|O. Henry Museum, Austin|
When Porter was 25, he eloped with a 17-year-old named Athol Estes. Her family objected because Athol had tuberculosis. Athol encouraged him to write for newspapers and magazines. Their daughter Margaret was born in 1889.
Porter went to work as a clerk at the First National Bank of Austin. He was not very good at it and kept the books badly. He may have embezzled funds. In 1895, he moved to Houston. Auditors at the bank in Austin discovered the shortages. He was arrested and charged with embezzlement. Porter's father-in-law bailed him out. Porter ran off to Honduras, where he met train robber and future movie actor Al Jennings. After learning that his wife was dying, Porter returned to Austin and surrendered himself. His father-in-law, showing great faith, put up his bail again. Athol died in 1897 and early the next year, Porter was convicted and sent to prison.
While serving time in the Ohio Penitentiary, Porter worked as a pharmacist and wrote stories. He published more than a dozen, many under the pen name O Henry. He got out in 1901 and moved to Pittsburgh, where his daughter and in-laws had moved. He continued to write, and produced stories that are still read today, like "The Gift of the Magi" and "The Ransom of Red Chief." His stories were known for the use of irony and twist endings.
Porter drank and took bad care of himself and died in 1910. I won't tell you how young his daughter was when she died. Too sad.
In the July, 1907 Everybody's Magazine, Porter published a short story, "The Caballero's Way." This story introduced the Cisco Kid, but he did not resemble the Cisco Kid many of us know from movies and television. The story begins:
"The Cisco Kid had killed six men in more or less fair scrimmages, had murdered twice as many (mostly Mexicans), and had winged a larger number whom he modestly forbore to count. Therefore a woman loved him."
The Cisco Kid was a murderer, was not Hispanic, was not a caballero, and was a creep. Porter was probably inspired by Billy the Kid. A Texas Ranger came looking for The Kid. He met Tonia, the Kid's girlfriend. Tonia and the Ranger fell in love. The Kid tricked the Ranger into killing Tonia. The only feature of the story that may have influenced the future movies and the television show was that, at the end, the Kid rode away singing a song.
|Motion Picture News, 28-March-1914|
There is some disagreement about the name of the man who played the Cisco Kid. He's probably somewhere in this photo of the cast.
|Motion Picture News, 04-April-1914|
|Moving Picture World, 10-October-1914|
|Moving Picture Weekly, 18-January-1919|
|Exhibitors Daily Review, 31-August-1928|
|Motion Picture Classic, February, 1929|
|Photoplay, February, 1929|
"This picture makes the most effective and intelligent use of sound and conversation yet displayed. It points the way to bigger and better talkies ... The outstanding performance is given by Warner Baxter as the singing, laughing .Cisco Kid, a fascinating and gallant bandit"
|Motion Picture News, 12-October-1929|
|The Educational News, November, 1931|
Also in 1931, Warner Baxter made a brief appearance in a short, "The Stolen Jools," which was made by several studios in Hollywood to raise money for a charity. He wore his Cisco Kid hat, spoke with a Spanish accent and flirted with Fifi D'Orsay, but she called him "Mister Baxter." This film was thought to be lost until someone found a print in the 1990s. I first learned about it in a book about Laurel and Hardy, who were among the many stars in this movie.
In 1939, Warner Baxter played the Cisco Kid for the last time, in The Return of the Cisco Kid. This movie introduced two sidekicks, Lopez and Gordito, played by Cesar Romero and Chris-Pin Martin. The Fox Films Corporation had become 20th Century-Fox.
|Film Bulletin, 06-May-1939|
While he played the Cisco Kid, Warner Baxter appeared in two other movies where he played similar characters. In 1930's The Arizona Kid, he was the Cisco Kid by another name. Carole Lombard, then billed as Carol Lombard, was in the cast but not on the poster.
Warner Baxter was not of Latin descent. During the 1940s, he dropped to the second rank of Hollywood players. He was most famous for starring in the Crime Doctor series of "B" movies for Columbia.
|Film Bulletin, 16-December-1939|
"'THE CISCO KID AND THE LADY' STARTS NEW WESTERN SERIES." Budgets were lower than they had been for the Warner Baxter movies, and 20th Century-Fox regarded these as "B" pictures. "The 'Cisco Kid' returns to the screen in person of slightly sardonic, tango-dancing Cesar Romero, who plays the role with just the right mien. He is a better selection for the part than Warner Baxter." I added the bold formatting.
In 1940, Cesar Romero and Chris-Pin Martin played Cisco and Gordito three times. Their first was Viva Cisco Kid, Jean Rogers had played Dale Arden the serial Flash Gordon.
|Motion Picture Daily, 14-March-1940|
"The popular Romero in the title role similar to 'Don Quixote' and Chris-Pin Martin as 'Sancho Panza' are an ideal combination." The "G" means it was suitable for a general audience.
|Silver Screen, September, 1940|
|Screenland, December, 1940|
Cesar Romero had a great smile. Definitely sardonic.
|Film Daily, 28-October-1940|
"Best of all, the yarn appeals to reason in that Romero is portrayed as a bandit (of the Robin Hood genus), doesn't win the hand of Sheila Ryan at the finale... 'The Gay Caballero' isn't a big sagebrush saga, but has enough on the ball to play all but the snooty situations."
|Film Bulletin, 11-January-1941|
|Film Bulletin, 03-May-1941|
This was the end of the Cisco Kid series at 20th Century-Fox, although some comments in the trade press said there would be more movies in the new season.
Cesar Romero may be best remembered today for playing The Joker in the 1960s Batman television series.
|Film Daily, 02-June-1943|
|Motion Picture Daily, 16-July-1943.|
|Film Daily, 21-July-1943|
|Showmen's Trade Review, 31-July-1943|
"A new film star is expected to emerge from the search now being conducted by Monogram for a man to play the title role in the forthcoming new series of Cisco Kid pictures."
|Showmen's Trade Review, 01-July-1944|
|Showmen's Trade Review, 02-September-1944|
|Motion Picture Daily, 11-April-1945|
|Film Bulletin, 25-June-1945|
|Motion Picture Daily, 14-July-1945|
|Motion Picture Herald, 15-December-1945|
In 1946, the radio show moved from the Mutual Broadcasting System to syndication. Jack Mather played Cisco. Various people, including Mel Blanc, played Pancho. The radio show continued in production until 1955, even after the Cisco Kid television show was on the air.
|Motion Picture Herald, 06-June-1946|
|Motion Picture Herald, 28-September-1946|
|Motion Picture Daily, 14-December-1946|
|Motion Picture Herald, 08-February-1947|
|Motion Picture Herald, 08-September-1947|
|Showmen's Trade Review, 18-October-1947|
"This enjoyable Cisco Kid offering has plenty of laughs and excitement. Gilbert Roland is very good in the title role and Chris-Pin Martin is a decidedly gifted comedian."
Gilbert Roland continued playing in movies and television until the early 1980s.
|Showmen's Trade Review, 05-June-1948|
|Showmen's Trade Review, 25-December-1948|
Duncan Renaldo returned to the Cisco Kid with The Valiant Hombre. His sidekick, Pancho, was played by Leo Carrillo, a California native who took great pride in the fact that an ancestor first arrived in Alta California in 1769 and was married in 1781 in a ceremony celebrated by Father (now Saint) Junipero Serra. The leading lady, Barbara Billingsley, later played Mrs Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver. Others will remember her as the lady who spoke Jive on Airplane.
|Showmen's Trade Review, 18-December-1948|
|Motion Picture Daily, 10-May-1949|
"In view of liberties taken over the years with his softly-accented, indestructible Cisco Kid, the late O. Henry should experience only a restful half-turn over 'The Gay Amigo,' latest in the perpetual series of the good badman."
|Showmen's Trade Review, 09-July-1949|
|Showmen's Trade Review, 19-November-1949|
I couldn't find a trade review for this one, so here is a photo of Jane Adams.
Was the end of the show the end of the Cisco Kid and Pancho? Not hardly. In 1972, the group War released their album The World is a Ghetto.The first track on the album, "The Cisco Kid," written by band members Thomas Allen, BB Dickerson, Harold Brown, and Charles Miller, was a big hit. The writers were all fans of the show. Whenever I play the CD in my car, my passengers sing along.
Was the song the end of the trail for the Cisco Kid and Pancho? No again. In 1994, I was excited to read in the San Francisco Chronicle that cable station TNT was going to show The Cisco Kid, a made-for-television movie inspired by the song. Jimmy Smits was the latest Cisco Kid, and Cheech Marin was Pancho. I don't remember the movie very well, but it followed many of the events in the song. I'd like to see it again.
Was the TNT movie the end of the Cisco Kid and Pancho? I hope not. Let's wait and see.
Was the TNT movie the end of the Cisco Kid and Pancho? I hope not. Let's wait and see.
In 1981, Second City adapted an episode of the television show. It is worth a visit.
Both of the silent movies are missing, presumed lost. Many of the talkies and many episodes of the radio and television shows are available on dvd and online.
This post is part of Swashathon -- A Blogathon of Swashbuckling Adventure, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently. Thank you to Fritzi for all the hard work. Thank you to everyone who visited and I encourage you to read and comment on as many posts as you can. Bloggers love comments.
This post is my ninth blogathon post of 2015 and my 40th since 2007. This is my 22nd blogathon. This page has a list of all my blogathon posts.