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Señorita (1927)

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Cast

Cast overview:
Bebe Daniels ... Señorita Francesca Hernandez
James Hall ... Roger Oliveros
William Powell ... Manuel Oliveros
Josef Swickard ... Don Francisco Hernandez
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Storyline

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Genres:

Action | Comedy

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Details

Country:

USA

Release Date:

April 1927 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Neta do Zorro See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The subject of one of Paramount's most unusual advertising campaigns, this film was promoted in New York with a big question mark without mentioning the title or actors. The ads promised "Your money back if you don"t enjoy this movie!" It didn't help; it was a box-office dud. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Worth the wait
5 July 2018 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

When Walter Kerr published his authoritative work "The Silent Clowns" in 1975 he devoted a chapter to missing films, i.e. the movies we can no longer evaluate or enjoy because no prints are known to survive. One of the illustrations depicts Bebe Daniels in her 1927 feature-length vehicle 'Señorita,' in which she's wearing male garb, complete with fake mustache. We're told the film is a "Zorro-like romp," but is also, sadly, among the missing. When I first read the book I found this loss especially unfortunate, for I've always enjoyed Bebe, whether she's playing support to Harold Lloyd in his early comedies or starring in her own later work. Happily for Bebe's fans, however, a print of 'Señorita' turned up in Europe in the 1990s, and was restored by preservationists at the Royal Belgium Film Archive in Brussels. The rediscovered print has French title cards, and is missing a couple of sequences, but is nonetheless substantially complete and in generally good condition.

Recently, this restored version was screened under the auspices of the Library of Congress as part of their "Mostly Lost" film workshop. 'Señorita' was the hit of the event, a real crowd-pleaser, as enjoyable in its way as the Doug Fairbanks vehicles it deftly parodies. While it isn't a direct satire of the Zorro tale there are notable similarities, but even so this movie stands on its own as a clever and engaging comic adventure saga.

The plot concerns two upper-class families in Spain who have been long engaged in a bitter feud. Don Francisco Hernandez (Josef Swickard), the patriarch of the Hernandez clan, is visiting California on the night his grandchild is born. Before he sails back to Spain, the Don is assured that a boy has been born who will carry his name -- and someday carry on the battle with the hated Oliveros clan. But this info is slightly less than accurate: the baby is a girl, and no one has the courage to tell the old man before he departs. Twenty years pass, and, based family correspondence, the Don still believes that his grandchild, who he has never seen, is a boy. (Quite a credibility stretcher, but we just have to roll with it.) Meanwhile, Francesca (Bebe Daniels) has grown up to be something beyond a tomboy, more of a wildcat. We first see her playing a fierce game of polo alongside men, and when another player deliberately fouls her she has to be restrained from wreaking havoc on the fellow. When she is summoned to Spain to meet her grandfather at long last, she initially intends to reveal her true gender, but an ugly encounter with Manuel Oliveros (William Powell) at the dock upon her arrival leads her to disguise herself as Francisco, complete with fake moustache.

One of the funniest sequences in the film comes when young 'Francisco' arrives at his family estate, where everyone expects to him to be a big, strapping macho man -- and instead, behold this rather odd, scrawny little person who seems hardly big enough to mount a horse. (Good visual gag: the men of the household all raise their tankards of ale to propose a toast as Francisco walks in . . . and then slowly lower their tankards in shock when they see him.) But he manages to prove himself worthy in his first run-in with the Oliveros gang, and earns the respect of his family.

Complications develop when Francesca, now back in female guise -- in fact, skinny-dipping in a pond -- encounters handsome Roger Oliveros (James Hall). They quickly fall for one another, but neither one knows the other is a member of the hated rival clan. And the situation gets more tangled at a village festival, where 'Francisco' is compelled to switch roles (and genders) back and forth, depending on who "he" or "she" is dealing with at any given moment.

Sound confusing? Well, the plot isn't easy to describe, but thanks to the craftspeople who made this film it all unfolds smoothly and charmingly. This is a plum role for Bebe, one that gives her ample opportunity to demonstrate her versatility as a comic performer and leading lady -- and action hero! There are a number of stand-out performers in the supporting cast as well, but it's especially fun to see William Powell in another of his silent era villain roles. Here he's a somewhat hapless, inept bad guy, and it's gratifying to see him get his comeuppance when he challenges 'Francisco' at the festival.

'Señorita' builds to a rousing action finale, although it must be pointed out, regrettably, that the final scenes were in fragmented condition when the sole surviving print was rescued in the '90s, and the ending is unfortunately a little choppy. Even so, we can be grateful that this film survives at all. It deserves wider exposure, more screenings, and, if possible, a home video release. This is a movie that will gladden the hearts of silent film fans, everywhere.


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