- Directed by Mack V. Wright
- July 15, 1933
A cavalry officer is sent to ensure Spanish landowners in California register their land before a new law goes into effect and helps save a ranch from land grabbers.
Even though The Man from Monterey is a short 57 minutes it is considered a film. By today’s standards not so much but by the standards back in the day indeed it was. At 57 minutes it doesn’t do too much for character development but does well with developing the story. It effectively lays out the elements and builds to the climax which is surprising for something that was meant to be disposable when released.
A landgrab scheme is what drives the whole plot. When the passed law in question goes into effect Spanish landowners in the newly acquired California must have their land registered with the federal government otherwise it becomes public domain. I am betting this has some basis in real life but what is unknown to me.
In The Man from Monterey we have comedic side characters and the most American native Mexicans you have ever met in a movie. They dress them up well enough, but these people could more likely come from Secaucus, New Jersey than from anywhere in Mexico. Try for an accent at the minimum!
John Wayne plays Capt. John Holmes who is the military man tasked with making sure the new law goes into effect smoothly without shenanigans. If it went smoothly, we would not have a movie. Wayne as Holmes is manlier than the manliest man and instantly swoons Dolores (Ruth Hall) who is the daughter of landowner Don Jose Castanares (Lafe McKee). Him looking good and partially fulfilling Dolores’s fantasies is essentially the basis for their love and the start of their relationship.
Holmes’s romantic rival for Dolores’s heart is Don Luis Gonzales (Donald Reed) who is the son of unscrupulous landowner Don Pablo Gonzales (Francis Ford) and has his eyes set on another girl named Anita Garcia (Nina Quartero) but is only attempting to swoon Dolores because his dad has eyes on her dad’s land.
I think this was a mistake giving Luis knowledge of the villainy. It would’ve been a bit more interesting to have him included in the heroics with him being an unwitting pawn in the villainy with Luis and Holmes’s interactions unexpectedly complicating things. Then again this was not meant to be a complicated film but rather a disposable little diversion for the audiences of the day. I’m not giving them a pass on it though. I just understand why they did it.
The comedic sidekick of Felipe Guadalupe Constacio Delgado Santa Cruz de la Verranca (Luis Alberni) is less diversion in The Man from Monterey and more important to the story. He’s not key but he does certainly help in the finale. What he does is necessary for Holmes’s plan to work which I found a little unusual for the day in a supporting character like Felipe. And more importantly his jokes and silliness are not front and center at any moment but rather simply part of the story.
They do nicely set things up and build towards the finale which borders on comedic. Elements are introduced along the way rather casually. This is better crafted than what you would expect. Wayne doesn’t have that much polish here especially in comparison to some of the other performers but he does a serviceable job. Nobody is so terrible that you can’t believe they’re in a movie.
The Man from Monterey is not one of John Wayne’s greatest films but it’s an enjoyable film. It’s better constructed than one would expect and enjoyable enough that you may even watch it again. For fans of Westerns this is an if you want but for fans of John Wayne this is definitely something to check out.