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(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the title lobby card THE GIRL FROM SAN LORENZO (UA, 1950), the last of the Duncan Renaldo Cisco Kid films churned out by United Artists. The pretty gal being romanced by Renaldo in the upper right is Jane Adams. The next stop for Renaldo and Leo Carrillo was the Cisco Kid TV series which was produced by Frederick W. Ziv (through his Ziv Television Program subsidiary). The Renaldo and Carrillo TV program ran for 156 episodes and were originally telecast from 1950-1956.




(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Warner Baxter as Cisco in IN OLD ARIZONA (Fox, 1929), a rather boring (and lengthy) talkfest. For his role as the Cisco Kid, Baxter won the Best Actor Oscar at the second Academy Awards ceremony held April 3, 1930. The Best Actress award was given to Mary Pickford.



(From Old Corral image collection)

The Cisco Kid
Portrayed by:
Warner Baxter (1889 - 1951) in 3 films
Cesar Romero (1907 - 1994) in 6 films
Gilbert Roland (1905 - 1994) in 6 films
Duncan Renaldo (1904 - 1980) in 8 films and the TV series


Special thanks to Les Adams for the following commentary on The Cisco Kid films.


Discussing the Best of anything is in itself a very subjective exercise even if one has seen every example of the subject at hand, and I certainly haven't when it comes to the Cisco Kid films ... I say films as opposed to series as there appear to be four distinct series based on the character: the first two Fox releases starring Warner Baxter; the 20th Century-Fox Sol Wurtzel-produced series with Baxter in the first one and Cesar Romero in the others; the 1945-47 Monogram releases with Duncan Renaldo and Gilbert Roland , and, lastly, the United Artists pictures with Renaldo again.

To even group the first two --- IN OLD ARIZONA and THE CISCO KID --- together is something of a stretch as IN OLD ARIZONA was fairly close to O. Henry's original, while THE CISCO KID is akin to Quirt and Flagg South of the Border. Baxter's last appearance as Cisco (in THE RETURN OF THE CISCO KID) proved, if nothing else, he was now too old for the role. In a case of possibly the first time the comic-relief sidekick was elevated to the title role in a character series, Cesar Romero became the second Cisco Kid of the sound era.

I have seen some of the Romero Cisco's, and have come to the conclusion they lasted as long as they did for two reasons: 1) as a pay-to-see screen test and showcase for the studio's up-and-coming contract players, and 2) to give Cesar Romero something to do besides being a 'beard' escorting screen beauties around town to meet up with their real interests. O.K., they aren't that bad. Close, though.

I find the Monogram reincarnations of the character the most interesting of all. While they didn't depict Cisco as the complete double-dyed deceiver that Mr. Porter created, the Renaldo and Roland Cisco's showed more than a casual interest in passing skirts (usually juggling two at a time), drank straight shots of tequila and swallowed the worm, smoked more than Bogart, and one was never certain that ALL of the money they robbed from the rich was turned over to the poor. Cisco (with a given name of Juan Francisco Hernandez in the first Monogram) as played by Renaldo in the three he made for Monogram, was a light year or two removed from the Cisco he did for United Artists and the television series. Cisco, as played by Gilbert Roland, had more than a passing kinship with the Baxter and original O. Henry character, or would have if O. Henry had ever had a chance to meet Gilbert Roland. Truth to tell, Gilbert Roland always played 'Gilbert Roland', but this series was an example of a role and a performer coming together as destiny had planned.

The Monogram series was also not completely made for or sold exclusively as Saturday matinee material at the grind houses. That is where they appeared most often but, like so many of the Gene Autry films during the late thirties and early forties, these films found many Sunday-Monday-Tuesday bookings at the theaters attended by Papa and Mama.

While they really didn't in reality, they all seemed to have the same plot in retrospect: a scheming, ruthless step-mother plotting with her lover to murder her husband and beat the trusting daughter out of her hat and hacienda. Something like that. Or maybe a doctor supplying poison potions for much the same purpose. What they didn't have was Kenneth MacDonald sending George Chesebro out to burn a barn or two. If Joe Bob Briggs had been born early enough to have been a 40's front-row-kid he would have most likely said the Monogram series had way, way too much plot. I, being a formula loving fan, would agree ... but the Monograms had a redeeming factor that more than made up for the over abundance of talk or occasional fencing match Roland liked to participate in. (I was never much for fights where each guy fought in a hands-on-the-hip stance. But some of the titles should have alerted me to that.)

The redeeming factor(s) came with names such as Angela Greene, Donna DeMario, Teala Loring, Inez Cooper and, second to none, Ramsay Ames. The exhibitor that booked the Monogram films for Sunday-Monday-Tuesday attendance probably didn't hear any complaints out of Papa, who covered himself on the way home by reminding Mama how nice it was to see old favorites such as Jack La Rue and Evelyn Brent again. (We have an interview tape with one of Republic's all-time great stunt performers who said more stuntmen were hurt rushing to get into position to watch Ramsay Ames walk across the lot than in all the stunts Republic ever did.)

No single western series ever came with more delight-to-the-eye decoration than the Monogram Cisco Kid series. These ladies didn't wear bonnets, milk the cows, shuck corn or ride run-away stages. Most of the time, they just posed. And showed a whole generation of boys that the difference between boys and girls was more than the fact that girls were better at spelling. When there was an ... "ohhh, Seese-co, ohhh, Pahn-cho" exchange in the Monogram series, it had a whole different meaning than Renaldo and Leo Carrillo in the United Artists films and television series.

For the most part, a couple of exceptions, the United Artists series was just the television program extended to sixty minutes. Cisco quit smoking, drinking, skirt chasing and being a frequent visitor to the cantinas and O. Henry wouldn't have recognized him. But this version of the character is dearer to more hearts and more fondly remembered than all of the others. I am quite fond of them also, especially for the appearances of the many old character actors that dot the landscape, but I do occasionally miss Ramsay Ames.




(Courtesy of Les Adams)
 
(Courtesy of Les Adams)



(From Old Corral image collection)

Anthony Warde is on the far right, and Angela Greene and Chris-Pin Martin are in the lower left.  Title lobby card from KING OF THE BANDITS (Monogram, 1947), the last appearance of Gilbert Roland as Cisco and Monogram's last Cisco Kid film.



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