Sombrero (1953): Norman Foster’s Mexico-Set Romantic Melodrama, Starring Colorful Cast, Ricardo Montalban, Vittorio Gassman, Pier Angeli

Norman Foster directed Sombrero, a romantic melodrama with some music and dance, starring Ricardo Montalbán, Pier Angeli, Vittorio Gassman and Cyd Charisse.

The film was based on the 1945 book “Mexican Village” by Josephina Niggli, which was a collection of 11 short stories set in the north Mexican town of Hidalgo. Director Foster and Niggli collaborated on writing the script.

Both producer Jack Cummins and Foster had made movies in Mexico before.

Set in the 19th century Mexico, the tale centers on three couples involved in budding romances are caught in the middle of a feud between two villages.

Thematically and visually, the movie is a mishmash, and its main merit is historical, namely, how MGM made an effort to appeal to Hispanic viewers, with a cast dominated by foreign-born actors: Italian Gassman and Pier Angeli, Mexican Montalban, and several Caucasian actors in dark-faced, heavy makeup, such as Yvonne De Carlo and Cyd Charisse.

This was Gassman’s second American film after “The Glass Wall.” Studio head Dore Schary was hoping to make Gassmann and Jason into bona-fide stars, which never happened. Yvonne De Carlo replaced the original choice for her role, the reluctant Ava Gardner, who was put on suspension by MGM. Fernando Lamas. who also refused to make the film, was suspended by until he agreed to star in “The Girl Who Had Everything.”

The movie, which was shot on location in Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Tetecala and Tepoztln, was commercially profitable (especially outside the U.S.), but plans to make a sequel failed to materialize.

Cast
Ricardo Montalbán: Pepe Gonzales
Pier Angeli: Eufemia Calderon
Vittorio Gassman: Alejandro Castillo
Yvonne De Carlo: Marìa of the River Road (Maria del lungofiume)
Cyd Charisse: Lola de Torrano
Rick Jason: Ruben
Nina Foch: Elena Cantù
Kurt Kasznar: Padre Zacaya
Walter Hampden: Don Carlos Castillo
Thomas Gomez: Don Homero Calderon
José Greco: Gitanillo de Torrano
John Abbott: Don Daniel
Andrés Soler: Little Doctor
Fanny Schiller: Doña Fela
Luz Alba: Rosaura
Rosaura Revueltas: Zia Magdalena
Alfonso Bedoya: Don Inocente

 

Note:

TCM showed the movie on August 15, 2020.