Little Bits of History

Cisco Kid Hits the Silver Screen

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 20, 2015
In Old Arizona movie poster

In Old Arizona movie poster

January 20, 1929: In Old Arizona is released. It was the first full length talking movie shot outdoors. The film is based on O. Henry’s character, the Cisco Kid, who first appeared as a scoundrel outlaw in The Caballero’s Way. He was a despicable, evil, and frightening man when first portrayed but changed into a lovable outlaw by the time the movie was made. It starred Warner Baxter as the Cisco Kid. The role was first offered to Raoul Walsh, who also directed the movie. While filming, a jackrabbit jumped through the windshield of Walsh’s car and he lost his right eye. He wore an eye patch for the rest of his life. He never again appeared in a movie, but did continue directing them.

The movie was filmed in Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park as well as the San Fernando Mission and the Mohave Desert. It was test released in Los Angeles on Christmas Day in 1928 and saw a general release on this day. In Old Arizona ran for 95 minutes and took in $1.3 million at the box office. Irving Cummings was co-director with Walsh and the screenplay was written by Tom Barry. Edmund Lowe and Dorothy Burgess also starred. Fox Film Corporation distributed the movie. Baxter won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the Cisco Kid. Baxter’s singing “My Tonia” led to the incorporation of the singing cowboy into movie lore.

Warner Baxter was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1889. He began his movie career working in silent films. In that medium, he acted in The Great Gatsby and The Awful Truth. His other famous roles were played in the talkies where he had credits in 42nd Street, Slave Ship, and Kidnapped. He often played womanizing, charismatic Latin bandits, as in his famous role as the Cisco Kid. He began his entertainment career in vaudeville and made his first movie, uncredited, in 1914. He made over 100 films during his career, between 1914 and 1950. He married in 1918 and remained with his wife until his death. After suffering for years with arthritis, he had a lobotomy to ease the pain in 1951. He died of pneumonia shortly after surgery.

Raoul Walsh was born in New York City in 1887. He was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His biggest acting job came as playing John Wiles Booth in The Birth of a Nation. His biggest directional films were The Big Trail, High Sierra, and White Heat. He began his acting career in 1909 and directed his last movie in 1964. The Pseudo Prodigal (1913) was his directorial debut and A Distant Trumpet was his last. He directed many westerns, including this first outdoor talkie and the widescreen spectacle, The Big Trail, which was an epic wagon train western shot on location with then unknown John Wayne. Walsh was responsible for changing Marion Morrison’s name and chose the Revolutionary War general, Mad Anthony Wayne as inspiration.

Give a man a free hand and he’ll try to put it all over you. – Raoul Walsh

Some men are all right in their place if they only knew the right places. – Raoul Walsh

Too many girls follow the line of least resistance but a good line is hard to resist. – Raoul Walsh

100% All-Talking Fox Movietone Feature – from the movie poster

Also on this day: Eeeeeeeeek – In 1885, LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented his roller coaster structure.
Game of the Century – In 1968, the UCLA Bruins met the Houston Cougars for a game of basketball.
Pearl Harbor – In 1887, the US Senate approved the Navy’s leasing Pearl Harbor.
Hail to the Chief – In 1937, FDR took his second oath of office as POTUS.
Taken Hostage – In 1987, Terry Waite was taken hostage.


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