Fiesta (1947 film)

Fiesta is an American Technicolor musical-drama film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1947, starring Esther Williams, Ricardo Montalbán, Mary Astor and Cyd Charisse. The film was directed by Richard Thorpe and written by George Bruce and Lester Cole.

French theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Thorpe
Produced byJack Cummings
Written byGeorge Bruce
Lester Cole
StarringEsther Williams
Ricardo Montalbán
Mary Astor
Fortunio Bonanova
Cyd Charisse
John Carroll
Music byJohnny Green
CinematographyWilfred M. Cline
Edited byBlanche Sewell
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • June 12, 1947 (1947-06-12)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$5,635,000[1]

The story focuses on Mario Morales (Montalbán), a bullfighter who wants to be a composer, and his twin sister, Maria Morales (Williams), who wants to be a bullfighter even though she is a woman.

The film was shot on location in Puebla, Mexico.[2] This was Montalbán's first credited role in a Hollywood film, and resulted in him being offered a contract by the studio.[3] It was also the first of three films pairing Williams and Montalbán, the other two being On an Island with You (1948) and Neptune's Daughter (1949).

Fiesta was the first time Williams's name was billed above the title.[4]

Plot summary

Retired matador Antonio Morales is anxious when his wife gives birth, disappointed when the baby turns out to be a girl, then thrilled when a twin brother is born. He names them Mario and Maria.

As the children grow up, Antonio's wife dreads the idea of her son facing the danger of becoming a bullfighter, particularly inasmuch as Mario has an artistic side to his nature, an affinity for music. Maria, meanwhile, becomes quite expert in the ring, taught by her father's right-hand man, Chato Vasquez.

As a gift on their 21st birthday, Maria honors her brother by getting a copy of Mario's new music composition to Maximino Contreras, a famed orchestra conductor. Maximino, thoroughly impressed, pays a call on the Morales family just before Mario's first bullfight. Antonio prefers not to distract his son prior to entering the ring, so he promises to pass along Maximino's personal regards later. But he does not.

Before a second bullfight, Mario is approached by Maximino, who wonders why he never responded to his previous invitation to meet. Realizing that his father ignored it, Mario angrily walks out of the ring, disappointing spectators and infuriating his father, who feels the family's honor has been disgraced.

Maria attempts a ruse, disguising herself as Mario and confronting the bull. Her life is in danger before Mario intervenes, restoring the Morales family's good name. Mario is permitted by his father to pursue a life in music instead.



  • Fantasia Mexicana
  • La Bamba
    • Written by Luis Martínez Serrano
  • Jarabe Tapatío (The Mexican Hat Dance)
    • Traditional
  • La luna enamorada
    • Written by Angel Ortiz De Villajos, Miriano Bolanos, Recio Leocadio and Martinez Durango
  • Romeria Vasca
    • Written and Performed by Los Bocheros
  • La barca de oro


In March 1945 producer Jack Cummings announced his next film would be Fiesta Brava ("Wonderful Holiday") with Esther Williams. It was based on a story that George Bruce had come up with after a two month holiday in Mexico.[6]

In September 1945 MGM announced Richard Thorpe would direct with filming to start in October.[7] The same month Ricardo Montalban, married to Loretta Young's sister, was announced as Williams' co star.[8]

The film took longer than expected because Thorpe decided that he did not want the bulls killed. However, this led to the bulls attacking the stuntmen, four of them ending up in the hospital, and two of them barely surviving after being gored in the groin due to infections caused by the dirt on the bulls' horns. (Williams was doubled by men. After years swimming, she had broad shoulders, a flat backside, and a different body build from that of a bullfighter and a visible difference on film.) Not killing the bulls made the Mexican people angry, which didn't help, since they were already angry that their own toreadors could not star in the film. At the end of filming, the unit manager, Walter Strohm convinced Thorpe to kill the bulls, even though they cost $1000 each.[2]

Director of photography Sidney Wagner and one other crew member died of cholera after eating contaminated street food they had bought in town.[2] Williams' husband, Ben Gage, was arrested after getting into a fight with an employee of the hotel at which the cast was staying, the same man who had recently shot the crew's doctor, who had yelled at him. Gage's arrest was covered by gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Gage and the film's makeup artist George Lane were then declared persona non grata and wanted expelled from Mexico, but the company would be allowed to finish shooting the film. However, Williams knew that Lane would be fired when he returned to California, so she stalled shooting until he came back. Instead, the studio sent another makeup artist, Bill Tuttle to Mexico, and he promised Williams he would help Lane get another job.[2] In the film's bullring sequence, the capework concludes with the archaic and very rare "quite de la mariposa," or "butterfly takeaway." Hemingway described this maneuver as he saw it performed in the 1920s and '30s by matador Marcial Lananda. In 1983 Lalanda, now an octogenarian, described it in an interview on Television Española, as performed by matador Luis Francisco Espla.[9]

The studio insisted that Williams wear a traje de luces matador outfit for the film. Traditionally, the suit is made to lie very flat on the toreador's chest, and this proved to be difficult. The tailor in Mexico refused to work on the suit unless Williams "agreed to have her bosom surgically removed." Strohm had the suit sent back to Irene, MGM's costume designer in Hollywood, to be fitted to her body, which included closing the fly with hooks. On the trage de luces, when worn by men, the fly is left slightly open, so the "world can appreciate what's in there."[2]

The film features Williams in the water for one short sequence. This was a stark contrast with many of her box office hits, which all featured elaborate water sequences. Publicity photos for the film featuring Williams in a bathing suit were utilized much more than those of her in the traje de luces suit.[2]


Box Office

The film earned $2,546,000 in the US and $3,089,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $1,170,000.[1][10]


Fiesta was nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture at the 1948 Academy Awards, but lost to Mother Wore Tights.[11]

Home media

On October 6, 2009, Turner Entertainment released Fiesta on DVD as part of the Esther Williams Spotlight Collection, Volume 2. The 6 disc set was a follow up to the company's Esther Williams Spotlight Collection, Volume 1, and contains digitally remastered versions of several of Williams's films including Thrill of a Romance (1945), This Time for Keeps (1947), Pagan Love Song (1950), Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and Easy to Love (1953).[12]

See also


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Williams, Esther (1999). The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography (Autobiography) (First ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-15-601135-8. OCLC 43706619. Retrieved 2010-07-30. a reprint that has online preview
  3. "Turner Classic Movies". Retrieved 2010-07-30.
  4. "This Time for Keeps". 2009-11-12. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
  6. Looking at Hollywood Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 28 Mar 1945: 25.
  7. 'Dillinger' Tierney to Enact Jesse James Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 15 Sep 1945: A5.
  8. Montalban Wins Lead With Esther Williams Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 25 Sep 1945: A3.
  9. "Death in the Afternoon," by E. Hemingway; TVE archives, Madrid
  10. Variety listed the film as earning $3,550,000 in rentals see "Top Grossers of 1947", Variety, 7 January 1948 p 63
  12. "Turner Classic Movies". 2009-11-12. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
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