The Name is Zapata. Emiliano Zapata.

Here is your ringtone:

And speaking of ringtones...

Here are the official NASA ringtones.

But enough of geek and back to the movie.


Guys... this is a classic.

Marlon Brando
Emiliano Zapata, Anthony Quinn is his brother  Eufemio Zapata, John Steinbeck wrote the piece, Elia Kazan directed.

Jean Peters, aka Miss Ohio 1946, is Emiliano's girl Josefa.

The movie's background is the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Attention, all the above personae have already kicked the bucket. So, we're looking at some fine vintage stuff here.

And you are right, Jean Peters is the exact same Jane Peters who was Polly Cutler alongside Marilyn Monroe in Niagara. And here they are frolicking about:

20th Century Fox

Those were the days. But back to Zapata.

No, wait. Here's one more of Jean Peters.

Viva Zapata! 1953
20th Century Fox

Alright. Let's go...

Viva Zapata - Viva Steinbeck

The movie starts at Mexico City in 1909.

A delegation of peasants from the  State of Morelos have come to the Capitol for an audience with their President,  Porfirio Diaz, because the haciendas took the land where the villagers formerly grew their corn in order to plant their sugar canes.

President Diaz advises to be patient and to let the courts settle it. Emiliano Zapata replies calmly,

We make our tortillas out of corn, not patience.

Zapata ends up getting his name circled by Diaz on Diaz' list of visitors.

Zapata Gets Earmarked by Diaz
Zapata Gets Earmarked by Diaz
Viva Zapata! 1953
20th Century Fox


The villagers cut through the hacienda's fences to access their stolen lands. The hacienda's guards chase them away. Zapata is now an outlaw.

From his hideout in Texas,
Francisco Madero tries to rally against Diaz. Zapata sends his man to check Madero out, to see if he is worth risking a neck for.

Zapata is not too successful with the girls, as can be the case when you're without money, without land, and a fugitive of the law. Emiliano would like to marry Josefa, but she got a good point. She tells him she's not too keen on ending up making tortillas in a ditch.

Zapata tells her about his job options as a horse trainer, things are therefore not looking too grim and besides, he could very well easily just take her without her permission. Josefa helps Emiliano understand the obvious consequences of such potential caveman behavior.

Sooner or later you will fall asleep . . .

Here she makes her point:

Yes I Would, Because I Am a Respectable Girl - Viva Zapata
Yes I Would, Because I Am a Respectable Girl
Viva Zapata! 1953
20th Century Fox


Josefa's governess: He's an outlaw and a criminal.

Josefa: Yes, I like him, too.

Zapata asks for permission to marry Josefa. Josefa's father sums it up eloquently.

You are a man of substance without substance.

Zapata becomes a revolutionary general, hence gaining substance and Josefa.

Word spreads that President Porfirio Diaz has left the country. Except a few people who know better, everybody celebrates, thinking their troubles came to and end at long last. Little do they know the bigger and bloodier part of the Mexican Revolution lies still ahead of them.

Madero asks Zapata's men to disarm. Zapata doesn't understand how they would be able to get their lands back if unarmed.

Madero: Peace is the hard part.

General Victoriano Huerta advises Madero

Huerta: Kill Zapata now, save time, save lives. Perhaps your own.

Madero: General Huerta, I do not shoot my own people.

Huerta: You'll learn.

The movie well illustrates Zapata's predicament. For him it was rather simple. This is the land of the people, give it to the people. But Madero points out:

Madero: Before you can do anything by law, you must HAVE law.

Zapata agrees reluctantly to disarm but the deal goes sour when he hears of Huerta's approaching army. Madero doesn't get it.

Madero: Huerta disobeyed my orders? He would not dare.

Huerta dares more than that and Madero enters the twilight zone.

Eliminating Francisco Madero
Viva Zapata! 1953
20th Century Fox

Pancho Villa enters the picture. Huerta is exiled. Zapata and Villa meet in Mexico City.

And now we know the story behind the famous photos taken at the presidential palace in Mexico City in December 1914.

 Zapata Villa Photo Op Mexico City
Zapata Villa Photo Op Mexico City
Viva Zapata! 1953
20th Century Fox

The people are coming to Zapata with their complaints. When a delegation from
 Morelos arrives, complaining about Zapata's brother Eufemio, one of the men is very persistent. Zapata circles his name on his list of visitors and is having a déjà vu.

He can't stand it, packs his bundle, and goes back home together with his fellow men from Morelos.

Emiliano questions his brother regarding the accusations and Eufemio points out the lack of pay despite the good job he had done as a general. Point taken.

Emiliano tells his people,

You won't be here long if you don't protect your land.

Eufemio gets killed and Anthony Quinn breathes away while supposedly lying there dead.

A trap is set to assassinate Emiliano. Emiliano finds it "strange enough to be true." Josefa, already with downscaled living standards and by now living in a hut, is not thrilled and warns her husband that this is a trap.

Josefa wants to know what would happen to the people if Emiliano gets himself killed. Emiliano says that they are strong people and that they don't need him anymore.

Josefa, romantically leaning against a machine gun, points out that the people would always have to be led. Emiliano says yes, but by each other. A strong man makes a weak people. Strong people don't need a strong man.

And speaking of strong. Josefa has this strong hunch that she's not going to see her husband again. She begs him not to go, tries to stop him as he rides away on his horse. He pushes her away and Josefa ends up in the dirt. Ah, the drama.

Sure enough, not much later Emiliano gets hugged by Jesús Guajardo aka death by assassination.

The tiger is dead.

Emiliano's enemies throw his dead body in the middle of the marketplace for everybody to see. And following Anthony Quinn's example, Marlon Brando is doing the breathing dead man.

Crouching over Emiliano's remains, the villagers decide that Emiliano Zapata is immortal.

They can't kill him. He's in the mountains.

So is Elvis. Viva Zapata!

Viva Zapata! 1953
20th Century Fox

What's True, What Ain't?

The movie well portrays Emiliano Zapata's love of the land, his hesitation to assume the role of a leader, his dislike of being rich and famous, and his great ability to get to the point and cut through all the bull that came his way.

When clever intellectuals tried to lull Emiliano with big speeches, he would just put their noses right back to the core of the matter.

Pardon me, Sir, but when will the village lands be given back?

Marlon Brando is terrific and won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival 1952. He was nominated Best Actor for an Oscar in 1953, but Gary Cooper won it with High Noon.

Anthony Quinn delivers a brilliant Eufemio Zapata, a real joy to watch, and people gave him an Oscar in 1953 for Best Supporting Actor. Although the real brothers Emiliano and Eufemio probably weren't that black and white kind of different from each other as shown in the movie.

And let's give the girl Josefa a little bit more credit and let's say in real life she probably had a better understanding of the meaning of the political developments around her. But then again, who knows.

Emiliano was able to read and write, but in the movie he first complains to Pablo that he had promised him to teach him how to read and then he tells the bright girl Josefa that he can't read and asks her to teach him. Which she does, using the easiest book around, the bible.

Above mentioned Pablo Gonzalez, the guy who hung out with Emiliano and Eufemio throughout the first part of the movie until Emiliano shot him for secretly consulting with Madero, is fictional and not to be confused with the real  Pablo Gonzalez Garza.

In the movie, Emiliano sent Pablo Gonzalez to check out Madero. In real life, Emiliano sent Torres Burgos to do it. Check the 1911 Timeline of the Mexican Revolution for more details on Torres' mission.

Also fictional is the character Fernando Aguirre.

Don Nacio refers to Ignacio de la Torre y Mier for whom Zapata actually did work for a short period of time.

The way Eufemio dies was slightly different. Check the entry in the  1917 Timeline of the Mexican Revolution for the real events.

The same is true with Emiliano's death.

Final Verdict

Summing up the ten years of the chaotic Mexican Revolution is a huge task. The people who made Viva Zapata! deserve medals. So what if they skipped the entire Venustiano Carranza chapter.

With Viva Zapata! you've got a real Classic that is not too far from the actual historical events. There are some minor bumps in the editing department, but hey.

All in all a very fine movie. And if you get a kick out of a Brando with wickedly shaped, draped, and painted eyelashes, please holler. You're gonna love.




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Video Trailer: Viva Zapata! 1952

28-year-old Marlon Brando is ZAPATA. The hot chick is Jean Peters.

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