“They say that a little love is like a little wine. Too much of either makes a man sick.”
I kind of had a feeling as soon as I recorded Tortilla Flat that I was not going to enjoy it too much. I am not too much of a fan of Spencer Tracy although he is a very good actor but there is something to him that I cannot get into. Once I read a synopsis of what the film was about I had a feeling I would be bored. So with the plot and Tracy as well this being from a Steinbeck novel I knew I was not going to be sitting through this with too much enjoyment. The only reason I recorded this was because John Garfield and Hedy Lemarr are in it, I have been on the lookout for more of their films.
The story takes place in a northern California area known with a large Mexican- American community. Many of the people in the area are poor and several of the men are wondering bums. Pilon (Tracy) is one of those men. He is good at getting people to do what he wants and to do things for him. While sitting down by the beach one day a lawyer comes to Pilon asking where he can find Danny Alvarez (Garfield). Pilon tells the lawyer that Danny is jail for disorderly conduct after he got drunk. The lawyer asks Pilon to take him to the jail he needs to speak to Danny about him having inheriting two houses from his grandfather who passed.
Danny only has one day of jail left so with the guard they leave to check out the houses. Before they go they all stop to get some wine so they can celebrate. While walking to the house Danny is introduced to a beautiful woman named Dolores (Lemarr). Pilon sees that nothing good can come of the relationship, or so he thinks because he wants Danny to stay with them not get a job and run off with some girl. Pilon manages to talk Danny into letting him rent the second house. The guard tells Pilon he can that he (Pilon) has been leading Danny around. Pilon grabs the man and tells the guard that he never take advantage of his friends.
Pilon does not like Dolores at all when she comes to the house one night. She tells him that she does not like him or his friends at all. From this point Pilon sets out to cause a rift between Danny and Dolores. His plan backfires though when Danny goes on a drunken binge and shows up at the factory where Dolores works and causes a fight where he gets seriously hurt. During Danny’s time in the hospital Pilon feels terrible and prays to go that Danny gets better. He even gets a job that no one knows about so he can help his friend buy a boat. Danny does get better and marries Dolores.
There is a lot more to this story but I am in no mood to write more about it.
Spencer Tracy I wound up not minding too much even if his character was a pain in the ass. Pilon was a character who knew what he was doing he knew that his friends were dumb enough to listen to him and he could manipulate them very easily. I do not like people or characters like if they are not the bad guys. You can see Pilon has a heart in him somewhere but he keeps that closed off so everything he says sounds like a load of crap. John Garfield reminded me of a little boy being manipulated by the older boys and once he found what was going on went into a rage. This is only the third time I have ever seen Garfield in a film and I really like him he was a very good actor. Hedy Lemarr was great. She looked like she could have been a local of the community. Her character was feisty and she played that perfectly. Frank Morgan plays a character named Pirate who has a couple of dogs. The character once prayed to St. Francis to help one of his dogs who had been seriously sick and the dog became better. Morgan stole the whole film. He was fantastic in this role. He seemed like such a nice man like you want to reach through the screen and hug him!
Tortilla Flat was an alright film. As I mentioned I knew I was not going to like it too much because of Spencer Tracy and the plot. I will say all the actors were perfect in their roles they all did great. Tortilla Flat is worth at least one viewing. If TCM ever airs the film again give it a try.