Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Baron of Arizona- 1950

Vincent Price ... James Addison Reavis,Brother Anthony and Unknown Gypsy
Ellen Drew ... Sofia de Peralta-Reavis
Vladimir Sokoloff ... Pepito Alvarez
Beulah Bondi ... Loma Morales
Reed Hadley ... John Griff
Robert Barrat ... Judge Adams (as Robert H. Barrat)
Robin Short ... Tom Lansing
Tina Pine ... Rita (as Tina Rome)
Karen Kester ... Sofia as a Child
Margia Dean ... Marquesa de Santella
Jonathan Hale ... Governor
Edward Keane ... Surveyor General Miller
Barbara Woodell ... Mrs. Carrie Lansing
I. Stanford Jolley ... Mr. Richardson
Fred Kohler Jr. ... Demmings

James Wong Howe -Cinematographer
Paul Dunlap -(Composer (Music Score))
Samuel Fuller -Director
Arthur D. Hilton -Editor
Carl Hittleman-Producer
Samuel Fuller -Screenwriter


This film tells the tale of swindler James Addison Reavis, played with devilish fortitude by Vincent Price. Reavis almost succeeded in swindling the entire territory of the Arizona away from the U.S. It was a scam so bold it would make Bernie Madoff proud.  His claim also included portions of New Mexico and he cited an ancient Spanish land grant as proof that he was entitled to the territories. Reavis married the heir to the land grant thereby making him a Baron, and his wife (Ellen Drew) a Baronness. Before he was convicted  Reavis also scammed various mines and the Southern Pacific railroad for right-of way rights to operate on his land. The incredible but true story impressed Director Sam Fuller enough that he wrote the screenplay.  He had heard the story while while traveling in the U.S. Southwest as a reporter.

The film starts out with the Govenor of Arizona and other men drinking brandy and discussing the history of Arizona. The Govenor briefly describes Reavis' actions and then the movie goes back in  time to 1880. Here is the basis of the scam.  Reavis worked as a clerk in the land office at Santa Fe, New Mexico so that helped him a great deal. He heard about old spanish land grants and wanted a piece of the action.

First he found a peasant man named Pepito Alvarez, who was guardian over an orphan child. He told the man that he was from the land office and  his child was heir to the Peralta land grant. The man lived near the boundries of the Peralta Land Grant. They soon move in with Revis who obtains a governness named Loma Morales (Beulah Bondi ) for the child. The child is told that she is really a baronness and is schooled in how to be a lady of royal birth. She is told that she will become rich. With this part of his scam going well he needs to create and falsify documents to back it up.  Before leaving for Spain, he carved a bogus message on a rock that stated that in 1750 Queen Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain had declared the area as belonging to the Peralta Land Grant. He travels to Spain to forge documents to back up his case. He even becomes a monk to get a look at and change the documents. He spends at least 7 years overseas.

Next, he heads back to the U.S. to marry a (now grown) Sophia de Peralta.  After the wedding, he hatches his plan to deceive the people and government of the territories of AZ and NM. He collects rent from ranches,farms and mines for eleven years.  He boldly collected rent from the Southern Pacific railroad for right-of way rights to operate on his land. The Baron and Baroness become one of the wealthest in Arizona.  Enraged townsfolk travel to Phoenix to protest his actions.

Finally on June 27, 1896, his trial begins.  To find out what happens, you need to watch the movie.


Shot in 15 days.


Rita, the Gypsy Dancer: Who are you?

James Addison 'The Baron' Reavis, aka Brother Anthony: A wanderer like Cain looking for a woman of my own.

(You have to see the movie to appreciate the Quote.)

Final Thoughts:

I liked the movie, but I thought that a few things could have been changed. Beulah Bondi was not given much to do with her part. I also would have liked to learn more about James Addison Reavis. Through research,I found out that he had been scamming people since the Civil War.

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