Tortilla Flat (1942)

105 mins | Comedy-drama | May 1942

Director:

Victor Fleming

Producer:

Sam Zimbalist

Cinematographer:

Karl Freund

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The opening title card reads, "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Spencer Tracy Hedy Lamarr John Garfield in Victor Fleming's Production of John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat ." The following written prologue precedes the story: "In the California hills just outside the old seaport town of Monterey live warmhearted people of laughter and kindness--the paisanos. They, and their ancestors, have lived there for a hundred or two years, in a little world of their own called Tortilla Flat." The term "paisano," which literally means a friend or compatriot, also refers to persons of Hispanic or mixed Hispanic and Native American ancestry who resided in the country towns of Northern California.
       According to a 1935 HR news item, Paramount initially bought the screen rights to Steinbeck's novel. M-G-M had acquired the rights to the novel by 1940, however, as verified in a 1940 short produced by Frank Whitbeck for the studio that announced the film as "coming" and starring Spencer Tracy. Although the film included many of the characters and situations of the novel, several aspects of the story were changed. In the novel, Sweets is a minor character and does not marry "Danny," who dies after a fall. In the novel, it is "Danny," a recently discharged veteran, who dwells on the responsibilities of property and sinks into an alcoholic depression that ultimately leads to his death. In the novel, "Danny" and "Pilon" do work seasonally, while in the film, much dialogue is devoted to a discussion of their loathing of work.
       According to news items, M-G-M had wanted to borrow Rita Hayworth from Columbia to play the role of "Sweets Ramirez," and ... More Less

The opening title card reads, "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Spencer Tracy Hedy Lamarr John Garfield in Victor Fleming's Production of John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat ." The following written prologue precedes the story: "In the California hills just outside the old seaport town of Monterey live warmhearted people of laughter and kindness--the paisanos. They, and their ancestors, have lived there for a hundred or two years, in a little world of their own called Tortilla Flat." The term "paisano," which literally means a friend or compatriot, also refers to persons of Hispanic or mixed Hispanic and Native American ancestry who resided in the country towns of Northern California.
       According to a 1935 HR news item, Paramount initially bought the screen rights to Steinbeck's novel. M-G-M had acquired the rights to the novel by 1940, however, as verified in a 1940 short produced by Frank Whitbeck for the studio that announced the film as "coming" and starring Spencer Tracy. Although the film included many of the characters and situations of the novel, several aspects of the story were changed. In the novel, Sweets is a minor character and does not marry "Danny," who dies after a fall. In the novel, it is "Danny," a recently discharged veteran, who dwells on the responsibilities of property and sinks into an alcoholic depression that ultimately leads to his death. In the novel, "Danny" and "Pilon" do work seasonally, while in the film, much dialogue is devoted to a discussion of their loathing of work.
       According to news items, M-G-M had wanted to borrow Rita Hayworth from Columbia to play the role of "Sweets Ramirez," and actors Desi Arnaz and Rags Ragland were both tested for parts in the film. John Garfield was borrowed from Warner Bros. for the film. Actor Robin Raymond was included in the cast in a HR news item, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to a pre-production news item, actress Maria Montez was tested for a role in the film. Other news items indicate that some exteriors and backgrounds for the film were shot on location in Monterey, CA, and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was to have written five new musical sequences for the film. The extent of Castelnuevo-Tedesco's participation in the released film has not been determined. Actor Frank Morgan received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as "The Pirate" in the film. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 Apr 1942.
---
Daily Variety
12 Dec 1942.
---
Daily Variety
22 Apr 42
p. 3.
Film Daily
22 Apr 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 35
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 41
pp. 2-3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 41
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 41
p. 6, 8
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Feb 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 42
p. 3.
Life
1 Jun 42
pp. 39-41.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
25 Apr 42
p. 621.
New York Times
22 May 42
p. 27.
Variety
22 Apr 42
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Victor Fleming's Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Fill-In dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Photog
Monterey exteriors
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Assoc
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
Men's cost by
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
"Varsoviana" dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (New York, 1935).
SONGS
"Ay, Paisano!" music by Franz Waxman, lyrics by Frank Loesser.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat
Release Date:
May 1942
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 21 May 1942
Production Date:
23 November 1941--12 February 1942
retakes February 23--24 February 1942
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 April 1942
Copyright Number:
LP11274
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
sepia
Duration(in mins):
105
Length(in feet):
9,457
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
8103
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In Monterey, California, paisano Danny Alvarez inherits a gold watch and two houses in the area known as Tortilla Flat from his grandfather. Because Danny is in jail for public drunkenness, his friends, Pilon and Pablo, convince jailer Tito Ralph to "parole" Danny to celebrate and invite Tito to come along. Pilon warns Danny that property and watches bring unwanted responsibilities and cajoles him into selling the watch for some wine. On the way to celebrate in one of the houses, Danny meets Dolores Ramirez, a "Portagee" girl to whom Danny is attracted and names "Sweets." During the party, Pilon talks Danny into renting the other house to him, then convinces Pablo to live with him and pay the fifteen dollars rent. The next day, while Danny serves out the rest of his jail term, Pilon and Pablo find Portagee Joe and Jose Maria Corcoran drunk in the back yard and invite them to live in the house for the three dollars which Jose Maria has. That night, Danny goes to see Sweets, who likes Danny, but has ambitions for a husband, a home and children who don't have to pick beans for a living. When Pablo summons Danny because Pilon's house is on fire, Danny does not care and passionately kisses Sweets, but she throws him out after threatening him with a knife. After the fire, Pilon and the other paisanos, accompanied by a young widower with a baby they met watching the fire, go to Danny's house. Because the baby is starving, Danny goes to Sweets to get milk from her goats and, seeing how gentle Sweets is with the baby, ... +


In Monterey, California, paisano Danny Alvarez inherits a gold watch and two houses in the area known as Tortilla Flat from his grandfather. Because Danny is in jail for public drunkenness, his friends, Pilon and Pablo, convince jailer Tito Ralph to "parole" Danny to celebrate and invite Tito to come along. Pilon warns Danny that property and watches bring unwanted responsibilities and cajoles him into selling the watch for some wine. On the way to celebrate in one of the houses, Danny meets Dolores Ramirez, a "Portagee" girl to whom Danny is attracted and names "Sweets." During the party, Pilon talks Danny into renting the other house to him, then convinces Pablo to live with him and pay the fifteen dollars rent. The next day, while Danny serves out the rest of his jail term, Pilon and Pablo find Portagee Joe and Jose Maria Corcoran drunk in the back yard and invite them to live in the house for the three dollars which Jose Maria has. That night, Danny goes to see Sweets, who likes Danny, but has ambitions for a husband, a home and children who don't have to pick beans for a living. When Pablo summons Danny because Pilon's house is on fire, Danny does not care and passionately kisses Sweets, but she throws him out after threatening him with a knife. After the fire, Pilon and the other paisanos, accompanied by a young widower with a baby they met watching the fire, go to Danny's house. Because the baby is starving, Danny goes to Sweets to get milk from her goats and, seeing how gentle Sweets is with the baby, Danny becomes even more smitten. The next morning, Pilon worries about paying his rent and becomes intrigued by The Pirate, a shabby old man who lives with several dogs in a chicken coop. Pilon surmises that Pirate must be a miser because he sells twenty-five cents worth of wood each day, yet never spends anything. Hoping to get Pirate's money, Pilon convinces the old man to come and live at Danny's, saying that his friends worry about him. Meanwhile, Danny visits Sweets at the sardine cannery where she works and gets into a scuffle with the foreman when he is told to leave. Walking by the bay, Danny sees a small fishing boat for sale for $210, then goes to pawn his guitar in exchange for a vacuum cleaner for Sweets. Back at home, Danny is not happy that Pirate and "his boys" are new tenants until Pilon tells him about Pirate's money. Danny then confesses to Pilon that he needs money to buy a boat. The next day, when Pirate reveals that he needs one thousand quarters to buy a gold candlestick for St. Francis, which he had promised the saint if one of his dogs recovered from a serious illness, Pilon is ashamed and resolves to safeguard Pirate's bag of quarters. Now knowing that he has no other choice, Danny gets a job at the cannery. When Pilon finds out, he knows that it is because of Sweets and fears that she will make the paisanos leave the house if she marries Danny. Pilon lies to Danny that she has been bragging that they are engaged, then steals the vacuum and uses it to buy wine. That night, Sweets angrily accuses Danny of the theft and he counters by accusing her of spreading a story about their engagement. She then slaps him and orders him out. Meanwhile, at the house, after Portagee Joe takes six quarters from Pirate's bag, an angry Pilon recounts the money and discovers that Pirate has more than enough to buy the candlestick. When Danny comes home, he knocks Pilon down when Pilon insults Sweets, then grabs a jug of wine and leaves. The next day, after washing and grooming Pirate, the paisanos take him to church to see the candlestick and hear Father Juan Ramon, who gives a sermon about the candlestick and the miracle of Pirate's dog's recovery. That same morning, a drunken Danny goes to the cannery to see Sweets and is again told to leave. In a fight with several foremen, Danny is accidentally crushed in one of the machines. Later, at the hospital, Pilon learns that Danny's lung has been punctured and he is near death. When Sweets hysterically lashes out at Pilon, he goes to the woods and overhears Pirate telling his dogs about the sermon. Pilon then goes to the church, where his prayers to St. Francis are overheard by Father Juan, who is touched when Pilon offers to buys another candlestick if Danny gets well. Some time later, Father Juan finds Pilon cutting squid and tells him that "someone's prayers have been answered" because Danny is much better. Father Juan adds that Sweets is sorry for her anger and that all of his friends are worried. As the priest leaves, he says that St. Francis does not need another candlestick but would be grateful if Danny somehow had a boat. Some time later, Danny and Sweets are married and a raffle is held for Danny's guitar. Unknown to all but Father Jaun, Pilon himself paid for the tickets, and the money was used to buy Danny the boat. That night, as Pilon and the paisanos drink in Danny's house, Pilon concludes that it was the house that caused all of Danny's troubles. When a fire accidentally starts, the paisanos decide to sleep on the beach and let the house burn. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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