In the late 1930s, with European markets crippled by war and America’s involvement in the conflict looming, Hollywood began to explore more aggressively exploiting the Latin American market as an outlet for its product. Motivated by President Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy and the efforts of Nelson Rockefeller, the President’s adviser on inter-American affairs, the film industry established the Motion Picture Society for the Americas, which urged studios to make films that used entertainment to promote cross-cultural awareness.
From setting stories in exotic locales to featuring musical interludes with Latin American performers, the industry enthusiastically assumed the task of presenting a more prominent and positive image of Latin American countries and their citizens in Hollywood films. The effort created a vogue for Latin American culture, and had a noticeable effect on many aspects of Hollywood moviemaking, particularly music, dance styles and fashion. Drawing on the collections of the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library, this exhibition looks at some of that era’s colorful films and the memorable personalities who brought them to life.
See more about Latin America and Hollywood at our exhibition, Cuban Film Posters: From Havana to the World.
Hollywood Looks at Mexico: Films from the Academy Film Archive
"Vera Cruz" (c. 1943)
The original gateway to the New World is now a major port and vacationland. A visit to Xalapa shows a sports stadium, the capital statehouse, Pico de Orizaba. Also seen are coffee and orange growers in Coatapec, fishers in Alvarado, a juapango dance in the town of Tlacotalpan. Narrated by Joseph Cotten. Photographed by Luis Orsono Barona. Music by Vittorio Gianni. Produced by Mitla Films.
"A Town in Old Mexico"
Three towns south of Mexico City -- Puebla, Orizaba, and Fortin de las Flores -- still have the atmosphere of Spanish colonial times. Narrated by Orson Welles. Photographed by Luis Orsono Barona. Produced by Mitla Films.
"Guadalajara" (c. 1943)
A sightseeing tour through Mexico's second largest city; sites include the central cathedral, governor's palace, church of Santa Monica, museum of ancient history, hotels, the Juanacatlan falls, mariachis, handicrafts of Tlaquepaque, and Lake Chapala. The last third of the film visits Mazatlan. Narrated by Walter Abel. Photographed by Luis Orsono Barona. Produced by Mitla Films.