The Law of Contact

The Devil on Horseback (October 11, 1936)

Lili Damita is the Devil on Horseback

Released on October 11, 1936: (running time 1 hour and 10 minutes) While on a promotion tour in South America with her boyfriend the king of coffee, a movie star is kidnapped by wealthy coffee rancho owner who also loves her, and she must choose between them.

Directed by Crane Wilbur

The Actors: Lili Damita (Diane Corday), Fred Keating (Gary Owen), Del Campo (Pancho Granero), Jean Chatburn (Jane Evans), Tiffany Thayer (Wilbur Hitchcock), Renee Torres (Rosmond), Juan Torena (Juan Torres), Blanca Vischer (Manuela Torres), Enrique de Rosas (Colonel Enrique Berea), Jack Stegall (Captain de Reana), Marjorie Gaye Ginsberg (dancer), Ann Miller (dancer), Lucio Villegas (General Valdez).


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I don't know whether to call this a crime drama, or a cowboy adventure, or a romantic comedy, or an opera style musical . . . it is all of that and more! This movie was thought to be lost to the ages, but a very bad copy has been discovered, and I cleaned it up a bit so that it is watchable and enjoyable. I'm not sure where the movie was filmed, but it takes place in a mythical South American country that produces coffee for the U.S.

As our movie opens, we watch the wealthiest man in the country, Pancho Granero, riding into town to go to the movies. He buys the whole theater so that he can watch his matinee idol, the lovely Diane Corday. When she is kissed by the leading man in the movie, he gets upset and pulls out his gun to fire repeatedly at the movie screen. How dare anyone kiss the lady that he loves! Meanwhile, back at the rancho, Pancho gets a telegram from the coffee king of America, Gary Owen. Gary will be in a nearby town with movie star Diane Corday on a publicity tour, and Pancho should listen to the radio that evening to hear them. Pancho hears the show, and learns that they will be taking a train to several towns around the country to make publicity appearances. Pancho decides that he will take some men and meet the train so that he can see his movie star Diane.

Pancho and his men stop the train to meet Diane, and while talking to her group, Diane's publicity agent decides that it would make a great story if Diane were reported to be kidnapped by an outlaw, so he puts out that story to the press, then asks Pancho if they can come to his ranch for a day, so that the story will seem real. So this leads to that, and we enjoy a few days at Pancho's ranch, with music, dancing and frivolity. There are plenty of double entendre messages and comical lines in the style of Ricky Ricardo, and love is in the air. And the music . . . it is not your typical cowboy western sing-along style, if you close your eyes and just listen, you would swear that you are at a Broadway play with some of the best voices in the land. I understand that I may not have been able to tempt you into watching this very different kind of movie, but trust me, you will enjoy every moment as you munch your butter drenched white kernel popcorn.