Meant to be the musical blockbuster follow-up to Mike Todd’s Around the World in Eighty Days, with every star who didn’t appear in that one, and even one or two who did, clamoring to be a sucker for Cantinflas’s brand of corny sap, a combo of Harry Langdon, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton. Had Pepe remained the picturesque Mexico travelogue that it promised to be—though Acapulco looks oddly denuded and almost primal—maybe it wouldn’t have been this unendurable, maybe it would have survived as a “Was it/Were we really like that back then?” time capsule. (Yes, it was; no, we weren’t.) With major support by Edward G. Robinson, Dan Dailey and Shirley Jones in a terrible performance and stuck singing the nauseating title song, the following are guests in alphabetical order: Joey Bishop, Billy Burke, Michael Callan, Maurice Chevalier (singing “Mimi” and “September Song”), Charles Coburn, Richard Conte, Bing Crosby (singing “Pennies from Heaven”), Tony Curtis, Bobby Darin (singing “That's How It All Went Right”), Ann B. Davis, Sammy Davis, Jr. (singing “Horray for Hollywood”), William Demarest, Jimmy Durante, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Greer Garson, Judy Garland (singing the Oscar-nominated “Faraway Part of Town” off-screen), Hedda Hopper, Ernie Kovacs, Peter Lawford, Janet Leigh (who won a Laurel Award as top female comedy performer for this?!), Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, Jay North, Kim Novak, André Previn, Donna Reed, Debbie Reynolds, Cesar Romero, Frank Sinatra and others I’m unable to recall at the moment and too lazy to hunt down. Conceived as a roadshow at 195 minutes in length, Pepe was cut after disastrous reviews to 157 minutes for continuous showings at advanced prices and made a little money. No one’s clamoring for the roughly forty minutes to be restored; when TCM airs the letterboxed 157 minute edit, most of us are probably wondering why more wasn’t cut. (Callan’s tribute to Westside Story remains and ain’t too bad, until Cantinflas fucks it up.) A few theatres pushed programs, most did not. Other Oscar noms: color cinematography (Joe MacDonald), art direction, costume (Edith Head), sound, film editing, scoring of a musical picture (Johnny Green). Selected as one of Harvard Lampoon’s Ten Worst for 1960. Spanish language cable shows it full screen and faded. No American DVD; Mexican Pal 2 available. Directed by George Sidney. CinemaScope, using an improved lens by Panavision.
Text COPYRIGHT © 2002 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.