And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003)  TV




Director:     Bruce Beresford. 

Starring:     Antonio Banderas (Pancho Villa), Alan Arkin (Sam Drebben),  Eion Bailey (Frank Thayer), Jim Broadbent (Harry Aiken),  Kyle Chandler (Raoul Walsh), Alexa Davalos (Teddy Sampson), Matt Day (John Reed), Colm Feore (D.W. Griffith),  Anthony Head (William Benton),  Michael McKean (William Christy Cabanne).

To finance his forces, the Mexican revolutionary leader sells the movie rights to his battles.


1914 (January)  --  For Lee, New Jersey, movie capital of the world.  D.W. Griffith is filming a cowboy and Indian flick.  He is told  that the infamous Mexican revolutionary hero (or bandit, according to some) Pancho Villa is willing to sell the rights to film his actual battles.  Villa wants $25,000 in advance.  Griffith working on his racist Birth of a Nation, likes the idea.

Frank Thayer is an aide to the Mutual Company.  They decide to sent him to Presidio, Texas from whence he can meet Villa and get a better deal from him.  He meets the famous reporter John Reed, as he and others watch as Villa attacks governmental forces in Ojinaga across the Rio Grande from Presidio, Texas: the Battle of Ojinaga.

The film looks amateurish to some of the reporters and so the studio decides to scrap the filming.  But Frank Thayer still believes in the project and says the studio should double the length of the movie to seven fifteen-minute reels (to an hour length) and charge 10 cents for a ticket, a price twice as high as the then current price of a nickel.  

1914 (Feb 17)  --  House of English ranch owner William Benton, "Los Remedios."  Villa has him shot when he protests that Villa has been taking advantage of him.  The Hearst papers tars-and-feathers Villa in the press, claiming his is a great threat to the U.S.. 

Villa tells the studio he wants a print of the movie, so he can earn some money in Mexico for his cause.  Villa meets the American actors: the future director Raoul Walsh will play Villa and the beautiful Teddy Sampson will play his sister. 

They plan to film the Battle of Torreón.  Villa defeated federal forces during this battle (April 2, 1914), but mostly at night when it could not be filmed.  He kills an innocent woman, which makes Frank so mad that Villa calls off any further filming.

They premiere the film.  But what will be the all critical reaction of the American public, not only to the film but to Pancho Villa himself. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:


see  Viva Villa! (1934)

claims that he scheduled battles and executions to accommodate filmmakers are untrue (

In the Battle of Torreón, Villa commits excesses against Spanish nationals. 

1914 (May 9)  --  The Life of General Villa premieres.



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