Mexicanos, al grito de guerra (Mexicans, to the Cry of War) (1943)
Director: Álvaro Gálvez y Fuentes, Ismael Rodríguez.
Starring: Pedro Infante (Lt. Luis Sandoval), Lina Montes (Esther Dubois), Miguel Inclán (President Benito Juárez), Miguel Arenas (Count Dubois), Miguel Ángel Ferriz (Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza), Carlos Riquelme (Francisco González Bocanegra), Salvador Carrasco (Jaime Nunó), Margarita Cortés (Lupe), Salvador Quiroz (Antonio López de Santa Anna), Armando Soto La Marina (Baker), Arturo Soto Rangel (Sandoval, Esteban's father), Ricardo Carti (Gen. Alponte), Ramón G. Larrea (Gen. Jurien), Pedro Elviro (Lombardini), Francisco Jambrina (Gen. Juan Prim).
a soldier defends Mexico against the French while in love with the French ambassador's daughter
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Napoleon III says that his soldiers are invading the Balkans and adds: "Nobody can beat my soldiers." Another of his observations is that one day Napoleon III will be more famous than Napoleon Bonaparte. The Emperor asks Dubois de Saligny where are all of his troops? There are 5 divisions in Africa; 10 in Italy, 4 at the Black Sea; 8 in the Crimea; and 12 in the Balkans. With the Emperor is Mexican General Juan Nepomuceno Almonte. Napoleon III asks how many men would it require to take Mexico? 500? But he will send 5,000 soldiers to do the job. He wants Dubois to personally take care of this matter. Dubois is now made Minister of France in Mexico. The Emperor knows little about Mexico. In fact, he can't even find it on the world map.
There is a contest to see who can write the national hymn of Mexico. Luis Sandoval urges his friend Francisco González Bocanegra to compose the poem for the competition, since Francisco is a bit of a poet. Francisco says he is not genius enough to win the contest. Francisco stops to speak with his cousin Lupe. She says she has been waiting for him for quite some time. Luis is not giving up. Again he tells the poet to write the words to they hymn and he will win the prize.
Francisco goes into his cousin's house. Lupe tells him to do it! Write the hymn! But Francisco says that would call for the work of a genius and he's no genius. Lupe, however, is also not giving up. She sits at the piano and starts to play something.
Luis Sandoval and his friend Felipe are at music class. Felipe with his tuba is the worst of the musicians. The professor tells him to practice more. After class is over Louis goes up to ask his professor if he would write the music for the contest to create a national hymn? The professor is very hesitant. Luis explains how deeply he feels toward his country of Mexico. Some of those in the class laugh at the "patriotic feelings" Luis says he feels, because they know that his father has been a rebel fighting against the Mexican government. His father went with the rebels when the dictatorship of Gen. Santa Anna started and he wanted to bring in a foreign government to Mexico. The rebels lost their struggle and now father has to stay hidden up in the mountains with other rebels. The professor tells Luis that he will wait for the lyrics to be written.
Lupe locks her cousin in the den/library and tells him she will not let him out until he has written the words. Francisco tells her to let him out, but she refuses. He starts looking at the books in the den and then notices a lot of very patriotic paintings hanging in the den. He starts to get inspired and actually sits down and begins writing. Several hours later Francisco asks Lupe to open up for he has the words for the hymn. Lupe tells him to push the paper under the door to her, so she can make sure he has written the poem. Francisco does so and everything is quiet as Lupe reads what he has written. She finally opens the door a little so Francisco can open it. She tells Francisco: "You have written something marvelous."
Luis and Felipe show the lyrics to their music professor. The professor starts thinking how the song would go and he almost immediately starts composing on the piano. Luis and Felipe leave.
Luis and Felipe bump into a man and a pretty, young, blonde woman. The man is the Frenchman Dubois sent here by Napoleon III. Dubois scolds the lads for not watching where they are going. A sister and brother come over to Dubois and the young woman. They want to take the young lady for a walk on the chain walk. Lots of people are already there walking. The place is packed. Luis had overhead them saying they would be going to the chains walk, so he and Felipe to there. Luis spots the blonde and asks two musicians to accompany him on a song called "The Peach". They start singing and playing. The brother doesn't like any interference from Luis. So he insults the singer by throwing a coin on the ground. Luis picks it up to give it back to him, but the brother says that's for his singing. Luis is pretty mad, but he holds himself back saying that, if there weren't any women here, he would give the brother some change for his money! He and Felipe with the two musicians walk off.
The brother is mad at the threat posed by Luis, so he races his carriage down the street toward Luis. Everyone manages to get out of the way in time, but a guitar is run over and completely smashed by the carriage.
President Gen. Santa Anna says to his aide that Mexico has had 30 years as a republic with 45 presidents in 20 years. He himself has been president 11 times. He says the next time he will be Emperor. The General sees a photo of the Tsar's personal guard. They all have beards and look very tough. Santa Anna wants a guard just like that. His aide informs him that this would be expensive -- perhaps as much as 500,000 pesos. Santa Anna doesn't care about the cost. He thinks up a new tax to put on the people. There will be a tax of 3 reales for each window of a home. He is confident this will bring him the needed funds.
To avoid the tax, people start removing their windows and boarding them up with stones and other materials. Some people remove a door and just use a window as both a window and a doorway for coming in and going out. In fact, people are very creative in the ways they choose to avoid the tax.
Dubois and his henchmen meet to plan their next move. They all agree that this last tax hike by Santa Anna was absurd and brutal, making the people unhappy with him. The conspirators believe that there is revolution in the air. The anarchy will make possible a government intervention and this will mean the triumph of the Conservative party and its aristocrats. Mr. Salas raises some objections. He asks what will they do if the Mexicans actually get together and fight the French? Dubois dismisses this concern. He says that Mexico is like and child that needs tutoring. It's a weak country and needs protection -- the kind of protection a strong, mature country like France can provide. Salas now asks what if a strong leader arises to rally the Mexicans to resist the invading army? Dubois thinks this a very unlikely scenario.
Perhaps Salas was thinking about Benito Juarez as such a leader. He presently is in the United States where he gets a dispatch from Mexico.
The music professor is very excited to tell his wife Lola that he has received the prize for the best national hymn. He and his collaborator have also been invited to the premiere of the hymn at Santa Anna's theater. At the premiere, Dubois is there with his niece. Also present are Luis and Felipe. In comes the lyricist and his cousin Lupe. Luis introduces Professor Jaime Nuno to Francisco Gonzalez Bocanegra. He also introduces Lupe who will be the singer of the national anthem.
When the festivities begin the crowd is shocked that Gen. Santa Anna did not even come to the premiere, but rather sent his assistant to be there. Many feel that this is an insult to the people. The anthem composer and lyricists are very downcast that the general did not come. At the end of the performance, the professor says the performance was an absolute failure. The audience did not seem to like it at all.
Luis and Felipe come over to visit the professor. The lyricist is there also. The professor tells them that his enemies are deporting him. He says his crime was that he had a managerial position during Santa Anna's regime. He was the director of the city band of Mexico. The fellows have a toast to Mexico. Later the composer gives Luis the first printed copy of the anthem. Luis promises: ". . . I'll fight to make it become the true Mexican people's song."
The news in the papers is of the coup d'etat in Mexico. But the present result is very divisive. Mexico now has two presidents. Benito Juarez who will be returning to Mexico and a fellow by the name of Miramon. The year is 1859. The two presidents are polar opposites. Miramon wants to borrow money from abroad. His advisor tells him that this will put Mexico in the hands of the foreign powers. Miramon seems totally unconcerned. Juarez, however, doesn't want to take any more loans from the European powers. And, where Miramon wanted to raise taxes on the people, Juarez doesn't want to increase the burden on the Mexican people.
Back in France Napoleon III is thrilled. He says now that Mexico can neither pay their debt nor even pay the interest on the debt, Mexico will fall into their hands. He now sends Marshal Jurien to Mexico.
Luis and Felipe are now in the army. Miramon is in Europe trying to bring the French over to Mexico, while Juarez is staying to defend Mexico from foreign invaders. Luis sees Dubois's niece again. He tries to speak with her, but she has to go with her uncle to a party. She tells Luis quickly to come to the party being given by Alvarez. She starts walking away. Luis has to shout to her for her name. It's Esther.
The headlines in the newspapers are that Miramon has left the country and Mexico calls off all external debt payment. Spain, England and France now break off diplomatic relations with Mexico.
The French conspirator and their allies meet again. The talk is that a French squadron will lay off Vera Cruz. Dubois brags that with his influence there will be three ships there at least: one Spanish, one English and one French.
A pastry vendor happens to hear the men talking as he stands outside yelling to sell his pastries. He decides to stay as long as he can to learn more about what appears to be a conspiracy. The vendor and his constant singing of his advertising phrases irritates the conspirators and they try to get rid of him. But he is not budging until he thinks he's got what their plans are. Once satisfied, the vendor leaves. Where does he go? Straight over to President Benito Juarez. He tells the president that the foreign powers are coming to Vera Cruz. Juarez says he already knows that. So, the visitor comes to the point. He wants Juarez to make him a soldier. Juarez is very willing to help the man fight with the Mexicans against the French.
At the Alvarez party they play a party game. The competition between the two rivals for the hand of Esther starts to get out of hand and threatens to blow up into a fight. So they have to stop playing the game. Luis and Esther come together and talk. She tells him her full name is Esther Dubois de Saligny. Now Luis realizes that she is the niece of one of the enemies of his father. Esther responds: "I'm really sorry, but I'm not responsible." Luis has to go. He just received a message from Lupe saying that her cousin is very sick. Luis arrives to see the lyricist, but shortly after his arrival, the cousin dies.
Luis takes the anthem over to Benito Juarez. He asks him to read the lyrics. Benito does so and he likes what he reads. At this time Gen. Zaragoza comes in. He tell Juarez that Foreign squadrons have arrived at Vera Cruz. The foreign soldiers have occupied the city without facing any resistance. Juarez finishes his business with Luis, saying he accepts the hymn as the national anthem.
In Vera Cruz the three foreign enemies (France, Spain and England) hold a ceremony to mark the take over of Vera Cruz.
Juarez speaks before the legislature calling for the Mexicans to unite together regardless of social class, race or political party. He tells the representatives that they will show the foreigners that Mexico too can be strong. For his stirring words, Juarez gets a standing ovation.
Luis and Felipe will be there in the fighting at Puebla. Before he has to leave, however, he wants to see Esther again. He and Felipe go over to her mansion. The servant there, Esteban, tells Luis that a mob stoned the place twice and now the government has to provide guards to protect it. Luis gives Esteban a message for Esther. In it he begs to see her soon before he has to go into battle. Esther gets a message back to Luis saying her uncle won't let her go anywhere. They can't meet. They are headed for Vera Cruz, from whence they will be traveling to Europe.
The plans of the French suffer a setback. The Spanish military commander says he wants to deal with the government of Benito Juarez because it seems strong enough and is willing to work something out. Of course, Dubois does everything he can to change the mind of the Spanish commander. He adds that this is a great opportunity to attack and take the capital city. The Spanish commander just says that his troops are guests, not invaders. The French military commander agrees with the Spanish commander. Dubois becomes angry and tells his fellow Frenchman that he will have him removed from his position. Gen. Almonte says he can't understand why the foreign leaders cannot sign a pact with him, rather than Juarez. The Spanish commander says to the general directly that Juarez is a patriot, whereas he is a traitor. The general starts to draw his sword but Dubois stops him.
Dubois tells Esther that she will be going to Europe immediately. It's the only way to stop her relationship with Lt. Sandoval. Esther asks why he is so opposed to the relationship? Dubois says that Sandoval is of a different race -- he's of Mexican blood.
Luis Sandoval, Sr., comes to see Dubois. He tells Dubois that Gen. Leonardo Marquez sent him. Furthermore, the rebel army is ready to fight alongside the French army. He now awaits instructions. Dubois says that when the Spanish and English forces leave, the French will march on Mexico City. Gen. Lorenze comes in. He tells Luis Sandoval Sr. to join the French forces at Puebla by May 5.
Esther decides that she must tell Luis Sandoval Jr. that he will be fighting against his own father in the upcoming battle. She goes to the servant Esteban and tells him that she wants him to take her in her carriage to see Luis. Esteban refuses, that is, until she tells him that she must tell Luis that he will be fighting his own fatter at Puebla, where the Mexicans will oppose the French. Knowing that, the patriot in Esteban gets excited and he agrees to take Esther to Luis.
Esteban really pushes the horses. He has to stop for a change of horses. Then they ride on and on. Mexican Gen. Zaragosa tells his staff that they have to stop the invaders at Puebla or they will go on to the capital city. Esther arrives. The General explains to Esther that, for her protection, he has to arrest her and place her in jail because the French are coming. The General calls for Luis Sandoval. He tells Luis that he is now responsible for Esther. Luis acts distant with Esther and she doesn't understand why. (He is probably still sore about not getting to see her at the mansion.) He puts her in a cell. Esther tells Luis that he is mean. Luis leaves.
The Mexican forces start preparing to defend against the French. The General tells his forces that they will be vastly outnumber by the French. Moreover, they have shortages of rifles and bullets. But, he says, they will defend the honor of Mexico. Now the General gives out some instructions. He says that Negrete will be at La Loma (between Loreto and Guadalupe Forts). Gen. Porfirio Diaz (who later will become an infamous president that leads to the Mexican Revolution) will be at the Ladrillera. He will attack the French when he sees the best opportunity to do so.
The General goes to inspect the defensive positions. A spokesman for the Zacapoaxtlas (pure Indians, as they describe themselves) asks the General for permission to fight against the French. The General welcomes them.
The French commander says to his troops that they are better than those of the Mexican race. (And they outnumber them 2 to 1.) Their main target will be Ft. Guadalupe. The French move into position and start to move toward the front. From the fort and using a telescope, Luis sees his dad with the enemy. This worries him, but he tells Felipe the his country is first, above his father.
The French are spread out now coming over open ground. The Mexicans start firing from the open slats in the fort walls. With the French are the Soaves with their fancy colored uniforms. At the redoubts, the Mexicans fight tenaciously. The French start pushing them back. Many peasants have only machetes with which to fight the French. Louis sees that Felipe has been wounded. He runs over to him, but Felipe just tells him to go back and continue fighting.
The French reach the walls of the fort and put up their climbing ladders. They start coming over the fort walls. A big fight develops within the fort courtyard. Luis's one-time rival, the brother, gets shot. Luis thrusts a sword into the Frenchman who shot the brother. The Mexican bugler is hit. Luis grabs him. As the fellow goes down, Luis takes his bugle from him. He starts playing the national anthem. The hymn rouses many of the exhausted and the wounded among the Mexican soldiers to fight harder. The pastry vendor gets wounded. France orders a withdrawal and Luis Sandoval Sr. has a change of heart. He tells his staff that he and they are going to fight now on the side of the Mexicans. He and three others start riding off. A French officer gives the order to shoot the fleeing men. Luis Sandoval Sr. is shot off his horse.
Luis Jr. now gets hit with a bullet in the chest. He goes down. Esteban comes over to him to be of some assistance. He tells Luis: "We've won." Luis tells him that he wants to see Esther for the last time. He gives the jail key to Esteban. Esteban brings Esther out to see Luis. As they talk, Luis Sr. crawls his way over to his son. A Mexican soldier says the man has been twice in the back. Luis Jr. thinks that's rather an appropriate punishment for his father, the traitor. But then dad tells him that it was the French who shot him. Now the two men shakes hands. Dad dies. Luis thinks about the anthem and its two authors. He says: "Maestros, our hymn has won its first battle." Luis dies.
Ever wonder where the Mexican and Mexican-American celebration called Cinco de Mayo (May 5) comes from? It comes from the Battle of Puebla where the Mexicans won a May 5 victory over the French army, that outnumbered them by 2 to 1 and which was being used to take Mexico away from the Mexicans and give it to French Emperor Napoleon III. This is the story of that battle, but also of the origin of the Mexican national anthem. There is also a love story in the film between Luis and the French Minister's niece. I enjoyed the film.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
Return To Main Page
Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)