The Old Gringo (1989)




Director:  Luis Puenzo.

Starring:  Jane Fonda (Harriet Winslow), Gregory Peck (Ambrose Bierce, called Bitter), Jimmy Smits (General Arroyo), Patricio Contreras (Col. Garcia), Jenny Gago (La Garduna), La Luna Gabriela Roel (La Luna), Sergio Calderon (Zacarias), Guillermo Rios (Monsalvo), Jim Metzler (Ron).

Based on the novel Gringo Viejo by Carlos Fuentes.



Jane Fonda plays the part of a spinster who breaks with her widowed (supposedly) mother to leave home to go to Mexico to tutor the children of the very wealthy Miranda family. But of course she turns out to be one of the worst informed people on the face of the earth because apparently she does not realize that there is a revolution in progress in Mexico.

Also in Mexico is the writer Ambrose Bierce (played by Gregory Peck), a journalist and famed short story writer, who has come to join in the revolution. He endears himself to General Arroyo (played by Jimmy Smits of TV fame) and goes along on Arroyo’s trip to the Miranda hacienda. Arroyo also takes Fonda with him, primarily as a joke because the revolutionaries know that the Miranda hacienda is about to be taken by revolutionary forces from the federal troops (the federales).

Fonda quickly finds out that the Mirandas have left the hacienda. The tale quickly descends into a love story with both Bierce and Arroyo becoming enchanted with Fonda. Arroyo’s position, however, is complicated by his actually being the bastard son of the lord of the manor and a peasant woman. How the love triangle works itself out is told in the rest of the story.

This o.k. tale is quite imaginary since no one really knows what happened to Bierce. That leaves the story to go where it wants without fear of contradiction by historical facts.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

See Viva Villa! (1934).


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