Friday, October 12, 2012

Pedro de Cordoba

I was watching the great, but sometimes under appreciated Alfred Hitchcock film, Saboteur (1942) last week. In the scene on the circus trailer, a tall, thin man appears. He had a deep voice, and I instantly knew he was John Carradine (1906 - 1988). Well, I was wrong. The part of Bones was played by Pedro de Cordoba (1881 - 1950). After finding my mistake, I thought that I owed it to Pedro to fill in my readers on his long career.

Pedro started working in silent films in 1915. He appears as Escamillo in the Cecil B. DeMille version of Carmen in that year. Since it was a silent film, it was based on the 1845 story by Prosper Merimee (1803 - 1870) rather than the opera by Georges Bizet (1838 - 1875).

After a ten year span of silent films, plus a few years doing something else, his first talkie feature was The Crusades (1935) directed by DeMille and starring Loretta Young (1913 - 2000). That same year he appears in Captain Blood, starring Errol Flynn and Oliva de Havilland. Captain Blood has a wonderful cast of great Bit Actors, including Guy Kibbee and Donald Meek.

The decade of the 1930s is filled with great movies that are difficult to find these days. Pedro was in many of them, including The Devil Doll (1936) starring Lionel Barrymore and directed by Tod Browning (1880 - 1962) who also gave us Dracula (1931) and several of the Lon Chaney (1883 - 1930) silent films.

This was the decade of big stars like Fredric MarchClaude Rains, Barbara Stanwyck, Don Ameche, Claudette Colbert, Dolores del Rio and Olivia de Havilland. Pedro worked with all of them. In another great, moody picture starring Boris Karloff, Pedro appears in Devil's Island (1939), and the same year in Juarez with Paul Muni and Bette Davis.

In 1940 we see Pedro in a lighter film, My Favorite Wife with Cary Grant and Irene Dunn, and then in his second film with Errol Flynn, The Sea Hawk. Flynn and de Cordoba would make three more films together in the 1940s. Also that year, he gets to buckle his swash again in The Mark of Zorro this time with Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone.

In 1941 we see Pedro in The Corsican Brothers. That's the one where Douglas Fairbanks Jr. plays Siamese twins. And in 1943 he has a pair of great films, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Song of Bernadette but by this time, his career seems to be dropping off. He is found uncredited in many films after 1941.

He shows up in The Beast with Five Fingers (1946), Carnival in Costa Rica (1947) and my favorite title Omoo-Omoo the Shark God (1949). Omoo starred Ron Randall, Devera Burton and Trevor Bardette and garnered a rating of 2.9 on IMDb.

In the early days of television Pedro appears at least twice, on episodes of "The Lone Ranger." His last few films include some Macdonald Carey westerns, Comanche Territory and The Lawless, both released in 1950, and then Crisis (1950) starring Cary Grant and Jose Ferrer. His final film came in 1951, When the Redskins Rode where he plays Jon Hall's father.

Just to set the record straight, de Cordoba and Carradine did appear in seven films together, from 1935 to 1942. Saboteur was not one of them. Pedro de Cordoba was one of those Bit Actors who never made it big, but was clearly important in the films he made. He certainly was colorful enough. And now I will try harder to recognize him.