The Bullfighter and the Lady 1951

Earlier this year, saw the release on Blu Ray of the excellent ‘Bullfighter and the Lady’ Directed by Budd Boetticher and starring Robert Stack

Starring Robert Stack, Joy Page, Gilbert Roland, Virginia Grey, John Hubbard, Katy Jurado, Paul Fix

This BluRay – a special edition of Budd Boetticher’s wonderful Bullfighter And The Lady (1951) – includes the complete 124-minute cut and the 87-minute version released by Republic.

John Wayne produced the picture, for which Boetticher (and Ray Navarro) an Oscar nomination for Best Original Story.

This is a good film showing the horrors of bullfighting with excellent photography and directed by a former bullfighter himself, Budd Boetticher.

John Wayne produced this picture but did not appear in this film and presented a film that was originally cut into pieces but has been restored to its original print, which is seen today.

Robert Stack, (Johnny Regan) plays the role as a U.S. Citizen who has connections with Hollywood and has become interested in becoming a bullfighter – he travels to Mexico to meet a real famous matador.

Johnny meets up with Manolo Estgrada, (Gilbert Roland) and he soon makes an arrangement with Manolo to teach him how to shoot birds in exchange for Matador lessons.

ABOVE Joy Page in Casablanca

This film goes into great detail about how to fight a bull and the dangers of the sport. Johnny falls in love at first sight with Anita De La Vega, (Joy Page) who initially doesn’t show much interest in him but slowly thing develop

Bullfighter and the Lady was Boetticher’s first film as an A-list Hollywood director. It was a personal and, in many ways, an autobiographical project. The young Budd Boetticher had spent some years in Mexico as a gringo obsessed with bullfighting. He had trained as a bullfighter and achieved some degree of success – just as Johnny Regan (Robert Stack) does in this film. Returning to the United States, he broke into movies as a technical consultant on the bullfight scenes in Blood and Sand (Rouben Mamoulian, 1941).


Joy Page, who died aged 83 in 2008 had previously had a strong supporting role in ‘Casablanca’ – playing the part of Annina, a young newlywed Bulgarian girl who, with her husband, wishes to escape to America, but has no money for an exit visa. For this, she is willing to sleep with Captain Renault (Claude Rains).

“Monsieur Rick, what kind of a man is Captain Renault?” she asks Humphrey Bogart, owner of Rick’s Café Américain. “Oh, he’s just like any other man, only more so,” he says wryly. She then has a speech that crystallises the central love story between Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, though Annina is referring to her own dilemma. “Oh, monsieur, you are a man. If someone loved you very much, so that your happiness was the only thing that she wanted in the whole world, but she did a bad thing to make certain of it, would you forgive her? … And he never knew and the girl kept this bad thing locked in her heart? That would be all right, wouldn’t it?

Because, as the song goes, “the world will always welcome lovers”, Bogart saves her from selling herself, by letting her husband win at the roulette table.

Merely the fact that she was part of the cast of Casablanca is enough to gain Joy Page enduring fame. Nevertheless, her performance in her first screen role was so refreshing and touching that it is surprising that her career never took off. She seemed to have had all the advantages. Born in Los Angeles as Joy Paige, she was the daughter of silent-screen Latin lover Don Alvarado (real name José Paige) and Ann Boyar, the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants. The latter married Jack Warner, head of Warner Bros studios, after she and Alvarado divorced. Joy was 12 years old when Warner became her stepfather.

She was a 17-year-old senior at Beverly Hills high, when she was prompted to read for the part of Annina in Casablanca by Sophie Rosenstein, her acting coach at Warner Bros. Though Warner was pleased with her performance, he did nothing to encourage her acting subsequently, and she never made another film for her stepfather’s studio.

Exploiting her dusky looks, inherited from her Mexican-American father (who died in 1967), and despite her name, Joy Page played a number of señoritas in both films and television until she retired in 1959.

However, her first two post-Casablanca film roles were as an Arab girl, daughter of beggar Ronald Colman, who schemes for her to marry the caliph of Baghdad in Kismet (1944) and an Indian girl (married to Sabu), mauled by the tiger in Man-Eater of Kumaon (1948).

She then did this one – The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) as Anita de la Vega, with whom an American (Robert Stack) on holiday in Mexico becomes fascinated, almost as much as he is by bulls. She co-starred with Stack again in Conquest of Cochise (1953), in which she suffered beautifully as Mexican aristocrat Consuelo de Cordova, held hostage by John Hodiak as the Apache leader.

Joy Page was then an Italian partisan helping American pilot Sterling Hayden in Fighter Attack (1953), and played “the other woman” in The Shrike (1955), notable for allowing June Allyson to play against type as a shrewish wife. Subsequently, Page appeared mainly in episodes of television series produced by her husband William Orr, whom she had married in 1945. Minor film actor Orr was swiftly made a producer by Warner, who later put him in charge of Warner Bros Television, thus engendering such comments as “the son-in-law also rises”.

As an aside to the ABOVE – ‘Casablanca’ was released 80 years ago this month

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