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The Kid from Spain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Kid From Spain
Theatrical poster
Directed byLeo McCarey
Written by
Produced bySamuel Goldwyn
StarringEddie Cantor
CinematographyGregg Toland
Edited byStuart Heisler
Music byHarry Ruby
with lyrics by Bert Kalmar
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • November 17, 1932 (1932-11-17) (New York City[1])
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,621,000[2][3]
1932 advert from The Film Daily

The Kid from Spain is a 1932 American pre-Code black-and-white musical comedy film directed by Leo McCarey. Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar composed the songs, and Busby Berkeley is credited with creating and directing the film's musical scenes.[4][5] It was Jane Wyman's film debut.

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Eddie (Eddie Cantor), recently expelled from college, is mistaken for the gangster getaway driver in a heist. He flees to Mexico, pursued relentlessly by a detective. There he masquerades as a Matador and performs in bullfights.[6][7]


Also appearing in uncredited roles are Harry C. Bradley, Teresa Maxwell-Conover, Eduardo de Castro, Harry Gribbon, Paul Panzer, Julian Rivero, Walter Walker, Leo Willis, Tammany Young, and the stock company of the Goldwyn Girls, consisting at that time of Betty Grable, Beatrice Hagen, Paulette Goddard, Toby Wing, Jane Wyman, Althea Henley, Dorothy Coonan Wellman, Shirley Chambers, and Lynn Browning.[8]


A high-production feature, The Kid From Spain was provided a million-dollar budget by producer Samuel Goldwyn and engaged some of the finest artistic and technical talent available in Hollywood during the early 1930s. Eddie Cantor was ranked among the top box office stars in the US in 1933: in overseas popularity he out-performed Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.[9][10] Choreographer was provided by Busby Berkeley, and cameraman Gregg Toland, who would film Citizen Kane (1941) was cinematographer.

Goldwyn, a notoriously “autocratic” producer, attempted to suppress any revisions to the story or script, treating director McCarey “brusquely” during filming.[11] Cantor, in his 1957 autobiography Take My Life, recalled how he and McCarey circumvented Goldwyn: “One afternoon we got to a scene that didn’t play funny.” Feigning illness, Cantor left the studio and absconded for the weekend to McCarey’s beach house in Santa Barbara. There he and the director overhauled the scene. Cantor continues: “Monday we shot one of the best scenes of the picture. Goldwyn, seeing the   rushes, was amused and baffled. He couldn’t figure out where the scene had come from.”[12]


The publicity for The Kid from Spain was provided in part by Eddie Cantor, who plugged the upcoming film on the The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour, as well as on his vaudeville tour in late 1932 that complimented the release of the film in November.[13]

The film also enjoyed the serendipitous release of author Ernest Hemingway’s best seller Death in the Afternoon (1932), a tribute to bullfighting traditions in Spain. The famous Brooklyn-born matador Sidney Franklin is high-lighted in Hemingway’s book, and makes his appearance in The Kid from Spain, in which he demonstrates his talents as a bullfighter. These scenes were filmed at a ring specially built at United Artists studios and attended by screen stars Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Mary Pickford. [14]


The Kid from Spain enjoyed widespread approval among critics, as well as box office success.[15] Critic Thorton Delehanty in The New York Post wrote “Eddie Cantor contributes some excruciatingly funny moments” and The Hollywood Reporter declared that “Leo McCarey’s directions should land this fellow right on his feet in front of the ranks of the present-day hit directors.”[16]

Box Office controversy

The Kid From Spain was profitable in general release even as the US was descending into the Great Depression.[17] Criticism arose when producer Sam Goldwyn introduced the film in “road shows” at select cities for a quick initial profit. At a time when the average admission price to a movie house was less than 25 cents, tickets to these advance screenings were two dollars [$2]. Film historian Wes D. Gehring notes that “neither McCarey nor Cantor was pleased with this less than egalitarian pricing.”[18]  Variety magazine, in response, published a review of the film that included the following remark from Eddie Cantor regarding the $2 tickets: “A guy making a small salary must give up 10% of his [weekly] income to see me in a picture. That’s too tough nowadays.”[19]

Retrospective appraisal

Film critic Wes D. Gehring, describing The Kid From Spain as “a challenging and crazy comedy” for director Leo McCarey, comments on vaudevillian Eddie Cantor’s  burlesque-influenced contribution to the film:

Even today, with those expressive rolling eyes or his signature comic song shtick of skipping gait and clapping hands, the Cantor energy level still makes Spain a very entertaining picture.[20]

Gehring adds that The Kid From Spain is “overdue for rediscovery.”[21]


  1. ^ Holston, Kim R. (2013). Movie Roadshows: A History and Filmography of Reserved-Seat Limited Showings, 1911–1973. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-0-7864-6062-5.
  2. ^ "Which Cinema Films Have Earned the Most Money Since 1914?". The Argus. Melbourne. March 4, 1944. p. 3 Supplement: The Argus Weekend magazine. Retrieved August 6, 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ Quigley Publishing Company "The All Time Best Sellers", International Motion Picture Almanac 1937–38 (1938), p. 942; accessed April 19, 2014.
  4. ^ "The Kid from Spain". Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  5. ^ Hooper and Poague, 1980 p. 305-306: Filmography
  6. ^ Hooper and Poague, 1980 in Leo McCarey Filmography section, p. 305-306: Plot sketch
  7. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 86: Plot sketch: “...storyline is rather thin…”
  8. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 86: See here for “Goldwyn Girls”
  9. ^ Gehring, 2002 p. 86
  10. ^ Thomson, 2003 p. 132: regarding Garbo, Dietrich
  11. ^ Gehring, 2002 p. 85: “believed in Hollywood caste system…” And p. 89: “...autocratic…” And p. 157: “...treated him [McCarey] so brusquely…”
  12. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 85: see here for quote. And see footnote no. 2 in Notes p. 98, Cantor memoir p. 158.
  13. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 86-87, p. 253: Filmography
  14. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 86-87, p. 89: “...Sidney Franklin’s serious clinic on bullfighting…” And “screen stars” who wer in attendance.
  15. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 86-87: Critics “almost unanimous” in their approval and a “commercial success.”
  16. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 87: For New York Post date, see Footnote no. 5 p. 98, For Hollywood Reporter date, see footnote no. 6, p. 98
  17. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 133: “...made a profit, due to the drawing power of Eddie Cantor…”
  18. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 89: See here for prices reported by Gehring.
  19. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 89
  20. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 85: “...a challenging and crazy comedy…” And p. 87 for blockquote material.
  21. ^ Gehring, 2005 p. 101


External links

This page was last edited on 19 June 2024, at 18:04
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