Thursday, June 18, 2009
Philippine movie lobby card, Alamat ng Pitong Kilabot (Legend of the Deadly Seven), 1969.
We interrupt this blog to talk about Philippine cowboy movies, the most enduring movie genre in my country. That there are practically no cowboys in our tropical island nation is beside the point. We Filipinos love our John Wayne; more precisely, we love our version of him -- suited and gloved in spite of the sweltering humidity, heroic against the palm trees.
The Philippines is unlike any other country in Asia. Unlike our neighbors, our culture is Latino in spirit and American in most everything else, the legacy of a colonial past that can be summed up as 300 years in a Spanish convent and 50 years in Hollywood. The movie still on the left, from a wildly popular 1967 tearjerker, may well be a scene from Carmen. But the movie is unabashedly Filipino. And so, for that matter, are our tropical cowboys.
Actors who played cowboys are some of the most beloved celebrities in the Philippines. And like beloved celebrities everywhere, they become politicians. The mounted actor on the right (second from left) became the 13th president of the Philippines (1998-2001). He was ousted from office before he could finish his term, convicted of plundering in 2007, sentenced to at least 40 years of imprisonment, and pardoned a month later. He has signified his intention to run for president again in 2010. And perhaps indicative of our people's all-forgiving love for actors who played cowboys, he is ranking highly in the electoral polls.
A note about these pictures: They are part of a cache of movie lobby cards that my brother-in-law rescued from a dumpster in South San Francisco. Most of the pictures are from movies that were made in the 1960s and 1970s, the movies I grew up watching on television. I know the names of every actor in these pictures by heart, and that includes the villains and their sidekicks. Sure, they look a bit loopy now with their cowboy hats, turtle necks (!) and bow ties, but back then they were my action heroes.
Labels: TTI: movies