review for The Gay Desperado on AllMovie

The Gay Desperado (1936)
by Craig Butler review

The Gay Desperado is tremendously silly, a fact which may put off some viewers, but those with a tolerance for all things quirky will find it engaging and charming. True, Desperado is not perfect; there are some stretches where the tone isn't quite right, where one might wish the daffiness where either a trifle more or a triffle less pronounced. And there's no doubt that Nino Martini is a far better singer than he is an actor, yet Martini's performance is so guileless (and so in keeping with the demands of his naïve character) that it works splendidly, in spite of the actor's deficiencies. He also works quite well with Ida Lupino, who gives a thoroughly winning performance, full of spunk and life, and imbued with a wonderful sense of timing and style. Leo Carillo and Harold Huber make a delightfully ridiculous pair of bandits, enlivening the proceedings throughout with their simple but amusing banter. Rouben Mamoulian has directed with tremendous style and wit, and makes good use of his obsession with shadows several times throughout the film; the entire visual look is a delight, with shots of startlingly tall cacti or oversized yucca plants adding to the film's outlandish tone. Desperado may be a bit of a jumble, and its lampooning may attempt a few too many genres, but it's so good-natured that most will forgive it these flaws.