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For the 7 Year Bitch album, please see ¡Viva Zapata!.
Viva Zapata!

Movie Poster
Directed by Elia Kazan
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Written by John Steinbeck
Edgecumb Pinchon (uncredited)
Starring Marlon Brando
Jean Peters
Anthony Quinn
Music by Alex North
Cinematography Joseph MacDonald
Editing by Barbara McLean
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Release date(s) February 7, 1952
Running time 113 minutes
Language English

Viva Zapata! is a 1952 fictional-biographical film directed by Elia Kazan. The screenplay was written by John Steinbeck, using as a guide Edgcomb Pinchon's book, 'Zapata the Unconquerable', a fact that is not credited in the titles of the film. It is a fictionalized account of the life of Mexican Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata from his peasant upbringing, through his rise to power in the early 1900s, to his death. To give the film as authentic a feel as possible, Kazan and producer Darryl F. Zanuck studied the numerous photographs that were taken during the revolutionary years, the period between 1909 and 1919 when Zapata led the fight to restore land taken from the people during the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. Kazan was especially impressed with the Agustin Casasola collection of photographs and he attempted to duplicate their visual style in the film. Kazan also acknowledged the influence of Roberto Rosselini's Paisan.[1]



Zapata (Marlon Brando) is part of a delegation sent to complain about injustices to corrupt longtime President Porfirio Díaz (Fay Roope), but Díaz condescendingly dismisses their concerns. As a result, Zapata is driven to open rebellion, along with his brother Eufemio (Anthony Quinn). He in the south and Pancho Villa (Alan Reed) in the north unite under the leadership of naive reformer Francisco Madero (Harold Gordon).

Díaz is finally toppled and Madero takes his place, but Zapata is dismayed to find that nothing is changed. The new regime is no less corrupt and self-serving than the one it replaced. His own brother sets himself up as a petty dictator, taking what he wants without regard for the law. The ineffectual but well-meaning Madero puts his trust in treacherous General Victoriano Huerta (Frank Silvera). Huerta first takes Madero captive and then has him murdered. Zapata himself is lured into an ambush and killed.

Zapata is depicted in the film as an incorruptible rebel leader. He is guided by his desire to return the land to the peasants, who have been robbed, while forsaking his personal interest. Steinbeck meditates in the film on power, military and political, which corrupts men. Zapata excepted.



Anthony Quinn won the 1952 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[2]

The film was also nominated for:

At the 1952 Cannes Film Festival, Brando won for Best Actor, while Elia Kazan was nominated for the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film.[3]


Marlon Brando screenshot as Zapata

Filming took place in Durango, Colorado, Roma, Texas, and New Mexico.


  • The film tends to romanticize Zapata and in doing so distorts the true nature of the Mexican Revolution. Zapata fought to free the land for the peasants of Morelos and the other southern Mexican states. Additionally, the movie inaccurately portrays Zapata as illiterate. In reality, he grew up in a family with some land and money and received an education.
  • Barbara Leaming writes in her biography of Marilyn Monroe that the actress tried and failed to obtain a part in this picture, presumably due to Darryl F. Zanuck's lack of faith in her ability, both as an actress and as a box office draw.
  • John Steinbeck wrote a book titled Zapata. The original screenplay was written by the author and the book contains a newly found introduction by Steinbeck, the original proposed screenplay, and the official movie script.


  1. ^ Tony Thomas 'The Films of Marlon Brando' page 47 ISBN0-8065-0481-1
  2. ^ "NY Times: Viva Zapata!". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-21.  
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Viva Zapata!". Retrieved 2009-01-18.  

External links

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