Juxtaposing teatro de revista and cine

Music in the 1930s comedia ranchera


  • Jacqueline Avila University of Tennessee, Knoxville




Mexican cinema, Mexican music, comedia ranchera


In the early 1900s, Mexico’s popular entertainment spectacle was the teatro de revista, a satirical theatrical genre derived from the Spanish zarzuela that combined social analysis and political commentary with burlesque. Combining monologues and comedic skits with music and dance performances, the revista became an important component in the daily lives of urban Mexicans, placing the popular of contemporary culture center stage. With the advent of sound cinema, several key players from the revista transferred their talents from the stage to the screen and molded a cinematic practice with strong theatrical origins. As a consequence of the crossover, these actors, musicians, and composers kept their fingers on the popular pulse of the nation as the overlap of revista structures into sound film provided an easy and non-intimidating way of enticing the urban audience to screening spaces. For the comedia ranchera (ranch comedy) during the 1930s, the synthesized revista provided a sturdy dramatic foundation, but the development of the film genre depended on musical performance because the protagonist, the singing charro, sang. Rancheras performed by mariachis dressed in full trajes de charros (charro suits) became one of the genre’s musical and visual signifiers, but the comedia ranchera’s musical compilation is much more diverse, juxtaposing several originally composed canciones mexicanas, canciones rancheras and traditional music. This paper examines the comedia ranchera of the 1930s not with the intention of concentrating on a picturesque representation of folklore on screen, but as an experimental product of a specific socio-cultural context and a vehicle of musical hybridization that created a successful cinematic formula for the national industry. I discuss those hybrid components such as the singing charro protagonist, theatrical practice, and melodramatic currents that structured the comedia ranchera, examining in particular Fernando de Fuentes’s groundbreaking Allá en el Rancho Grande (Over on the Big Ranch, 1936).


Allá en el Rancho Grande. 1936. El Cine Gráfico, 11 October.

Bryan, Susan E. 1983. Teatro popular y sociedad durante el Porfiriato. Historia Mexicana 33, no. 1 (July-September): 130-69.

de Fuentes, Fernando, dir. 1936. Allá en el Rancho Grande, DVD. México: Cinemateca, 2007.

De los Reyes, Aurelio. 1984. La música en el cine mudo in México. In La música de México, vol. 4, ed. Julio Estrada, 85-117. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

de María y Campos, Armando. 1956. El teatro de género chico en la revolución mexicana. México: Biblioteca del Instituto Nacional de Estudios Históricos de la Revolución Mexicana.

Díaz López, Marina. 2002. El Folclore invade el imaginario de la ciudad. Revistas de estudios históricos sobre la imagen, segunda época 41 (June): 10-31.

Dueñas, Pablo. 1994. Las divas en el teatro de revista mexicano. México: Asociación Mexicana de Estudios Fonográficos.

———. 2010. El trovador de sotavento: Lorenzo Barcelata. Relatos e historias en México 2, no. 18: 68-70.

García Riera, Emilio. 1984. Fernando de Fuentes. México: Cineteca Nacional.

Magaña Esquivel, Antonio. 1964. Medio siglo de teatro mexicano (1900-1961). México: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes.

Monsiváis, Carlos. 1993. Mexican cinema: of myths and mystification. In Mediating Two Worlds: Cinematic Encounters in the Americas, ed. John King, Ana López, and Manuel Alvarado. London: BFI.

Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares. 1984. El país de las tandas: teatro de revista, 1900-1940. México: Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares.

Nomland, John. 1967. Teatro mexicano contemporáneo 1900-1950. México: Ediciones del Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Departamento de Literatura.

Saavedra, Leonora. 2007. Urban music in the Mexican revolution. Paper read at the National Meeting for the Society of Ethnomusicology, Columbus, Ohio.

Saldívar, Gabriel. 1937. El jarabe: baile popular mexicano. México: Talleres Gráficos de la Nación.



How to Cite

Avila, J. (2013). Juxtaposing teatro de revista and cine: Music in the 1930s comedia ranchera. Journal of Film Music, 5(1-2), 121–126. https://doi.org/10.1558/jfm.v5i1-2.121