Pancho Villa Signs Movie ContractFrancisco "Pancho" Villa Movie Contract Signed "Francisco Villa." Five pages, 7" x 11.5" (sight), El Paso [Texas], January 5, 1914. This is a typed contract between Villa and the Mutual Film Corporation, a New York film studio considering production of a silent film based on the Mexican folk hero's life. Villa was represented in this contract by attorneys Eugenio Aguirre Benavides and Gunther R. Lessing of El Paso. (Sixteen years later, Lessing was hired by Walt Disney as general counsel.)
In need of money to continue his role in the Mexican Revolution, Pancho Villa signed this contract, which stipulated that for $10 plus 20% of all net returns from the release of the film, the Mutual Film Corporation gained "exclusive right to take cinematograph moving or motion pictures of all movements of troops, military operations, battles, etc., and other occurrences of interest of the army and troops under the command of the said Villa." Villa agreed to furnish the film crew safe conduct "through the lines of the troops under the command of said Villa," while also furnishing them "safe and sufficient means of transportation in Mexico." According to the contract, other conditions also applied, such as the agreement that the film crew "at all times be subject to the orders of the said Villa."
Eventually, the silent film-The Life of General Villa -was produced with Villa playing himself, premiering on May 14, 1914, in New York. (Except for a few fragments, the location of the film is unknown today.) The signatures of Eugenio Aguirre Benavides, Gunther Lessing, Frank Thayer (representative for Mutual Film Corporation), and other representatives of the studio occur on page five. Villa's signature is signed boldly and clearly under "Ratified." All five pages are matted and attractively framed to an overall size of 42.5" x 16.25". The pages of the letter are toned with smoothed folds.
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