Monday, November 26, 2012

Crush-A-Thon: Marie Gomez of BARQUERO (1970)

This is the Horn Section's contribution to the Jennifer Connelly Memorial Crushathon hosted by our pal Todd at Forgotten Films!  By all means check out the earlier entries in this great idea for a blogathon, which started on Thanksgiving and has contributions from several of us in blogger land.

As always, I am honored to be invited, and I highly recommend checking out the archives at Forgotten Films.  Here is today's post as it appears at the Blogathon there.

I've written about my own celebrity crushes from time to time (Tamara Dobson and Diana Sands, R.I.P.) so for Todd's blogathon I chose another lovely lady who captured my attention way back when but hasn't had her moment in the sun at the Section yet.  Until now, that is.

BARQUERO was a childhood favorite of mine despite being very hard to find for three decades after its 1970 arrival.  Never released on VHS and yet to make it to DVD, this ultraviolent (over a hundred deaths--go ahead, count 'em!) Western barely rated a blip in Maltin's Film Guide and could only occasionally be seen in late night superstation showings.

Once Showtime (and later Encore) began airing BARQUERO regularly around the turn of the century, fans discovered a hidden treasure.  BARQUERO boasted a great cast headed by Leone (Lee Van Cleef) and Peckinpah (Warren Oates) cult favorites and arguably the best late-career role for Horn Section patron saint and 1950's Western icon Forrest Tucker.  The benefit of hindsight also revealed this western's commentary on the Vietnam War that was completely missed by mainstream film reviewers at the time--I could not find one review from 1970 commenting on this.

Lee Van Cleef is a lucky man

Fortunately BARQUERO has become much easier to see on Retroplex, Encore Westerns and (for a time) Netflix Instant in recent years, but we're still waiting on that long-overdue DVD release, something I already covered back in 2006 when I made BARQUERO the very first review here at The Horn Section.  Yes, this was  "Why the Hell isn't this on DVD yet?" Number One.  As you've surely noticed from the leads, this is a guy's movie through and through, complete with requisite eye candy.

Mariette Hartley is top billed among the fairer sex, but with all due respect to her, I barely remembered she was in it afterwards.  In the eyes of this young man, the pretty redhead was out va-va-voomed by a wide margin, thanks to the presence of Marie Gomez as Nola, girlfriend of the titular character played by Lee Van Cleef.

In the film Hartley wasn't impressed, telling Travis the Barquero that he'd "never known a real woman" and further asserting that the tomboyish Nola is "half a man".  Come on!  Obviously a bunch of meowing about the competition.  It's easy to see that Hartley's claims are just sour grapes when the busty Latina lass makes her first appearance.  How sexy was Marie Gomez in this film?  Put it this way: I can't stand smoking, but I thought she was smokin' even when greeting us with a cigar in her mouth.

Beyond her obvious attributes, one quickly understands what the taciturn Van Cleef sees in her.  She makes her way through the town of squatters with the same paucity of words the Barquero gives his customers, effortlessly commanding the attention of most of the men ("Take your time" is her response to the overeager blacksmith) and showing palpable disgust with the self-appointed religious leader with a single brief expression.

Not once during BARQUERO's 113 minute running time does Gomez' Nola become a damsel in distress.  Quite the contrary. She handles her impressive rifle as well as any of her manly co-stars, firing quickly and accurately during the shootouts with Oates' mercenaries over Van Cleef's barge.  When the aforementioned religious leader suggests burning the boat and tries to rally support to do so, it's Nola who quickly quells the coup by threatening to shoot him herself.

"She will!" confirms the man to her right.  Judging from the crooked preacher's reaction, he didn't need the echo.  Nola and Travis are bonded by toughness, self-sufficiency and a decidedly secular outlook.

Hartley's husband is the lone settler who doesn't make it across the river, and she offers herself to Van Cleef in exchange for a rescue.  This is an intriguing development: Van Cleef takes Hartley up on the offer....

...and Gomez is cool with it, to the point of bringing him coffee afterwards and smiling knowingly at Hartley when the Barquero returns to her.

Van Cleef might wander from time to time, but he won't leave Ms. Gomez for very long, and her expression tells us that she knew it all along.  Even Mariette Hartley didn't stand a chance against her.

Nola's intriguing and mysterious, and you could say the same for the actress portraying her.  BARQUERO was my first exposure to Marie Gomez, and this preteen sought out other credits for his newfound crush.  Unfortunately I found there were few other credits to peruse, especially in those pre-IMDB days.  (How did we ever live without it?)

A Leonard Sillman discovery who began her career as one of his New Faces of 1962, Gomez soon made her prime time acting debut on DOBIE GILLIS (of all things) in the 1962 episode The Ugliest American.

Uncredited appearances in RIO CONCHOS, MARRIAGE ON THE ROCKS and DO NOT DISTURB followed, but her film career really took off four years later with her Golden Globe nominated splash in THE PROFESSIONALS (1966). 

Ms. Gomez became familiar to U.S. television viewers through her popular recurring role as Perlita in NBC's THE HIGH CHAPARRAL (1967-1971), but also guest starred memorably on HONDO, I SPY and THE WILD WILD WEST among others.

Marie in THE WILD, WILD WEST (1967)

Then she vanished after a too-brief five year heyday, with another good big-screen role in Ivan Tors' THE DARING GAME (1968) and then BARQUERO, her last screen credit to date. 

On TV's HONDO (1967)
Marie Gomez' busty figure also made her a popular magazine model during the last half of the swingin' Sixties.

Rockin' it in THE PROFESSIONALS (1966)
I was reminded of her every time I revisited BARQUERO, and the beautiful French-Spanish starlet remained mysterious well into my adulthood, finally resurfacing in 2005 to be interviewed for the DVD release of THE PROFESSIONALS.


She also made it to the 40th anniversary cast reunion for THE HIGH CHAPARRAL in Studio City, California in 2007.  It was during an interview there that we learned where Marie Gomez had been all these years: mostly, doing charity work for orphans in Mexico and for The Lord's Lighthouse.   Hopefully the near future will bring Gomez' participation in the extras for BARQUERO's long overdue DVD release.

Onscreen, she shone briefly (just eight years) but unforgettably.  She may not be the most mysterious of my childhood crushes any longer, but whether she was brandishing a rifle or just plenty of attitude, Marie Gomez is still one of the sexiest and most memorable.


  1. I got here by accident

  2. Loved her in The Professionals. She has attitude.

  3. Just watched barquero yesterday. Awesome flick. Marie was great, beats Hartly anyday!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Just saw her on the Wild Wild West...super hot and busty as hell. I'm assuming she's still alive? She's probably still hot as hell...Will definitely check out Barquero

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  7. Twin tatas with attitude knowing she's got game

  8. She is my neighbor. If you want to speak to your celebrity crush I can arrange it. I am on the phone with her and I am telling her about this article and she is really amused about it. Really lovely lady❤️

    1. I just watched the professionals for the umpteenth time and she was the perfect Chaquita. ❤️

    2. I would love to correspond with the amazing Maria Gomez !!
      For sure my teenage schoolboy crush....
      Super talented actress that i wish stayed in film.

  9. R:
    That is so cool. This post on Ms. Gomez is the most popular/read in the 13 years I've been doing this blog; she obviously has many people who remember her work as fondly as I do! Would love to interview her sometime for a follow up post if it is possible. Thanks for reading and responding. Hal

  10. Anonymous10:09 AM

    For those who care , Marie Gomez was a contestant with Groucho Marx ( of all people ! ) on his early TV quiz show . Check it out - You Tube's search bar - " Marie Gomez You Bet Your Life " She was very feminine , very charming , and very funny !

    1. Right. Pretty young, looks alot like her though :)

  11. Just saw her on "You Bet Your Life". Can't believe how different she looked and acted. A definite must see...

  12. Here's another link to Marie on the "Wild Wild West".

  13. Great post. Thank you for the information on a very interesting actress. It is too bad we didn't get to see more of Ms. Gomez over the years.

  14. Hi Alfred; I started The Horn Section in 2006.

  15. Can't imagine any woman blowing Claudia Cardinale out of the water, but Marie Gomez made Cardinale look like a wallflower in "The Professionals."

  16. Remember the poster that Eva Green did for Sin City where she wears a rob in the ligth, Maria Gomez did it before her. Which one is better?

  17. Can't find any information about her life or death...web is no help... Any info anywhere.

  18. Anonymous9:20 PM

    Barquero is on "ThisTV" right OTA station here in Phoenix. Your comments about Hartley are spot on - poor girl, imagine being a gal cast for this then showing up and seeing Ms Gomez...instant insecurity!

  19. Just saw The Professionals first into Maria. She was great in the movie.

  20. Marie Gomez's partner contestant on "You Bet Your Life" was Daws Butler, the legendary cartoon voice actor (Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Cap'n Crunch and many more.) The statuesque senorita Marie towers over him!

  21. I'm a woman and it was van Cleef that remains my crush, even though I wasn't quite a teenager when Barquero was released. Saw it recently on YouTube.

    I agree with you about the interactions between the two women and van Cleef - Nola had nothing to worry about.

    Barquero is one of my favorite van Cleef movies.