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Walsh and Villa

August 10, 2003

Raoul Walsh did more than play a young Pancho Villa in the 1914 film "The Life of General Villa" ("A Wild Ride Into Revisionism," by Chris Kraul, Aug. 3). In 1913, he directed actual battle scenes of Villa and filmed background scenes for a movie about Villa. An interesting account of Walsh and Villa can be found in Walsh's autobiography, "Each Man in His Time: The True Life of a Director." As Walsh remembered, "The Life of General Villa" was filmed in the San Fernando Valley, with Christy Cabanne directing, while he played a young Villa. Walsh's background footage and action scenes were cut into Cabanne's film, which helped make it a success.

Christopher Schaefer

Long Beach


Calendar's story about the new HBO movie "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself" brings memories of a fascinating interview I had with Pancho Villa's widow, Luz Corral de Villa, in her 50-room mansion in Chihuahua.

Pancho Villa purchased the house in 1906 for his headquarters. It was filled with the revolutionary's memorabilia, including the bullet-ridden car in which he was killed, his arsenal of guns, personal papers, general's uniforms, flags, paintings, photographs and other material.

"My husband was killed the same way as President Kennedy -- cut down as he drove in his car," noted Luz Corral de Villa. "Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy and Jesus Christ were all killed on the same day of the week as my husband -- Friday -- and for the same reason -- their ideals."

Pancho Villa's widow, 74 at the time, said she had one last wish before she died -- that her husband's body and head be placed in the grandiose sepulcher he erected for his final resting place across from her home.

She was convinced the head, severed from her husband's body a year after he was slain, was intact and possessed by someone as a "gruesome" souvenir.

In 1976 Villa's remains were moved from Hidalgo del Parral to a shrine in Mexico City. As Dave Wielenga reported in his Calendar story ("80 Years On, Villa Remains as Big as Life," Aug. 3), some say they got the wrong skeleton, that Pancho Villa is still in Parral.

To this day, Pancho Villa's head has never been found.

Charles Hillinger

Rancho Palos Verdes

Charles Hillinger is a former writer for The Times and interviewed Villa's widow for a feature published in 1968.

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