Monday, February 19, 2018

Melita M. Garza's "They Came to Toil"

Melita M. Garza spent more than 20 years reporting for U.S. news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg News. While earning her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she became a media historian, committed to telling the untold stories about journalism’s role in furthering social justice and defining Americanhood.

Although scholarly non-fiction is rarely adapted for film, here Garza dreamcasts an imagined screen adaptation of her first book, They Came to Toil: Newspaper Representations of Mexicans and Immigrants in the Great Depression:
Since the key dramatic tension revolves around how three competing U.S. news organizations with distinctive editorial voices covered Mexican immigration in the early 1930s, the casting of the three editors and publishers is most critical.

I would cast Mexican actor Adan Canto (Designated Survivor’s Aaron Shore) as Ignacio Lozano, publisher of La Prensa, then the most important Spanish-language publication in the United States. Canto would bring the enterprising immigrant’s sensibility to the part. I’d cast Gary Oldman as William Randolph Hearst, who during the early Great Depression owned the biggest newspaper chain in the United States, and who wrote numerous anti-immigrant editorials that were published in many of his newspapers, including the San Antonio Light. Hugh Jackman would appear as the Light’s dashing, charismatic, and raconteurish editor, William M. McIntosh. Michael Peña (Cesar Chavez, Crash, Million Dollar Baby) or Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line) would play San Antonio Express publisher Frank G. Huntress, whose mother was Mexican-born.

The movie would be shot on location in San Antonio, Texas, so Spanish architecture, including San Fernando Cathedral and the five Spanish-built missions would have a starring role. For director, I’d choose either the brilliant San Antonio-born director, Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Spike Kids) or the brilliant Mexican-born actor/director/producer Eugenio Derbez (Instructions Not Included). The screenplay would be built around the major immigration news stories that occurred between 1929 and 1934, which marked the deepest recessionary period of the Great Depression. These leave many opportunities for cameo appearances. For instance, Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) might be cast as the women leading the pivotal jobless protest through the streets of downtown San Antonio in 1930.

I’d select the multi-talented innovative composer Carlos Garza (Nosferatu, Metropolis, Salomé) to score the film.
Learn more about They Came to Toil at the University of Texas Press website.

The Page 99 Test: They Came to Toil.

--Marshal Zeringue