Dime With a Halo (1963)

Dime With a Halo (1963)

“We’re gonna lose it, Chuy — that dime’s running out!”

Shortly after moving to Tijuana with his older sister (Barbara Luna), a young orphan (Roger Mobley) befriends a group of street hustlers (led by Rafael Lopez) who place weekly long-shot bets at a local racetrack through a friendly American acquaintance (Paul Langton). When the boys “borrow” a dime from their church donation box and unexpectedly win a bet worth $81,000, they discover that Langton has left town, and are unsure who to trust with cashing their winning ticket.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Childhood
  • Gambling
  • Get Rich Quick
  • Mexico

This hard-to-find MGM “indie” flick possesses an engaging no-name cast, an unlikely setting (the border town of Tijuana), and a compellingly child-centered narrative. Upon its release, Bosley Crowther of The New York Times noted that “the word for this unexpected little movie is likable”, and his assessment still rings true — indeed, it’s difficult not to get caught up in the boys’ travails, and wish them well. While Disney-favorite Roger Mobley is too obviously made-up with brown skin and darkened hair to appear Latino, his compatriots are more authentic-looking, and ringleader Rafael Lopez (whose role is ultimately larger than Mobley’s anyway) emerges as a skilled young actor with charisma. The story isn’t quite neo-realist — it’s too carefully crafted for that — but one at least gets the sense that these characters could really exist; even “Mr. Jones” — the “rich” American who acts as the children’s go-between — transcends cliche and becomes a believable supporting player. Be forewarned, however, that the ending may leave you dissatisfied.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Rafael Lopez as Chuy
  • Paul Langton as “Mr. Jones”
  • Fine attention to humorous detail

Must See?
No, but it’s certainly worth a look if you can locate a copy. Listed as a Sleeper and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Dime With a Halo (1963)

  1. First viewing. Not a must.

    And, yes, the ending is unsatisfying. So are the last 30-40 minutes.

    An interesting but thin premise is stretched way beyond its limits, thus forfeiting its power. Worse, the conclusion implies that the writers simply didn’t know how to end the thing. …Or maybe it’s supposed to be…subtle? …Naaaa.

    There’s an occasional preciousness afoot here that annoys. And the whole bit about the sister seducing one of the young boys (even if she is pretending) is downright icky.

    What is the message here?; that the poverty-stricken should never have money no matter what?; that it only makes them act like animals?

    And what’s with the ‘strippers’ dressed like and acting like escapees from the old ‘Hullabaloo!’ show?

    Frankly I threw in the towel as the script lost control. And I started to think, ‘Hey, this is Tijuana! So maybe ‘Touch of Evil’ is happening somewhere around here! Or at least ‘Kitten With a Whip’!’

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