Leo Carrillo died at the age of 80 in 1961. Although he has been gone now for more than 50 years, his legacy lives on in the annual Leo Carrillo Film Festival, which celebrates its first decade in 2014. What draws the crowds to Carlsbad, California, each year in late summer?
Who was Leo Carrillo?
Writing his obituary, the Los Angeles Times identified actor Leo Carrillo as an integral part of the state’s “romantic Spanish-American history.” An accomplished stage actor and silent movie film star, his audiences best remember him in the role of Pancho in the TV series “Cisco Kid.”
Leo Carrillo Ranch Sets the Backdrop for the Annual Film Festival
Located at 6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Lane in Carlsbad, the ranch used to be the actor’s home. The City of Carlsbad identifies the areas as a 27-acre historic park that is now owned by the municipality. There are the buildings the actor added to the existing ranch as well as structures that are indicative of the involvement of Cliff May. Throughout the year, the property is open to the public.
The film festival takes place for five Fridays in the late summer. There is no cost for admission although event organizers limit complimentary tickets to four per household per night. Once the property closes for the evening at 5 p.m. on indicated days, film fans arrive for the special screenings as well as for tours of the ranch. Everyone is encouraged to bring a picnic dinner, blankets, warm clothes and a flashlight.
Carrillo fans look forward to an episode of the “Cisco Kid” before the main features. The actual movie choices vary and are not announced until about a month before the first movie night. In 2013, on the occasion of the 9th Annual Leo Carrillo Film Festival, there were screenings of “Arizona Wildcat,” “If You Could Only Cook,” “Twenty Mule Team,” “A Tribute to Huell Howser” and “Here’s Adventure, Here’s Romance … The Cisco Kid!” In 2011, film choices included “What’s Cookin,” “Larceny with Music,” “52nd Street,” “Blockade,” and “Frontier Badmen.”
Who Makes this Film Festival Possible?
As noted by Sea Coast Exclusive Properties, the Leo Carrillo Film Festival is a labor of love and a fundraiser. Organizers host a dinner and movie night on the property, featuring one of the actor’s many works as well as a scrumptious meal, a silent auction, door prizes and live entertainment. Proceeds benefit the Carrillo Ranch Trust Fund, which in turn makes the film festival possible.