Desde el Escritorio de Randy Osborne
Pioneers in Flamenco in Film
May 2, 1997
Copyright Randy Osborne F.F.S.I. La Guitarreria Fina, 1997
The silent silver screen came to Spain in 1896. In the first few shorts that were made reflected the Andalucian folklore, especially the dance. The first real specific flamenco movie dates from 1909. It starred the singer El Mochuelo and was made by Ricardo de Baños. In the year 1914, Jose Carrera contracted Pastora Imperio for several films. The first film was titled La Danza Fatal and was directed by José de Togores. In 1916 the Italian producer Mario Caserini brought La Argentinita to the screen in Flor de Otoño. Pastora Imperio returned to the screen in 1917 in Gitana Cani. It was produced by Armando Pou, and also starred Pastora's brother, guitarrist Victor Rojas. In the '20s, La Argentinita appeared in Rosario la Cortijera (1923) produced by José Buchs. In 1924, the dancer Mariquilla Ortega appeared in the biggest hit of the silent screen (cine mudo) Santa Isabel de Ceres. It was produced by José Sobrado de Onega. In 1927La Hermana San Sulpicio contained the debut of Imperio Argentina. In April of 1928, Rafael Salvador's film Rejas & Votos was released. It was a total failure publicly and critically. Though it had flamenco scenes it was without any real guidelines of quality. At the end of 1929 the first version of La Copla Andaluza, a comedy by Pascual Guillén & Antonio Quintero and directed by Ernesto Gonzalez was released.
The first sound motion picture was produced by Florián Rey in 1929 and was titled Fútbol, Amor, & Toros. A star who appeared was the singer and recording artist Guerrita. With its mechanical defects at the dawn of the sound picture age it was not a success. In 1932 Fernando Roldán directed the film El Sabor de la Gloria which starred the singer Angellio & guitarist Luis Yance. A year later Guerrita returned to the spotlight in El Relicario. It was directed by Ricardo Baños. The second version of La Hermana San Sulpicio was directed by Florián Rey in 1934 and starred once again Imperio Argentina at the height of her fame. Pepe el de La Matrona also sings sporadically in this film. In the same year Benito Perojo directed El Negro que Tenia el Alma Blanca in which sang Angelillo. In 1935 one of the most nourished representations of flamenco came to the screen. It was directed by José Buchs and was titled Madre Alegria which starred La Niña de La Puebla. Rosario la Cortijera was directed by León Artola and included Estrellita Castro, Niño de Utrera, & Niño Sabicas. Producer Fernando Roldan created Paloma de Mis Amores which was the first starring role for Niño de Marchena. The first version (which was the most popular) of La hija de Juan Simon was directed by José Luis Sáenz de Heredia. It starred Angelillo who sang the celebrated milonga of Juan Simón. Carmen Amaya also acted in this film. The German producer Max Nosseck made Una Aventura Oriental which had as a part of its cast Guerrita. In 1936, besides the few shorts of Sabino Antonio Micón which reflected Flamenquismo there appeared two more films with flamenco artists. Francisco Elias directed Maria de la O starring Pastora Imperio & Carmen Amaya. Florián Rey directed Carmen de la Triana which starred Imperio Argentina and Don Ramon Montoya. Florian Rey made another film with Imperio Argentina named Morena Clara, based on a work by Guillén & Quintero. During the civil war, the debut of Amor Gitana, directed by Alfonso Benavides casted once again Guerrita. Also, in 1937 he made a short with Carmen Amaya Embrujo del Fandango with Sabicas in Cuba.
In the '40s, films produced (like almost every postwar period) had a true explosion of nationalism - better or worse understood - that had invaded the theatres. Among the nationalist elements occupying the primordial position was folklorism, although rarely would it bring the authentic Spanish folklore, and over all it was looking for more than quality-commercial potential. Two films that starred Niño de Marchena came to the theatres of Madrid in 1940. La Dolores directed by Florián Rey also cast Conchita Piquer. The other being Martingala directed by Fernando Mignoni. Pastora Imperio starred in La Marquesona directed by Eusebio Fernández Ardavin. The following year Fernando Rivero directed Carmen Amaya in Seda, Sangre & Sol. Ignacio Fernández de Iquino directed Trini Borull in Alma de Dios. Carmen Amaya also was directed by Sol Hurok in Original Gypsy Dances in 1941 which featured Sabicas. Niño del Brillante was directed by Alejandro Galindo in Ni Sangre Ni Arena. In 1942 Mercedes Borull La Gitana Blanca worked in Malvaloca. In 1943 Eusebio F. Ardavin made Forja de Almas which narrated the life of educator Andrés Manjón, and portrayed folkloric scenes of the Sacromonte in Granada. In 1944 Carmen Amaya made Sueños de Gloria with Sabicas and directed by Edward Sutherland. She also made Pierna de Plata with her family troupe directed by Harry Joe Brown. Lola Flores and her songs starred in Alegrias directed by Jesús Rey. Antonio Guzmán Merino made Macarena with Mercedes Borull and Juanita Reina. Floriá Rey debuted his Ana Maria which had a cameo by Niño de Marchena. In 1945 Juan de Orduña - one of the most characteristic figures of the national cinema at that time appeared in Leyenda de la Feria with Trini Borull and Niño de Constantina. Juan de Orduña also was in La Lola se va a los puertos wit h Juanita Reina, Pepe Pinto accompanied by Melchor de Marchena. Taking advantage of the popularity of the couple Lola Flores & Manolo Caracol, Carlos Serrano de Osma offered them the roles in Embrujo in 1947. It was panned by the critics. In the end of the '40s the Flamenco dance drew the most attention. Carmen Amaya was directed by José Diaz Morales in Pasión Gitana. In 1948 Florián Rey directed José Greco in Brindis a Manolete, participating also were Rafael Romero, Manolo Manzanilla, Luis Maravilla & Rosa Durán. Another film directed by Jose Diaz Morales in 1949 was La Revoltosa. which starred Vincente Escudero. Adolfo Aznar directed the dancing duo of Antonio & Rosario in El Rey de Sierra Morena in 1949. Also in the same year Antonio Román coached Pastoria Imperio, Manolo Vargas, and Ana Esmeralda in El Amor Brujo. Besides all these feature length films, documentary shorts such as Sevillana (1941), Fandanguillo (1942), and Pregones del Embrujo. In those years flamenco was episodic and at times was purely in the background of the scenes. The folkloric movies for the most part had little artistic ambition or cinematic sense and some directors had little technical preparation. What was tried fundamentally was to make a star of someone whose fame was from recordings and theatre spectaculars and into getting a secure foothold on the silver screen. The singers Estrellita Castro, Lola Flores, Conchita Piquer, Juantia Reina, Imperio Argentina, Gracia de Triana, Angelillo Miguel de Molina, that create the dreams of the public with their lyrics and the music of the Maestros - Azagra, Quintero, León, Quiroga, Ochaita, Solano, Valero, etc.
In the '50s save the honorable exceptions such as Duende & Misterio starring Pilar Lopez & Luis Maravilla, the lean was toward commercialism. Inundating the screen were Lola Flores, El Príncipe Gitano, and Antonio Molino principally. Edgar Neville's film Duende & Misterio by being the definitively most consacrated in the history of Flamenco Cinema deserves attention. Edgar Neville brought flamenco the screen in 1946 in which a cuadro performed in Traje de Luces. But it was his Duende & Misterio which debuted in Madrid on December 15, 1952, that was praised highly by the most demanding critics. For better or worse it undoubtably was a force causing investigation of the background of flamenco. The film was conceived as a succession of sequences, with every scene dedicated to the song or dance, and within the evocative mark of style, documentative, or informative. It didn't have a story line and was not in need of one. The most memorable artists that took part were Pilar López. Antonio Ruiz Soler, Jacinto Almadén, Aurelio de Cádiz, Antonio Mairena, Bernarda and Soler, Jacinto Almadén, Aurelio de Cádiz, Antonio Mairena, Bernarda and Fernanda de Utrera, Pepe de Badajoz, Rafael de Jerez, Luis Maravilla, El Poeta Mercedes Brocco, and Pacita Tomás.
Besides dancing in Duende & Misterio, Antonio also made Niebla & Sol in 1951. He was directed by José Maria Forqué, and also had Rosario in the cast. In 1953 Maurice Clauche. directed Noches Andaluces. In the following year José Luis Sáenz de Heredia directed Todo es Posible en Granada. Later in 1958 Javier Setó directed Pan Amor & Andalucia. Also in the same year, Michael Powell directed Carmen Sevilla in Luna de Miel. Pepe Marchena & Antonita together were directed by Raúl Alfonso in the 1954 release of La Reina Mora. Also in the cast were the singer José Cepero and guitarists Andrés Heredia and Benito de Merida. In 1955 Ramon Torrado directed Angelillo in Suspiros de Triana. Ricardo Nuñez made Tremolina in 1956. Lola Flores being a permanent figure in the '50s appeared in the film Jack el Negro in 1950 and was directed by Jilien Duvivier. Lola also appeared with Manolo Caracol in Ramón Torrado's 1951 release La Niña de la Venta. After the artistic separation of Caracol she starred in another Torrado film in 1952, Estrella de Sierra Morena. Florián Rey directed Lola in his film La Danza de Los Deseos in 1954. In the same year Luis Lucia directed her in Morena Clara. Also in the same year and with the same director she appeared in La Hermana Alegria. In '57 under Miguel Zacarias' direction she made Maricruz. Also in '57 she appeared in Torrado's remake of Maria de la O. 1958 brought her to the screen in Fernando Cortes' Echame la Culpa. Later in the same year she was directed by Enrique Cahen in Venta & Vargas. Antonia Molina was directed by Luis Lucia in El Piyayo in 1955. Antonio also appeared in El Pescador de Coplas, directed by Antonio del Amo in 1953. Luis Lucia also directed Antonio in Esa Voz es Una Mina (1955). Gonzalo Delgrás directed Antoni o in the 1956 remake of La Hija de Juan Simón Ricardo Nuñez also directed him in the 1956 release of Malgueña. Gonzalo Delgrás also directed Antonio in 1957 in El Cristo de Los Faroles.
Enrique Vargas-El Principe Gitano appeared in José Buchs 1953 film Brindis al Cielo. Enrique also was in Miguel Iglesias's 1955 film Veraneo en Espana. In 1956 Enrique also appeared in Iglesias's film Herederos en Apuros. The remake of La Copla Andaluza by Jerónimo Mihura in 1959 starred Rafael Farina, Adelfa Soto, Porrinas de Badajoz, La Paquera, de Jerez, Fernanda Romero, El Sevillano & Beni de Cádiz.
Antonio Momplet directed Imperio Argentina in 1951 in the film Café Cantante. Luis Lucia directed Ana Esmeralda in Lola la Piconera in 1952. Also in 1952 José Maria Elorrieta directed Ana in Maria Dolores. One of the last works of Florián Rey was in 1954 - Cruz de Mayo starring Manolo El Malagueño. In 1953 Luis Torreblanca directed Niño Ricardo in El Festival de la 3D. Juanito Valderrama appeared in El Rey de la Carretera in 1954 by Juan Fortuny which also included the music of Niño Ricardo and the dance of Gracia de Sacromonte. La Chunga danced in José Maria Forqué's 1959 film De Espaldas a la Puerta.
In the following decade, besides Lola Flores, El Príncipe Gitano & Antonio Molina, brought to the screen were Rocío Jurado, Peret, the dancers and choreographers Rafael de Córdova & Antonio Gades, among others. The number of films that were folklyric-flamenco decreased in comparison to the previous decade. Producers took into account that the audience was not what it once was. In 1963 Francisco Rovira Beleta produced Los Tarantos which was based on Alfredo Mañas's theatre work Historia de Los Tarantos. It related a beautiful yet tragic story of the love of two gypsies belonging to rival families. A grand creation, not only having dance but drama as well. Carmen Amaya made this film a year before she passed away. Sara Lezana, in the beginning of her career played Juana La Zoronga - the girlfriend. Other actors in Los Tarantos were Antonio Gades and El Chocolate. ALthough it is a film from years ago, it is still much requested and packs theatres. Los Tarantos was nominated for an Oscar. Another film by Rovira Beleta was a remake of El Amor Brujo. It had a musical adaption by Ernesto Halfter, and music by classical guitarist Narcisco Yepes. In 1960 Gonzalo Delgrás brought Antonio Molina & Rafael Farina, and the dancer Maria Albacin to the screen in Café de Chinitas. In 1961 the same pair Molina-Farina were directed by Santos Alcocer in Puente de Coplas which also starred Porrinas de Bádajoz and Ana Mariscal. Ana Mariscal as director made the film Feria de Sevilla in 1964. It starred Porrinas de Badajoz, Ana la Tomata, Maria Rosa, and the off screen voices of La Niña de los Peines, Juanito Valderrama, Argentina Coral & Dolores Vargas. Joaquín Bollo Muro contracted the couple Juanito Valderrama-Dolores Abril to appear in two consecutive films:Gitana with El Güaut;ito in 1965 and Barro & Oro in 1966. Juanito and Dolores were invited to participate in Armando de Ossorio's movie La niña del patio in '67. It was about the life of singer Estrellita Castro. Pío Ballesteros in '64 made the screenplay by Guillén & Quintero into the movie El Alma de la Copla. The cast headed by El Príncipe Gitano included Adelfa & Pepe Soto, La Niña de La Puebla, Juan Varea, Jacinto Almaden, and the recorded voices of Antonio Chacon, La Sallago & Luquitas de Marchena. Among the films of Juan Antonio Bardem in this decade, there are two with flamenco participation, although minimal. A Las Cinco de la Tarde (1960) with Jarrito, and the other Los Pianos Mecánicos (1965) with Maria Albacin. El Príncipe Gitano & Rafael Farina shared the lead in J.M. Zabalza's 1966 work El Milagro del Cante. Jesús Yagüaut;e brought to the screen Jarrito, Fosforito, Juan Vargas, Enrique El Culata, Adela Escudero and José Osuna in the 1966 production of Los Flamencos. In Silvio F. Balbuena's 1967 film Los Celos & El Duende the cast included Porrinas de Badajoz, Jarrito, Fosforito, Juan Varea, Flor de Cordoba, Carmen Rojas, Félix de Utrera, and flamenco cuadros from the tablaos El Corral de la Moreria and Las Cuevas del Nemesio. Antonio Gades starred in Mario Camus's 1967 filmCon el Viento Solano. Also in that movie were Imperio Argentina and Vincente Escudero. Antonio Gades also appeared in Antonio Eceiza's Ultimo Encuentro in '66. In '64 Luis Marquina'sValiente Maria Rosa and Fosforito starred. Valiente's star was the bullfighter Jaime Ostos. Documentaries made at this time include Fernando Pallares and Manuel Gutiérrez Torrero's Antonio en las Cuevas de Nerja and Julian de la Flor's Llanto and Saeta en Sevilla, both made in '63.
The most notable film of the '70s is Ley de Raza (1970). It is based on a novel by Ildefonso Manuel Gil and was directed by José Luis Gonzalvo, and stars Antonio & La Chunga. In '75 Julio Diamanta's La Carman starred Julián Mateos, Sara Lezana, Rafael de Córdova, Enrique El Cojo, Enrique Morente, El Agujeta, El Bico, Enrique de Melchor, Pepe de Lucía and the cuadro from Tablao Las Brujas. A documentary short worth mention is Miguel Alcobendas's Cantes de Malaga (1974).
Carlos Saura in the last decade produced three films with Antonio Gades:Bodas de Sangre (1981) with Christina Hoyos, El Guito, Jose Mercé, Gómez de Jerez, Manolo Sevilla and Antonio Solera. Then, in '83,Carmen with Christina Hoyos, Lara del Sol, Paco de Lucía, Gomez de Jerez, Manolo Sevilla, and Antonio Solera. This film Carmen won two prizes in the Cannes Film Festival: best artistic contribution and best technical quality. And in '86 El Amor Brujo again with Hoyos and del Sol, along with Rocío Jurado singing, and acting by La Polaca, Enrique Ortega, Diego Pantoja, and Gómez de Jerez.
In '84 Nicolás Astirriaga directed Maria Maya in Corre Gitano. Also appearing were Carmen Cortes, singer Manuel de Paula, Miguel López, Miguel El Rubio, and the guitars of Angel Cortés and Chuscales.
In '84 Jaime Camino made the film El Balcon Abierto with José Mercé, Juan Habichuela and Ricardo El Veneno.
Coming next week
When did our current interest of Classical guitar and Flamenco music start? What modes of progress facilitated it? What effect did the Spanish Civil War have on contemporary availability of concert guitars?