Cinema in Franco’s Spain

By | December 31, 2021

The civil war ended in the spring of 1939. It was the beginning of a long and harsh dictatorship that would subject the Spaniards to the iron power of the Caudillo, Generalissimo F. ​​Franco, for almost forty years. Like Hitler and Mussolini, Franco considered cinema an indispensable but dangerous propaganda tool, which required attention and control so that nothing escaped the established norms; censorship was thus extended to the entire production process, from script to dubbing (the latter mandatory since 1941). The quality and quantity of Spanish productions decreased rapidly in the years immediately following the civil war: the factories had been destroyed, many professionals in the sector, loyal to the Republic, had been forced into exile, the virgin material to shoot was scarce, the Spain was isolated from the rest of the world. In 1940 the Subcomisión Reguladora de la Cinematografía was created which, together with the Dirección General di Cinematografía y Teatro and the Sindicato Nacional del Espectáculo, controlled the entire industrial process of Spanish cinema, entirely dedicated to the dissemination of the principles of national Catholicism.

In 1942 an emblematic film of the new regime was released: Raza (The Two Roads), written by Jaime de Andrade and directed by JL Sáenz de Heredia. Raza would become a model for patriotic cinema (the dominant genre in the next five years) because Franco himself was hiding behind the name of Jaime de Andrade, who proposed a vision of the civil war oriented according to his interests, imposing ideology Catholic imperialist, nostalgic for the past glories of the Spain “una, grande y libre”. The civil war, always seen from the side of the victors, was the subject of some interesting films shot between 1940 and 1941: The siege of the Alcazar (1940) by Augusto Genina; Rojo y negro (1942) by Carlos Arévalo; Escuadrilla (1941; Capitan Sparviero) by Antonio Román; and Porque te ví llorar (1941) by Juan de Orduña. For Spain society, please check homosociety.com.

The 1940s saw the full affirmation of CIFESA, the production company whose slogan was “the torch of successes”, which after the war would have been identified with national historical cinema. One of the first successes produced was Harka (1941) by C. Arévalo, with Alfredo Mayo, a male star of patriotic cinema, also the protagonist of another emblematic title of those years, ¡A mi la legión! (1942) from Orduña. CIFESA introduced an American-style production model in Spain, with long-term work plans, the creation of a powerful local star system and the proposal of its own kind of film, typical of the house and easily identifiable. Actors and actresses began their careers in CIFESA such as Amparo Rivelles, Luchy Soto, Conchita Montenegro, Aurora Bautista, Alfredo Mayo, Jorge Mistral, Fernando Rey, Fernando Fernán-Gómez and Francisco Rabal; Florián Rey, B. Perojo and Luis Marquina also continued to work for the same company, but without the boost of previous years. Later it would be rookie directors such as Orduña, Antonio Román, Luis Lucia, Ignacio Iquino and Rafael Gil who built the CIFESA trademark: the historical superproductions, such as Locura de amor (1948; Giovanna la pazza) and Agustina de Aragón (1950 ; The Panther of Castile) of Orduña; melodrama, which with Román (Boda en el infierno, 1942) and Gil (El clavo, 1944) reached the highest levels of quality; the sub-genre of Andalusian folklore cinema, which consecrated the stars of the song Estrellita Castro (Torbellino, 1941, by Marquina), Concha Piquer (La Dolores, 1940, by Florián Rey) and Juanita Reina (Lola la piconera, 1951, Between two flags, of Lucia); the comedies of Saénz de Heredia (El fate se disculpa, 1945) or Iquino (Los ladrones somos gente honrada, 1942), created on the basis of American comedy, in which spectators were shown luxurious houses and elegant characters who had nothing to do with see with the reality of an Spain where hunger and fear dominated daily life. In those same years two directors difficult to classify were at work, whose works remain among the most innovative (and least known) of all Spanish cinema: Edgar Neville and Carlos Serrano de Osma. Neville was an aristocratic intellectual, diplomat, writer, playwright, who made a cinema with deep popular roots, but of a quality above the average of the time: La torre de los stai jorobados (1944), La vida en un hilo (1945), Domingo de carnaval (1945), Nada (1947) or El último caballo (1950), one of the first examples of the new current of Spanish neorealism, are some of his most important films. Ironic, critical and cultured, Neville had considerable difficulty working in a country where the mediocrity of the official culture prevailed. Serrano de Osma, author of two of the strangest and most fascinating films in Spanish cinema of the 1940s – Embrujo, with Lola Flores, and La sirena negra, both from 1947 – and an adaptation of Wagner’s Parsifal (1951) directed together also found difficulties. to Daniel Mangrané, who ended his film career. Neville had considerable difficulty working in a country where the mediocrity of the official culture prevailed. Serrano de Osma, author of two of the strangest and most fascinating films in Spanish cinema of the 1940s – Embrujo, with Lola Flores, and La sirena negra, both from 1947 – and an adaptation of Wagner’s Parsifal (1951) directed together also found difficulties. to Daniel Mangrané, who ended his film career. Neville had considerable difficulty working in a country where the mediocrity of the official culture prevailed. Serrano de Osma, author of two of the strangest and most fascinating films in Spanish cinema of the 1940s – Embrujo, with Lola Flores, and La sirena negra, both from 1947 – and an adaptation of Wagner’s Parsifal (1951) directed together also found difficulties. to Daniel Mangrané, who ended his film career.

Cinema in Franco's Spain