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Hollywood Goes Latin: Spanish-Language Cinema in Los Angeles (Double Feature)

Hollywood Goes Latin: Spanish-Language Cinema in Los Angeles (Double Feature)
Hollywood Goes Latin

Linwood Dunn Theater
Pickford Center, 1313 Vine Street
Hollywood, CA 90028

The 2017 FIAF Congress, the Academy and the UCLA Film & Television Archive presented Hollywood Goes Latin: Spanish-Language Cinema in Los Angeles

In the early days of sound cinema, Hollywood had to determine how the “talkies” could be sold around the world. While dubbing and, to a lesser extent, subtitles, eventually became the norm, the first decade of sound saw an extraordinary experiment: an attempt to reach the Spanish-language market by producing movies in Spanish that were sometimes originals and sometimes adaptations of English-language productions. These movies featured prominent Latin American and Spanish actors and actresses, and many of the directors and technicians went on to have major careers in their own countries. Many of these films have been lost, and those that remain are rarely seen or studied. These two films are an excellent introduction to this fascinating period of early sound production in Hollywood.

35mm, b/w, 83 minutes
Preserved by Academy Film Archive and 20th Century Fox

This Fox Film comedy – based on a play by Argentinean writer Julio Escobar – features an international cast that includes actor and singer Raúl Roulien; his fiancée in both the movie and real life, actress and dancer Conchita Montenegro; former Hollywood silent movie star Antonio Moreno, who was also the director of Mexico’s first talkie, Santa (1932); and sultry actress Mona Maris, perhaps best remembered for her work with singer Carlos Gardel in Cuesta abajo. The plot centers on Ricardo Randall (Roulien), who concocts a scheme to establish an insurance policy to protect men from their wives’ infidelity. The plot thickens when Ricardo’s secretary and love interest, Camelia Cornell (Montenegro), is faced with the return of Rita Martín (Maris), a former lover of Ricardo, whose husband Eduardo (Moreno) has purchased an insurance policy on her. The film features tango songs performed by Roulien, with lyrics by Spanish playwright Enrique Jardiel Poncela, who also collaborated on the film’s screenplay.

Directed by Lewis Seiler. Produced by Sol M. Wurtzel, John Stone. Screenplay by Enrique Jardiel Poncela, Robert Ellis, Helen Logan.
Cast: Raúl Roulien, Conchita Montenegro, Antonio Moreno, Mona Maris, Luis Alberni, Barbara Leonard, Carlos Villarías, José Peña “Pepet”.

DCP, b/w, 82 minutes
Restored by Filmoteca de la UNAM and UCLA Film & Television Archive

After winning a trip to Hollywood, office typist Lolita Álvarez (Cristina Téllez) travels to the city of dreams on an ocean liner in the company of her aunt Gertrudis (Pilar Arcos). During the trip, she meets and falls for banker Alberto Guzmán (Rafael Alcayde), mistaking him for a prince while she herself pretends to be a well-travelled socialite. The film features a flamenco-inspired tap dancing scene performed by dancer Edith Davis.

Before becoming a prolific filmmaker in the Mexican film industry, Spanish-born Jaime Salvador made his directorial debut with Castillos en el aire. The film was an independent production financed by Salvador’s then brother-in-law, Eduardo Albacini Gastine (aka Eddie Le Baron), an orchestra leader born in Venezuela and partly raised in Mexico, whose Latin-inspired music was popular throughout the Americas. The film was based on an original idea by Salvador and adapted for the screen by Miguel de Zárraga, a reporter for Cine-Mundial who was a dialogue writer and director of Spanish-language productions in Hollywood. The film also starred Spanish opera singers Andrés de Segurola and Emilia Leovalli and stage comedian José Peña “Pepet.”

Directed by Jaime Salvador. Produced by Eddie Le Baron. Story by Jaime Salvador. Adaptation by Miguel de Zárraga.
Cast: Cristina Téllez, Rafael Alcayde, Pilar Arcos, José Peña “Pepet”, Andrés de Segurola, Emilia Leovalli, Edith Davis.

Both films were presented in Spanish with English subtitles.