Early Spanish Cinema (1)

Amor que mata (Frgm.)
R: Fructuós Gelabert. B: Fructuós Gelabert. K: Fructuós Gelabert. D: Joaquín Carrasco, José Vives, Guerra, M. Mestres, María Miró, P. Ortín. P: Films Barcelona (Diorama). Sp 1908

“Jacobo is set to marry Miss Vélez, but a vengeful woman begins writing anonymous letters saying that they should not marry because Miss Vélez’s mother is a ‘sinner’. Upon reading the anonymous letter, Miss Vélez faints and falls gravely ill. News of Miss Vélez’s sickness appears in the newspaper. After finding out what she has caused, the woman who sent the anonymous letter decides to go (to) the Vélez house. Meanwhile, Jacobo is also worried about his fiancée’s health, so he goes to her house to see her. Upon hearing her mother confess the truth, Miss Vélez suffers one final attack and dies.”
Tatjana Pavlović e.a.: 100 Years of Spanish Cinema. John Wiley & Sons 2009, p. 10-11

“Popular melodramas and successful theatrical works were frequently adapted for the silent screen, Amor que mata being one of the most representative. This film also reflects cinema’s search for a more ‘sophisticated’ audience who may have been tired of the usual vaudeville acts and comic chases. Filmmakers therefore embraced the theatrical model in an attempt to attract the theater-going middle class to the cinema by increasing its aesthetic and intellectual appeal. As can be seen from Amor que mata with its papier-mâché and plaster sets, the film frame functioned as a proscenium arch, contributing a highly theatrical feel to the productions. The film also illustrates the discrepancies and tensions between the two dramatic forms; the actors perform with archaic facial grimaces inherited from the theater as they also develop new acting styles and conventions particular to the movie screen.”
100 Years of Spanish Cinema, p. 5

Los héroes del sitio de Zaragoza
R: Segundo de Chomón. Sp 1905

“Agustina Raimunda María Saragossa Domènech, or Agustina de Aragón (1786-1857) was a Spanish heroine who defended Spain during the Spanish War of Independence, first as a civilian and later as a professional officer in the Spanish Army. Known as ‘the Spanish Joan of Arc’, she has been the subject of much folklore, mythology, and artwork, including sketches by Francisco de Goya and the poetry of Lord Byron.”

“The first public screening of a Spanish-made film, Eduardo Jimeno‘s compilation of actuality footage, Salida de misa de doce del Pilar de Zaragoza (People Coming Out of the Noontime Mass at the Cathedral of the Virgin of Pilar in Zaragoza), took place in 1896, just months before the Lumière brothers’ presentation in Madrid of similar images of local color that included port scenes from Barcelona, urban vistas in Madrid, and, of course, bullfights. Early silent cinema tended to depict a quaint, almost exotic backwardness that would become a staple of the cinematic imagery of the country seen by Spanish and international audiences for decades.
Though Spanish silent cinema had almost no international impact, there did exist a fledging film culture during this period. Among its notable figures was Fructuós Gelabert (1874-–1955), whose Riña en un café (Café Brawl, 1897) is the first Spanish-made fiction film made in Spain. Along with Gelabert, Segundo de Chomón (1871-–1929) worked independently during the final years of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth to develop a number of special effects or trick films. His most inventive creation was El Hotel eléctrico ( The Electric Hotel, 1908), which depicts a fully automated hotel in which a man is automatically shaved and his wife’s hair is combed.
In the early 1900s Barcelona was established as the principal center for film production on the Iberian peninsula. This changed in 1915 when Benito Perojo (1894-–1974) and his brother established the first Madrid-based film production company. The multitalented Perojo worked as producer, director, scriptwriter, actor, and even camera operator on his films.
Perhaps the most significant feature of the silent period in Spanish cinema was its emphasis on local cultural tastes to shape the emerging international medium. The early preference for folkloric cinema and adaptations of Spanish works of fiction and theater is found, for instance, in Ricardo Baños‘s 1905 film version of the popular Zorrilla play ‘Don Juan Tenorio’. Several of the figures who were to shape the early sound film in Spain had already established themselves in the silent era. Most notable among these was Perojo, who would later direct and produce films, and Florián Rey (1894-–1962) and Juan de Orduña (1900-–1974), both of whom started their film careers as actors and went on to direct important films of the sound era.”
Film Reference

Don Juan Tenorio
R: Ricardo de Baños, Alberto Marro. B: Ricardo de Baños, Alberto Marro, José Zorrilla. K: Ricardo de Baños. Bauten: Joan Calderé. D: Cecilio Rodríguez de la Vega. P: Hispano Films. Sp 1908

Zorrilla’s play ‘Don Juan Tenorio’, Spanish and English

>>> Early Spanish Cinema 2, Early Spanish Cinema 3

>>> More films by Segundo de Chomón