The acting facet that brought him immense popularity has overshadowed the status of total creator of a libertarian and skeptical genius
“Some philosophers taught me what it was to assume and some wise men explained to me that this galaxy, after my inexorable disappearance, will inexorably have a few more centuries left”, writes Fernando Fernán Gómez in his memoirs (ed. Capitán Swing), whose title , ‘El tiempo amarillo’, comes from some verses by Miguel Hernández: «… one day / time will turn yellow / on my photograph». It has been fourteen years since a total creator died, whose photos, far from turning yellow, remind us of his status as a “full stop” in our culture, as defined by his friend José Sacristán.
«Fernando was the best actor, and he also embroidered all the disciplines through which he traveled. Now we have found out that he also painted; the granddaughter has discovered film ‘story boards’ made in watercolors », reveals Sacristán. “He was a guy with whom there was no room for imposture, the hell you had to be better in front of him. You could not go smart or with false humility, because you were left out at the first change ».
Next Saturday, August 28, will be the 100th anniversary of the birth in Lima (Peru) of a man who made the dreams he had at nine come true: to be an actor like Jackie Cooper and a writer like Emilio Salgari. His two hundred films as a performer dwarf the twenty feature films he directed, as well as his brilliant status as a writer, columnist, author and theater director. “It was enormous, and that in his general assessment has harmed him, because people need to have someone assigned to him in a certain way,” says David Trueba, who recorded him in a long conversation in ‘La Silla de Fernando’, a documentary co-directed with Luis Alegre.
«The memory of the actor eats away the quality of the director and the writer. He directed films for which he would be comparable to Berlanga and other greats “, praises Trueba, referring to titles such as ‘The strange journey’ and ‘Life ahead’, uncomfortable films halfway between an unusual social realism and the grotesque, which They were hardly released in their day and had to be vindicated many years later.
The Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, the National Film and Theater Awards, six Goyas, the Gold Medal from the Film Academy and the awards for best actor in Berlin and Venice attest to the monumental legacy of a showman who ended up as an academic of the tongue. His granddaughter, Helena de Llanos, clarifies that Fernán Gómez never considered himself a writer, but “an actor who wrote.” She settled in the house in Algete that she shared with Emma Cohen and classified her personal archive. He discovered that the protagonist of ‘Balarrasa’ had always written, he even found a play designed at the age of 17, in the middle of the Civil War.
“The recurring theme is his profession, the world of comedians,” illustrates Helena de Llanos. “Now ‘The Orange Seller’ has just been reissued, which talks about the shabby film production in the 50s, and soon ‘La Puerta del Sol’, a social novel with an anarchist theme, will do so in which it describes the theatrical environment . It also touched on the world of work and how politicians limit our freedom. My grandfather used to say that he admired writers who dealt with unfamiliar subjects, such as John le Carré and espionage. He could only speak of what he knew.
Elías Querejeta said that when Fernando Fernán Gómez read the script for ‘The Spirit of the Beehive’, he asked him if it was necessary to understand it to interpret the character. The producer replied no. And the actor said, “Oh, then I’ll do it.” He never idealized his trade or gave himself importance. Ramón Barea, who has been taking ‘The Journey to Nowhere’ on stage these days, had the fortune to work under him in 2004 in ‘Live Crazy, Die Sane’, where the Bilbao actor played Quixote. And he found himself “with a limping and coughing myth, a myth of flesh and blood.”
«Imposed. That man with transparent blue eyes was very kind to the entire cast, “recalls Barea. «I discovered an affable guy, too respectful in my way of seeing us. With a true love for Cervantes and Don Quixote: he said, jokingly, that everyone had the book at home, but no one had read it. When he spoke, the comments, the sense of humor, the lucidity were a return to normality. The play ended with the death of Don Quixote embracing his Dulcinea. I remember Emma Cohen crying … Unforgettable.
“Fernando was a guy with whom there was no imposture, the hell you had to be better in front of him”
“He considered himself a libertarian, which he did not take away so that he would like luxury and comfort”
Writer and filmmaker
“His films and writings will be used to recognize a time that he has portrayed in a very special way”
Actor and theater director
“He was aware of the limitations we have and exercised his freedom in an intimate facet. Beyond that I knew that nothing is in our hands »
Helena de llanos
Granddaughter and filmmaker
For Ramón Barea, the author of ‘Bicycles are for summer’ lived “with the contradictions of the time and an undeniable love of the trade.” “He has reflected on his time and his films and writings will be used to recognize a time that he has portrayed in a very special way.” The least will remember him for an outburst, a “go to hell” captured by the cameras, which made a young man look angry who, as a young man, burned the bohemian night of Madrid in Pasapoga. «In a gray and repressive Spain, you had to be someone to be free. And Fernando found that having money and being famous you could go out at night, drink and be with young ladies, like soccer players, bullfighters and the rich. He considered himself a libertarian, which he did not take away so that he would like luxury and comfort “, observes David Trueba.
The anarchist flag that covered his coffin on the stage of the Spanish Theater sums up the political commitment of a skeptic, who in the last stage of his life always thanked the awards with the anarchist salute, the only one that can be done with his hands in handcuffs. However, he never exhibited his militancy. «He was an acrat who loved luxury. He lived with his ball ”, summarizes José Sacristán. «I remember meeting him at the 23-F demonstration walking down the Castellana. “Damn, Fernando, are you coming to the demonstration?” “No, I was going to my house.” But when there has been an occasion, with the war in Iraq or the miners of Asturias, he has always placed himself in the place of the just.
Retrospective at the Spanish Film Library and unpublished material at FlixOlé
José Luis Cuerda took advantage of his imposing presence as an autumnal patriarch and awarded him the role of God in ‘As in heaven as on earth’. Years later, he wanted him as the fair and brotherly Machado teacher of ‘The language of butterflies’. Fernando Fernán Gómez was, therefore, divine and earthly.
His granddaughter Helena de Llanos describes him as a “pessimistic libertarian.” «He was aware of the limitations we have and exercised his freedom in an intimate facet. Beyond that, I knew that nothing is in our hands, “he reflects. “He was true to himself, something I aspire to as an individual.” The filmmaker and researcher has collaborated with Filmoteca Española in the retrospective that is being screened these weeks at the Madrid cinema Doré. The cycle brings together the films he directed, but also some in which he participated as an actor.
For its part, the Spanish film FlixOlé platform owned by Enrique Cerezo makes available to users unpublished material about his filmography from the Mercury Films archive, such as images of discarded scenes: the bikini that did not appear in ‘El malvado Carabel’, the censorship instructions for the screening of ‘Don Mendo’s Revenge’ … ‘The World Goes On’, ‘The Strange Journey’, ‘The Journey to Nowhere’, ‘The Spirit of the Beehive’ are also available on FlixOlé ‘,’ The anchorite ‘… The Aisge Foundation and the Notorious publishing house analyze in the 370 pages of’ The universe of Fernando Fernán Gómez ‘his film and television legacy. Finally, in a few weeks Blackie Books publishes a monographic book on the actor and director, on the path of those of Gloria Fuertes and Gila.