Archive for the ‘ Films ’ Category


“On dark nights when the wind’s curious howl wraps itself among the willows…a strange light shines on a wooden cross and then returns to the pasture…on the day of the dead, a girl, head covered in a black scarf, with tearful, lifeless eyes, kneels at the tombstone and says, ‘see you soon’ but in fact she never returns”…this is the message of “Cruz de Palo” (Wooden Cross) written by legendary poet Enrique Cadicamo with music by Guillermo Barbieri…for Cadicamo, it was one of over 1300 in his prodigious career…he was born in the town of General Rodriguez just outside of Buenos Aires and as a little boy he was already curious about the world and he would write about what he saw and felt….he published several books of poetry “Canciones Tristes”, “The History of Tango In Paris” and “Under the Sign of the Tango”…he wrote several plays including “The Way Life Repays Us” and “The Romance of Vagabonds”…with Guillermo Barbieri he collaborated on number of works including “Anclao a Paris”, “Olvidao”, “La Novia Ausente”; Carlos Gardel was to record 20 of his poems…


Among his great hits are “Madam Yvonne” (which was the last one Gardel would record in Argentina before his tragic death in 1934), “Los Mareados”, and “Muneca Brava”…he would direct three films and would travel alot in europe and to New York…the music of “Cruz de Palo” is by Guillermo Barbieri who was one of Gardel’s guitarists and also a singer…..Although Barbieri had his first lessons from his father who was also a guitarist, he was basically self taught…he began his professional career at the age of sixteen with the Felix Rodriguez Trio…Barbieri first met Carlos Gardel and Jose Razzano in 1919, at a party to celebrate the victory of one of their race horses; he would remain with Gardel for fifteen years…Barbieri’s first tango to be recorded was “Los Ruisenores” in 1921 by the Roberto Firpo orchestra…among his most beloved compositions are “ViejoSmoking” and “Rosas de Otono”….he would perish with Gardel in Medellin,Colombia; interestingly, the only one to survive was another guitarist, Jose Maria Aguilar.



1915, February 27 – BIRTH OF OLAVI VIRTA

Singer, Composer, Lyricist (Pisces) – A silence fell on the theater at the sight of this decrepit, thin, man being helped on to the stage where he shuffled to the microphone with the help of a cane; the audience was stunned…so this was what had become of the legendary King of Finnish Tango, Olavi Virta…but when he began to sing the Olavi that had been so beloved came back, his voice, his manner, the sensitivity that had made his “Tango Desiree” popular all over Europe…there was a sadness in the enthsusiastic applause that followed and more than one misty eye…in a few months time, in a state of absolute poverty, he  would be dead from diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver; he was 57 years old…Olavi Virta was born in the town of  Sysma, Finland to a father who was a cobbler and a mother who was a seamstress but it was a musical family; both his father and his grandfather were singers…his parents however, would divorce when he was still young…from an early age he was interested in music and at the age of eight he began taking violin lessons; he joined the youth orchestra and the choir of the local church Sornaisten…


His first taste of notoriety occurred at a masked ball where, dressed as a clown, he sang“Orchids to My Lady”; the response from the audience was enthusiastic…he soon won a contest singing three songs including “La Cumparsita”…basically self taught, he dreamt of singing opera like his idol Beniamino Gigli…his first break came in 1937 when he was recruited by Harold Rainbow Orchestra; he recorded for the first time the following year…in 1939 he starred his first film “Rich Girl”…begining in 1940 his career would explode with performances, films, theatrical productions to a degree that went beyond his dreams; he was called a “living legend”…but it was also a time when his drinking began to increase…he met Dorthy Irene Kaarela with whom he would marry and have three children but his worsening alcoholism took its toll and after fifteen years of marriage she left him…he was known for his beloved Ford Fairlane which he drove fast while swigging his bottle of whiskey…Olavi Virta’s career was cut short by a scandalous arrest for drunken driving in 1962, it was continuously talked about in the press which mockingly called him “The Singing Meatball.”; he never really recovered from it.



By the 1920s several dance crazes had swept American, non more than tango….but politically powerful anti vice forces also criticized dance halls and in particular tango  as unhealthy, immoral venues for the seduction of women and the practice of prostitution…hoping to capitalize, Andrew Karzas, invested one million dollars into the construction and promotion of a new dance hall on the South side of Chicago, “The Trianon Ballroom”…the interior was designed to accommodate enormous crowds of up to 3ooo dancer in the main hall and another 3000 in the upper floor…to protect his investment against the moral reformists, Karzas instigated strict rules of conduct which were enforced by six men and women who would evict offenders…a prominent sign read, “we do not allow spooning or petting between the dances” …it is in this atmosphere that Karzas took the courageous act of booking living legend Rodolfo Valentino.


Born in Italy, Valentino danced with his second wife Natacha Rambova to the delight of six thousand delirious fans some of which, it is said, actually fainted…  Natacha Rambova was a costume designer and art director when he met her on the set of the film “Uncharted Seas” in 1921…he married her in Mexicali Mexico but as soon as he returned to California, he was arrested for bigamy as California law required a one year waiting period between marriages…Natacha was a disaster; she was controlling and unsocial causing him many problems personally and professionally; two years later they had a bitter divorce…at the news of  Valentino’s sudden death, 2000 people crammed into the Trianon Ballroom to hear a eulogy from Judge Francis Borelli, president of the Valentino Memorial Association who said of Rodolfo, “he was ever the personification of romance, he was the ideal of love at once Cyrano, Romeo and Don Juan”


1998, February 12 – PREMIERE OF SAURA’S “TANGO”

Mario is devastated, his wife has left him for another man and to make matter worse, he has to see them together every day as they are dancers in the tango film he is making…the financier of the film, a powerful and dangerous man, asks him to give a part to Elena, a young, beautiful dancer who is his lover (Elena is played by Mia Maestro who would later star in “Frida”, another film with a tango scene in it)…Mario eventually falls in love with her and the two begin an affair together risking both their lives; in the mean time, the making of the tango film goes on….it is roughly a remake of the mythical Moglia Barth “Tango” of 1933…it won a nomination for an academy award and has won awards in film festivals all over the world primarily for the dancing and the cinematography which was created by academy award-winning Vittorio Storaro who also did “Last Tango In Paris”…”Tango”, one of the best tango films of all time was directed by renown Spanish director Carlos Saura, famous for his combination of passion and dance in films like  ”Carmen” and “Flamenco”…Janet Maslin, the New York Times critic was to write of the film, “Tango offers transfixingly beautiful glimpses of the dance and all the wide range of emotions it can conjure”


One of the most exciting scenes in the film occurs when mythical tanguero Juan Carlos Copes dances with his daughter Joanna Copes…Copes is one of the last remaining of the great, authentic, tangueros of the golden era who has done everything in tango for 50 years…he began dancing as a young boy in the bars and clubs of Buenos Aires; his hero was Gene Kelly …but he had decided on a career as an electronic engineer when at the age of 20 he happened to win a tango contest in which 300 couples were competing…it launched a career which would take him all over the world…the film also featured a young singer Roxanne Fontana who would  go on to become one of the most gifted and versatile  tango singers in history…”Tango” includes a clip from the 1955 classic “Mercado De Abasto” in which Tita Merello sings her great hit “Se Dice De Mi”…Juan Carlos Copes got to meet his hero Gene Kelly who summoned him to his house in his waning days … “tango”, Copes  says, “is the only dance that allows imagination and creativity to form in three minutes and to become a history of love and of hate”.


1943, February 11 – Beron Records “ME LLAMAN EL ZORRO”

Performing with the Lucio Demare Orchestra, this was another great hit for singer Raul Beron who in the eyes of some cognoscenti, was the greatest orchestra singer of all time…the lyrics are the boasting of a young man, born in La Boca, who is a dashing and debonair rogue who thrives on adversity and loves his life of adventure...”I am a tanguero from the old school and I carry tango in my soul…they call me Zorro”, he says…lyricist Roberto Lambertucci was inspired by the legend of Zorro which was created by New York pulp writer Johnston McCulley in 1919 and which has inspired books, films and other media…it in turn may have been inspired by the real life character Joaquim Carillo Murrieta who was a legendary figure in California during the gold rush who became a robin hood type hero to Mexicans battling racism and discrimination…a reward was offered by the California legislature to capture and kill Murrieta…when he was finally apprehended and executed without due process, his head was severed and placed in a jar of  alcohol as proof of his death to collect the reward


The severed head in a jar toured California and could be seen for the price of one dollar…among Zorro’s many manifestations is the 1925 film “Don Q Son of Zorro” starring Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Astor in which Zorro dances a Valentino style the 1998 film “The Mark of Zorro” starring Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, there is a scene in which Catherine Zeta-Jones dances a passionate dance which is a hodge podge of tango and passo doble…Raul Beron, born March 30, 1920 (Aries) in the town of Zarate, Argentina, began performing in duet with his brother Jose in the local cafes and bars for spare change…it was during one of his non remunerated performances on radio, that orchestra leader Miguel Calò heard him and invited him for an audition; he hire him immediately…his first recording with Calo on April 29, 1942, “Al Compas Del Corazon”, became an instant  great hit and launched Raul on the road to legendary status.


  • watch?v=rckflM7IV6k to hear Raul Beron sing his hit “Me Llaman El Zorro” with the Lucio Demare orchestra…music is by Mario Perini and lyrics by Roberto Lambertucci

1913, February 4 – BIRTH OF SABINA OLMOS

Singer (Aquarius) – another day was dawning, another sleepless night…she looked round the sparse, unkempt  room…on the night stand was the picture of her beloved Charlo…her thin, wrinkled hand was trembling as she slipped her wedding ring into her finger; the same  ring that her dear friend Eva Peron had given her so long ago…she opened the balcony door, walked to the edge, carefully climbed over the railing and jumped to her death…..many years had passed for Sabina Olmos since that young, happy girl full of dreams was working in the department store Casa San Juan and where in between attending customers she loved to sing…a customer had spoken about her to renown singer Amanda Ledesma who recommended her to radio station Radio Buenos Aires…the response from the public was enthusiastic; it was the beginning of a dazzling career…


She was born in the Jewish neighborhood of Once (Balvanera), in Buenos Aires the birth place of  the great Juan D’arienzo…begining with a small part in“Canillita” at the age of 23, she would do 30 films in her career …perhaps her best film would be “Asi Es La Vida” which made her famous in all of Latin America and for which she won “Best Supporting Dramatic Actress” from the city of Buenos Aires…In the film “Carnaval de Antano” she sang with the legendary Charlo who would become the love of her life; they married in 1952…she never stopped loving him even after they divorced 17 years later and even after she accused him of having ruined her; she never had any children…she was a friend of Eva Peron and after the overthrow of Juan Peron she was blackballed….she and Charlo earned rave reviews singing in long tours abroad…she lived two years in Spain taking time to tour the US and Latin America always in grandest of opulence…but for the last 20 years of her life she endured one vicissitude after another; she was practically alone and forgotten living on the edge of poverty from a small pension…that fateful morning, the note she left on the table read, “please forgive me for my decision and please pardon me for the occasional bother  that I have been”.


CLICK HERE – to see Sabina Olmos sing “Muchachita Del Campo” composed by Francisco Lomuto with  lyrics by film director Manuel Romero


In the film, Pauline rushes home to tell her beloved that she is pregnant; he is gone and has taken her money to feed his gambling vice…meanwhile in the market of Abasto where she works, a fruit vender who has been secretly in love with her for many years, helps her…later, believing himself to be on his death-bed, he offers to marry Pauline so that she and her child can inherit his modest wealth…still later the unscrupulous gambler returns hoping to reunite with Pauline; she decides to stay with the fruit vender…Tita Merello is Pauline…in reali life she was always Pauline and in fact she says, “My best character is the interpretation of my own self”…she had a tough childhood, abandoned early on to a series of orphanages…“my childhood was short, sad and ugly” ; she once admitted, without shame, to having had to resort to prostitution  to survive…Tita Merello was to be a woman of many men, but her true love was only one, actor Luis Sandrini whom she met on the set of her first film in 1933, “Tango”…after ten years of marrigae, he would leave her  for a younger actress..


In the film Tita sings her hit milonga “Se Dice De Mi” which is one of the most viewed and instantly recognized scenes in all tango film history; it would be inserted in 1998 into Carlos Saura’s academy award nominated “Tango”...premiering at the Gran Rex Theater in Buenos Aires, Mercado De Abasto was directed by Lucas Demare, brother of legendary composer Lucio Demare..born July 14, 1910 (Cancer), Lucas was one of the pioneers of Argentine film history; he directed and wrote more than 40 films in his career…he was the son of an Italian immigrant father who was himself a violinist…the market of Abasto in Buenos Aires is one of the pivotal areas in tango history…at the turn of the century it was a beehive of human activity; of the kind where tango was born…brimming with cheap cafes and bars, pizza joints, itinerant musicians, prostitutes and frequent  knifefights, everything imaginable was bought and sold …Carlos Gardel grew up in the area, as did the director himself Lucas Demare as well as legendary musician and composer Horacio Salgan…the film “El Cantor del Pueblo” was also shot in the  market of Abasto…


  • watch?v=-sEUiCMLc0o to see a clip from the film “Mercado de Abasto” in which Tita Merello sing her great hit  “Se Dice De Mi composed by Francisco Lomuto and lyrics by Antonio Botta; the rendition is by the Francisco Canaro Orchestra