Producer Samuel Bronston’s dreams of greatness under the sun of Franco’s Spain

Producer Samuel Bronston's dreams of greatness under the sun of Franco's Spain

In 1962, an American family shared an excellent dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Madrid. Around the table are filmmaker Samuel Bronston, his wife and daughter. At the end of the meal, almost in over Spanish, the father asks to see the cook to thank him. The waiter apologizes: “He’s not here, he’s been working on a movie for weeks.” these are 55 Beijing days, by Nicolas Ray, which requires a lot of sugar addition. A film produced by Samuel Bronston.

The story is told by the producer’s daughter Andrea. This handsome sexagenarian with a red mane and an easy joke has been living in Madrid since the 1970s. She never wanted to leave the city she had discovered when she was very young, engrossed in dreams of the glory of such a special father. Singer and actress, she proudly wears her name, which is famous in Spain in the profession, even though everything has not been easy, far from it. “I love talking about movies my father made, I think it’s great that we still remember him, but I spend my life explaining that I’m not rich, she said without bitterness. My brothers and I didn’t inherit anything because, despite their lucrative careers, they eventually lost everything. “

Nicolas Ray in 1963

Samuel Bronston (1908–1994) is a fascinating figure in the Hollywood saga set in Spain. There he produced some of the flamboyant films of the 1960s, and also the most expensive, historical murals created directly in Los Angeles. We give it to him in quick succession king of kings (Nicholas Ray, 1961), sido (Anthony Mann, 1961), Beijing 55 days (1963), fall of roman empire (Anthony Mann, 1964) etc. world’s largest circus (Henry Hathaway 1964).

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Beijing 55 days, worn by actors Charlton Heston, David Niven and Ava Gardner, recounts the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, instigated by secret societies against both foreign occupation and the feudal power of the Manchu Qing dynasty – it turned into a bloodbath ends. As always in the Bronston movies, everything is fantastic. The Forbidden City Wall is rebuilt at the gates of Madrid, in the small town of Las Matas. “One of the most complex sets I’ve ever seen”, Charlton Heston said, though used more. The madness of grandeur goes into the extras: “Since there were not enough Chinese in Madrid, we had to bring from Lisbon and London, Julio Sempere says with a smile, then a young production assistant, still impudent at 85. For the scenes of the riots, we put the Chinese in the foreground, then the Peruvian people we searched across the country and prepared to do the trick, and finally the Spaniards in the background. “

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