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María de la O (1939)

A famous painter returns to Spain under a false name as he once had to run away, to meet his half gypsy daughter, who has become a flamenco dancer. He offers her his house, making popular rumors take flight.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Pedro Lucas / Mr More
...
...
Juan Miguel
Rosario Imperio ...
Mari Cruz
...
(as Niña de Linares)
F. Nequeras
Miguel Pozanco
Antonio Calero
Juan Barajas
...
(as Tina Gasco)
Candelaria Medina
Manolita Martínez ...
(as Manolita Martin)
Juan Torres Roca
Samuel S. Crespo ...
(as Samuel Crespo)
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Storyline

A famous painter returns to Spain under a false name as he once had to run away, to meet his half gypsy daughter, who has become a flamenco dancer. He offers her his house, making popular rumors take flight.

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25 September 1942 (USA)  »

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1.37 : 1
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Remade as María de la O (1959) See more »

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María DE la O 1939
12 July 2017 | by See all my reviews

This is the first of two versions (the second from 1958 starring Lola Flores) which were born from a copla, a popular Andalusian genre of poetical passionate songs. The story started when Salvador Valverde and Rafael DE León (lyrics) and Manuel Quiroga (music) created this song back in 1933. It tells the story of a gypsy girl who gives away her gypsy love for money to be a white's man (payo) mistress, carrying her own punishment in this : "maldito parné, Que Por Tu culpita dejaste Al gitano Que fuel Tu queerer (damned money for which you gave your gypsy love away) - Castigo DE Diós, Castigo DE Diós, es la crucecita Que laves a cuestas María DE la O"(God's punishment is the cross you're carrying with you). The song is a type of copla named zambra, which has Moorish roots and is typical of Andalusian gypsies. Two years later they made it into a play (María Fernanda Ladrón DE Guevara, Amparo Rivelles' mother, starred in the Madrid first season), and then came the turn for the movie. Directed by Francisco Elías, it stars Carmen Amaya as María, Antonio Moreno as her father, Pastora Imperio as her stepmother and Julio Peña as María's gypsy love. They are all great here. Antonio Moreno, who had become famous in many silents starring with Greta Garbo in The Temptress (1926) or Alice Terry in Mare Nostrum (1926), was in fact born in Madrid, so here we can listen to him in his native language and then adding a subtle English accent at his comeback. He gives a sensitive and restrained performance as the temperate payo father who was rejected by the gypsies and keeps his identity a secret because of something terrible which happened in his youth (a secret told from the start), which has him away for years. Then when he comes back to Spain he re-encounters his daughter in an unpremeditated way. Pastora Imperio is most authentic playing the gypsy mother who raises the abandoned little girl along with her own, training them to dance and sing. The sequences when she herself does so are so naturally done. No wonder, as she was a very famous copla singer and dancer long before this film, born in Andalusian music tradition and who had performed for royalty and was admired by painters and musicians (see photographs and trivia). Furthermore she had acting qualities, displaying them in full here as the good-humored and strong-willed mother who fights to get their girls the wealth she never enjoyed ("las canasta's no Dan para UN coche Como ESE" - basket making doesn't pay a car). As a curiosity, her own daughter plays her teenage daughter in the film. And then we meet Carmen Amaya, who would be known as one of the most famous flamenco dancers of her time. She was in her twenties when she made this film, but looks effectively younger, and shows from her first lines in her low-toned voice and poise she is a born character actress, and then when she dances the impression is much more stronger -she does it much much better. Catalan and gypsy by birth, she started dancing in the streets and raised to fame with her unique style. Watching her dance is astounding. As an actress, her silent graveness and covert rebellion perfectly suit her character. And finally there is a surprise for those who know Julio Peña, as he is also so good and credible as the rejected gypsy silversmith deeply in love with María. His dark-haired gypsy dialogues and his sorrowful delivering of the famous copla could not be better. The movie is full of small side details : the mother biting the pearl necklace to be sure of its value, the gypsy guide's dribble, the changing in clothes style when María begins her new life, the badly written vengeance note... A well made film, whose players make the story appealing, well written and well photographed. So interesting even for those (like me) who are not flamenco lovers.


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