After Bardem's jailing and release, he decided to stop early filming in Palencia, and shot the remaining of the movie in the cities of Logroño (most city scenes, including the main square with the arcades) and Cuenca (most nature shots and the apartment building being constructed). The rest was shot in a Madrid studio. See more »
"Calle Mayor" (1956) (US title "The Lovemaker") was written and directed by Juan Antonio Bardem. The film stars the extraordinary Betsy Blair, who had just received an Ocscar nomination for her work in "Marty" (1955).
The plot of this film, although set in provincial Spain, has overtones of "Marty." Ms. Blair is cast as Isabel, an unmarried woman in her 30's. Isabel--and the people on Main Street--have decided that she will be forever unloved and unmarried. Then, several of the bored men of the town decide to play a cruel practical joke--one of them will declare his love for Isabel, promise to marry her, and then reveal the hoax at the last minute.
The joke moves forward as planned, and during the middle of the of the movie, Isabel blossoms as she finds herself in love with, and seemingly loved by, a handsome young man.
Ms. Blair is an extraordinary actor, and she is able to give us a portrait of a woman who is capable of great romantic love, although she's been deprived by circumstances of any opportunity to express this emotion. It is to director Bardem's credit that he recognized Ms. Blair's talents, and was able to utilize these talents to the fullest in this film.
Other reviewers have commented on the difficulty of an attractive woman like Betsy Blair playing a woman who is considered unattractive and unmarriageable. (Of course, this problem also arose in "Marty.") Ms. Blair was in Rochester for the screening of "Calle Mayor" at the High Falls Film Festival and this question was raised by a member of the audience. She replied that this was, indeed, a problem, but that she tried to overcome it by having a relatively unattractive hair style, and wearing dresses that were prim and plain. My thought is that a great actor like Ms. Blair was able to transcend the problem. When we see her in "Marty" and "Calle Mayor," we accept the fact that the other characters in the movie don't consider her attractive. We also accept the fact that both women don't consider themselves attractive, or, at least, don't consider themselves attractive enough.
The plot of the movie plays itself out in a fascinating and compelling fashion. The film closes with a final shot of Ms. Blair that is absolutely breathtaking. For me this shot ranks alongside the final shot of Greta Garbo in "Queen Christina" as one of the most memorable endings of any film I've seen.
The disgraceful witch hunt blacklist of the 1950's kept Betsy Blair from doing all the work of which she was capable, and kept us from the pleasure of seeing this work on the screen. We are fortunate that her immense acting skills are preserved for us in "Marty" and "Calle Mayor." "Marty" is readily available; "Calle Mayor" may be hard to find. Finding it is worth the effort--it's a film not to be missed.
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