Neville, Edgar


Neville, Edgar
(1899-1967)
   Edgar Neville worked as a diplomat before he became a playwright and a filmmaker. He traveled extensively around Spain and abroad. A good friend of philosopher José Ortega y Gasset and of experimental novelist Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Neville was very much part of the cultural ferment that also produced the Generación del 27. In 1929, he became cultural attaché in the Spanish Embassy in Washington. During a holiday, he visited Hollywood, where he met Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks; he became fascinated with the world of film, and he resigned from his position to become dialogue adapter at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. On his return to Spain, he made a whimsical comedy that reflected his Hollywood experience, ¡Yo quiero que me lleven a Hollywood! (I Want to Be Taken to Hollywood! 1932), which was among his earliest films. During the republican period, he also directed El malvado Carabel (The Wicked Carabel, 1935) and La señorita de Trévelez (The Trevelez Girl, 1935), both adapted from stage saine-tes.
   Neville remained active in the industry during the Civil War, producing short documentaries in support of Franco's army. Throughout the 1940s, he was one of the most distinctive directors in Spanish cinema, and more specifically, he is regarded as one of the great exponents of costumbrismo, a brand of topical humor that arises with the use of culturally specific habits. Neville used a repertoire of cultural types from stage comedy and put them in more substantial film plots. Although costumbrismo permeates all of his work, La vida en un hilo (Life on a Thread, 1945), El baile (The Dance, 1959), both based on Neville's own stage plays; Domingo de carnaval (Carnival Sunday, 1945), acclaimed as one of best comedies of the 1940s; and Mi calle (My Street, 1960) are the most representative films he wrote and directed in this style.
   But Neville is also important for his work in other genres. La torre de los siete jorobados (The Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks, 1944) is an unusual instance of fantasy in Spanish cinema (and absolutely unique in the 1940s in using an approach to sets reminiscent of expressionism), and El crimen de la calle Bordadores (The Crime of Bordadores Street, 1946) is a good detective thriller set in a typical Madrid background. El último caballo (The Last Horse, 1950) was a key film in the introduction of neorealism to Spanish cinema. It concerns a man who decides to keep a horse in the big city but realizes progress is making this increasingly difficult. Like Nieves Conde's Surcos (Burrows, 1951), it voiced a reactionary concern for vanishing old traditions and lifestyles.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.