Reina, Juanita


Reina, Juanita
(1925-1999)
   Juanita Reina is one of the greatest copla singers, and she had a brief but captivating film career. She came from a middle-class Seville family, and her father decided to support her career when he saw her success singing at cafés in the immediate postwar years. She quickly rose to fame, becoming a popular stage and recording star in the early 1940s. There were doubts about the photogenic qualities of her face, but these vanished after her debut in La blanca paloma (The White Dove, 1942), followed shortly by Eduardo García Maroto's costumbrismo drama set in Andalusia Canelita en rama (Wild Cinnamon, 1943). On film, she was a refreshing presence, more self-assured and relaxed than Lola Flores and more soulful than Carmen Sevilla, Reina's two main rivals in the copla musical genre.
   As in other cases of female performers in Franco-period cinema, it was director Juan de Orduña who best understood Reina's star qualities. Her presence in two CIFESA titles was particularly remarkable. In La Lola se va a los puertos (Lola Leaves for the Ports, 1947), directed by Orduña, she played a mythical singer who was both the essence of Spanish song and an icon of femininity. It was an astoundingly mature performance for a 22-year-old singer with no acting training. The film was based on a play by the Machado brothers, and Reina's character had to decide among several suitors who represented different approaches to Spanish masculinity. In the highly charged ending, she remains free and alone, standing boldly for a brand of sexless womanhood that was both motherly and virginal. Less earnest, Lola la piconera (Lola the Coalgirl, Luis Lucia, 1952) is a period musical in which Reina plays 19th-century singer who carries out a dangerous mission to keep the French away from her beloved Cádiz. The film is brightened by the songs, her life-loving character, and Lucia's sense of entertainment.
   There followed more roles in a similar vein. Reina tended to play women with the names of local images of the Holy Virgin, thus emphasizing her iconic qualities as a saintly image of womanhood, and she was the queen of a certain kind of folkloric musical. Other titles include Serenata española (Spanish Serenade, Juan de Orduña, 1947), Vendaval (Whirlwind, Juan de Orduña, 1949), and Gloria Mairena (Luis Lucia, 1952). She was less successful in nonmusical films like Aeropuerto (Airport, Luis Lucia, 1953). By the late 1950s, she had largely retired from the screen and devoted herself to recordings and live concerts.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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