Sáenz de Heredia, José Luis

Sáenz de Heredia, José Luis
   Sáenz de Heredia is the most emblematic director of high Francoism, both for the kind of cinema he promoted and for his personal relationship with Francisco Franco as his brother-in-law. Not only did he fight with the Fascists during the Civil War, he also directed the General's script for Raza (1942) and was one of the artistic forces behind the Cine de cruzada (Crusading Cinema) of the early 1940s. He debuted as film director in the Republican period with Patricio miró una estrella (Patricio Looked at a Star, 1934), and he trained at Filmófono Studios, under Luis Buñuel's supervision, where he had some input in the melodrama La hija de Juan Simón (Juan Simon's Daughter, Nemesio M. Sobrevila, 1935), but his career took off only after the Civil War.
   His political connections gave him a privileged place in the regime's film industry (very small in the immediate postwar years), and guaranteed exceptionally high production values in many of his projects. A "Sáenz de Heredia" film raised expectations of quality and solidity, along with ideological soundness. But he was also a professional, respected even by the younger generation, later becoming representative of the "official" film industry in debates over the difficulties of Spanish film in the 1950s, particularly the Salamanca Conversations.
   Sáenz de Heredia's films never attempt artistic originality, but he showed skill at certain kinds of emphatic visual style that suited the earnestness of the regime. His most popular films in this vein were El escándalo (The Scandal, 1943), Bambú (Bamboo, 1945), Mariona Rebull (1947), and La mies es mucha (The Harvest Is Plentiful, 1948). One aspect often forgotten in his career is how good he was at comedy. He directed some of the period's best comedies, including El destino se disculpa (Destiny Apologizes, 1945) and Historias de la radio (Radio Tales, 1955), which had a follow-up 10 years later, predictably titled Historias de la televisión (Television Tales, 1965).
   Sáenz de Heredia's style became outdated in the 1960s, and the reverberations engendered by his political stance made him a difficult example to follow for the new generation and for an important section of the public. He continued to make conventional comedies, which today have a mechanical feel to them and lack the edge of previous decades. He discovered the potential of young Concha Velasco and supported her career in a number of musicals, the best of them with singer Manolo Escobar. Fittingly, his last film, the landismo comedy Solo ante el streaking (Alone in Front of Streaking, 1975) was released the year of Francisco Franco's death.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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