Gil, Rafael


Gil, Rafael
(1913-1986)
   Rafael Gil was one of the most emblematic directors of Francoism, always faithful to the regime's dictates and an enthusiastic follower of ideological guidelines; in exchange, during his long career, he enjoyed awards, privileges, and the budgets to work with the best production values available. Consequently, even though he was an illustrator rather than an innovator, his filmography stands out in terms of quality and substance.
   He was born in the Teatro Real, where his father worked, and he devoted himself to show business from his early years. Early jobs included journalism and script writer for radio as well as show promoter. He created the Grupo de Escritores Cinematográficos Independientes in 1936 with other scriptwriters, and wrote the most important film theory essay of the period, Luz del cinema (Light of Film, 1936). At that time, he was working on experimental cinema, a path that was interrupted by the Civil War. He also did some propaganda and documentary work for the Republican Army (a fact that was conveniently ignored in his later years). As the Fascist victory became a certainty, he switched allegiances and starting working for the winning side.
   His first feature was El hombre que se quiso matar (The Man Who Wanted to Kill Himself, 1942), which was followed by Huella de luz (A Sight of Light, 1943), one of the best comedies of the period. In the 1940s, he earned a reputation as a master adaptor of literary works, often in collaboration with his favorite cinematographer Alfredo Fraile, who had learned the lesson of chiaroscuro from Expressionist cinema, and set designer Enrique Alarcón. Gil's earnest, somewhat heavy-handed work in El clavo (The Nail, 1944), based on a popular 19th-century thriller is representative of a time when film narratives were removed from social reality and created alternative worlds. Other adaptations include the Jardiel Poncela play Eloísa está debajo de un almendro (Eloísa Is Underneath an Almond Tree, 1943), a version of Armando Palacio Valdés's novel La fe (Faith, 1947); Don Quijote de la Mancha (Don Quixote, 1947), a solid straightforward outline of the Cervantes' novel's central plot; Jacinto Benavente's play La noche de sábado (Saturday Night, 1950); La casa de la Troya (House of Trouble, 1959); and Currito de la Cruz (1965), the latter two based on Alejandro Pérez Lugín's novels. He was also good in a series of bombastic films about religious illumination, often in collaboration with scriptwriter Vicente Escrivá, including La señora de Fátima (Our Lady of Fátima, 1951), La guerra de Dios (God's War, 1953), and El beso de Judas (Judas' Kiss, 1954).
   After the autarky period (in which Spain was economically and politically isolated from the Western countries) finished in 1953 and films became either more realistic or more modern in aesthetics, Gil lost his personality as a filmmaker, turning out a series of very conventional vehicles, including a number of adaptations of pro-Franco novelist Fernando Vizcaíno Casas: La boda del señor cura (The Priest's Wedding, 1979), Y al tercer año resucitó (And on the Third Year He Rose From the Dead, 1980), Hijos de Papá (Daddy's Boys, 1980), and De camisa vieja a chaqueta nueva (Old Shirt to New Jacket, 1982) are examples of his last period and monuments of Francoist nostalgia.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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