Argentina, Imperio


Argentina, Imperio
(1910-2003)
   Imperio Argentina was the greatest star of the first decade of Spanish folkloric musical films. Born Magdalena Nile del Río in Buenos Aires, despite her origins, she would go on to become a very specifically Spanish icon, playing cultural types such as Carmen and Morena Clara. She started in show business as a song stylist, specializing on tangos, and soon added Andalusian copla to her repertoire. She was introduced to film by Florián Rey, who would later become her husband. Her first film was La hermana San Sulpicio (Sister Saint Sulpicio, 1927), and with the arrival of sound, Rey put her at the center of a series of copla musicals, including Nobleza baturra (Aragonese Aristocracy, 1935), a second (sound) version of La hermana San Sulpicio (1934), and Morena Clara (1936). In the latter, she plays the lively gypsy who would become her signature role. This series was the most successful of its time.
   In 1933, at the peak of her fame, Argentina took part in a musical with Carlos Gardel, Melodía de arrabal (Melody from the Old Quarter), shot in France. During the Civil War, the star and her mentor traveled to Germany, where she starred in four co-productions at UFA studios (Fernando Trueba's La niña de tus ojos [ The Girl of Your Dreams ] took inspiration from the shooting of Andalusische Nachte in 1938).
   After her return to Spain, Argentina integrated with relative success into the Francoist film industry, and although she became something of a personality, times had changed and she never regained her former popularity as an actress: these were tough years and audiences were not in the mood for light-hearted Andalusian musicals. Still, she enjoyed a healthy career as an international singing star and recording artist, albeit tainted by her association with the Nazis (in 1949, her concert at Carnegie Hall was boycotted as Argentina was rumored to have been Hitler's lover). During the 1960s and the Transition, she was relatively forgotten, until José Luis Borau revived her career in Tata Mía (My Granny, 1986). After that, she appeared sporadically in small roles that contained echoes of her iconic image as musical star.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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