Hugo Del Carril

Real name: Fontana, Piero Bruno Hugo
Nicknames: Hugo del Carril
Singer, composer, actor and cinema director.
(30 November 1912 - 13 August 1989)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Gaspar Astarita

e was born in the porteñísimo neighborhood of Flores, in the Federal Capital, and since early youth he started in the Argentine broadcasting, as a speaker first, alternating this activity with that of singer, a vocation he had in his soul and which would feed, grow and establish itself on the admiration for Carlos Gardel, and which he finally concluded making of it his profession.

After choosing the road of popular song, he had lessons with the soprano Elvira Colonese, opera singer which technically and professionally channelled his natural conditions, beginning in 1929 to work on Radio del Pueblo. There he was estribillista in almost all the orchestras playing at the radio station, already appearing with the names Pierrot, Hugo Font or Carlos Cáceres. Previously he had performed in a vocal quartet together with Emilio Castaing and Mario and Martín Podestá; later he was part of the París trio, and subsequently formed the Acuña-Del Carril duo, when definitively he adopted the artistic name of Hugo Del Carril; he recorded then (mid- 30s) a series of compositions with the Edgardo Donato's orchestra.

Afterwards he started his career as soloist, when the director Héctor Quesada took him to Radio La Nación accompanied by guitarists (later he entrusted the guitar accompaniment almost exclusively to the Puccio brothers).

In 1936, he recorded for Victor records also as soloist, with the musical background of the orchestra led by Tito Ribero, a musician, arranger and composer, who since then would be his musical director and advisor.

In the late 1936, he was featured in the movie Los muchachos de antes no usaban gomina, singing the tango by the film maker (Manuel Romero) with music by Francisco Canaro titled “Tiempos viejos”. His figure, his pleasantness, his diction, his smile and his voice made Manuel Romero to start him, since this brief appearance, at the national cinema, an activity which afforded him fame and money, simultaneously surrounding his name and his image with the category of an idol.

Representative and remembered film titles from that glorious Hugo Del Carril's period are, trying to make an abridged synthesis, Madreselva, Gente bien, El astro del tango, Vida de Carlos Gardel, La piel de zapa y, más adelante, La cabalgata del circo, La Cumparsita, El último payador, El último perro, El negro que tenía el alma blanca.

And parallel to this activity of actor, the singer's role had been growing. Diverse radios, the most qualified Buenos Aires stages and the tours throughout the country and America were spreading his success, his prestige and his fame inside and outside the country, an idolatry to which cinema has enormously contributed, the huge advertising structure which made him known everywhere. The Odeon label committed to record all that well chosen repertoire that screen and stage spread, and which establish a very personal style, close to Gardel's, of great quality and emotion. In this way, on the discographic groove remained unsurpassable versions.

From a bulky list we took some numbers, such as: “Nostalgias”, “Nada más”, “Betinoti”, “Como aquella princesa”, “Percal”, “Sosiego en la noche”, “Desaliento”, “Igual que ayer”, “Pobre mi madre querida”, “Al compás del corazón”, “Nubes de humo”, “Buenos Aires”, “Tres esquinas”.

Around 1950, he ventured on cinema as director, another of his passions, starting with Historia del 900; he subsequently achieved a deserved success with what would be his best work: Las aguas bajan turbias (based on the book El río oscuro, by Alfredo Varela). In that decade he directed other films: La Quintrala, Mas allá del olvido, Una cita con la vida, Las tierras blancas, Culpable, Esta tierra es mía, which did not reached the level and success of Las aguas bajan turbias.

As for this Hugo del Carril´s activity as director, script writer or film maker, José Agustín Mahieu says: «Hugo Del Carril seems, in general, a victim of the environment which has made him, uncapable of discerning, because of his incomplete cultural upbringing, the real data, he cannot either express his intuitions, insufficiently clear for himself. Because of that, his realistic purpose falls into melodramatic or serial story-like distortion.» (Breve historia del cine argentino, by José Agustín Mahieu, Eudeba, 1966, page 44). Certainly, Mahieu is a critic and a specialist. However, we must accept that the public understood his intuition, his sensitivity and his purpose, and unconditionally approved of his work, as film maker, as director and as actor. And this profile of his many-sided artistic activity left something positive. At least, the two works firstly mentioned.

His political convictions, who drew him near to Peronism, caused his confrontation with many artistic sectors adverse to Perón, who for that reason denied importance to his work and isolated him from affection and friendship, especially when he recorded the popular march “Los muchachos peronistas”, a recording which later would become as a symbol of that political movement. After 1955, he lived for a time in Mexico, resisted in his own country and in what had been his showbusiness world.

He kept on singing and film shooting in the 60s, but the times of artistic splendor had gone. He appeared, though sporadically, at some theater seasons, in some movie.

He undertook several dealings in a different field from showbusiness, with bad result, deteriorating his financial situation, to the extreme of having to resume his activity as singer; made some work on television, recorded discs, but not at the level he had achieved in the 40s and 50s, although people continued showing his approval and warm affection.

Like on Thursday March 6, 1980, on his debut at Caño 14, he had to sing for 57 continued minutes forced by the aroused public.

And another inequivocal evidence of that loyalty and affection was repeated some years later by the Buenos Aires people, when, invited by the Secretaría de Cultura de la Municipalidad de la Ciudad, he performed a series of recitals singing at the Centro Cultural San Martín.

Hugo Del Carril was besides a man of an exemplary correctness. While he had the means to, he helped every colleague in need. And his word, his friendship and his advise were by the side of the young, whom he assisted with his experience and solidarity. He always privileged the friendly and cordial gesture over the differences which some time hurt him.

This nobleness, together with his pleasantness and his bearing (a special blend of porteñidad and criollismo), added to his artistic qualities, helped to ratify his qualification of popular idol which we have chosen for this article as a deserved tribute to his dignified career.