Néstor Pinsón

he tango lyricists that have achieved numerous lasting booms are not more than ten or twelve, and among them Manuel Romero has to be included. Let us remember these titles: “Aquel tapado de armiño”, “Buenos Aires”, “El rey del cabaret”, “El rosal”, “El Taita del Arrabal”, “Estampilla”, “Haragán”, “La canción de Buenos Aires”, “La muchacha del circo”, “Nubes de humo (Fume compadre)”, “Patotero sentimental”, “Polvorín”, “Tiempos viejos”, “Tomo y obligo”. Furthermore, Carlos Gardel recorded 19 of his themes.

We can also remember other songs, such as: “La marcha de la Armada”, “El vino triste”, “Tres recuerdos”, “La canción del camino”, “Dime mi amor”, “Isabelita”, “Las vueltas de la vida”, “Quemá esas cartas” and so many others up to numbering 150 lyrics.

A son of Andalusians, he was born in Buenos Aires on September 21, 1891. When he was a teenager, he started his work as journalist at the Fray Mocho magazine and in the Crítica and Última Hora newspapers.

His personality was that of a typical porteño and for that reason, tango was very deeply inside him.

Just like Luis César Amadori, theater immediately attracted him, as well as tango lyrics. He soon got public acclaim with the tango “El Taita del Arrabal”, with music by the Spaniard José Padilla, composer of “La violetera” and “El relicario”. Soon thereafter, “Patotero sentimental”, which became a hit in Ignacio Corsini's voice.

When he was a student and employee, later, at the School of Stokers in the Navy, he had an experience that is a worthwhile story. Once when a journalist and a photographer of the well-known Fray Mocho magazine, on a visit to the School to write an article, Romero intruded with the photographer suggesting him which were the best angles for his work. The journalist was bothered and asked him how long he has been at that school. To which he answered: «Ten years». The former skewered him: «I've been in journalism for twenty years. You'd better devote to coal because I know my stuff». Then one of his companions approached him and called him by his name. The man of the magazine was surprised and asked if he had anything to do with the one who writes for Fray Mocho. When he answered yes, Félix Lima, the journalist, was perplexed because he admired his writings but he did not know his fellow workman personally.

His first theater play dates back to 1919 with Ivo Pelay's collaboration, it was titled Teatro breve, to which around a hundred and eighty more followed. In 1922, he premiered the one most remembered: El bailarín del cabaret, with César Ratti's company, on which Corsini was featured with “Patotero sentimental”.

In 1923, he traveled to Europe with Luis Bayón Herrera and when he came back he staged the new ideas inspired by the revuesand music halls he had seen, and these were the genres that interested him for a long time.

In the early 1931, he performed in Madrid with the company of the Sarmiento Theater together with Bayón Herrera. They made their debut at the Zarzuela Theater and a month later in Paris at the Palace Theater. On both cases, unsuccessfully. But in Paris he met Gardel and the idea of shooting a movie was born. He wrote the script and the songs for Luces de Buenos Aires, which was directed by the Chilean Adelqui Millar. These names, among others, were part of the cast: Gloria Guzmán, Sofía Bozán, Pedro Quartucci and the Julio De Caro music group.

On his comeback to Buenos Aires he joined the brand-new Lumitón, productions headed by Enrique Telémaco Susini. His career in the movies started with Noches de Buenos Aires, he wrote its script and directed it, and it was premiered in February 1935. On that film Tita Merello, Irma Córdoba, Enrique Serrano and Fernando Ochoa were starred.

His whole production of movies amount to 53, all them with similar characteristics. Simple and heart-moving scripts that take place at city settings. The typical characters were the poor young lover, the young rich girl in love, the third one in discord, a cynical tycoon that is after the girl, a supporting couple, friends of one or the other, always played by comic actors —Enrique Serrano, Tito Lusiardo or Sofía Bozán— and tangos, always tangos. Always an excuse to listen to them. The same formula throughout his career.

He shot quickly, with no major care, with the sole purpose of finishing and achieving a result. However, despite critics and selected audiences, Romero created styles, he was much appreciated by simple audiences that only were eager to know who were those they heard on the radio or saw at magazines.

Today from a distance they represent, in fact, the testimony of a complete period, without pretending the rigor of the document, he gave us a painting, a watercolor of the different sectors of our society in the 30s and 40s. Besides leaving for us a full-length true document, concerning actors, singers, actresses and female singers that so can be appreciated not only through records.

Some of his most remembered numbers and interpreters were: El caballo del pueblo (1935), it stood out because it was the film that had to star Gardel on his comeback to our nation, finally, without singers it was the vehicle for Juan Carlos Thorry's debut. Radio Bar was premiered on September 10, 1936, with music by Alberto Soifer, Alberto Vila and the Desmond sisters were starred.

Los muchachos de antes no usaban gomina, of March 31,1937, on which Hugo Del Carril sings. La vuelta de Rocha, of September 8,1937, where Hugo Del Carril and Mercedes Simone appear acting and singing. Tres anclados en París (1/26/38), with the same singer. La rubia del camino, of April 6, 1938, with the actor Fernando Borel. Mujeres que trabajan, of July 6, 1938, where Fernando Borel and Sabina Olmos sing. La vida es un tango, (2/8/1939) with Hugo Del Carril and Sabina Olmos. Divorcio en Montevideo, (6/7/39) and Muchachas que estudian (9/6/1939) both with the female singer Carmen Del Moral. Carnaval de antaño (4/17/40) with Charlo and Los muchachos se divierten, of July 3, 1940, again Charlo and Sabina Olmos.

Isabelita, of July 31, 1940, with Juan Carlos Thorry, Sofía Bozán and Carmen Del Moral. On this film the violinist Elvino Vardaro can be seen. Yo quiero ser bataclana, (4/30/41), possibly the best comedy of Argentine cinema, because of the elaboration of the musical pictures, copied from the traditional American movies. With a simple romantic plot and an excessive showcasing of Niní Marshall, an unquestionable Argentine comic actress, but in this case it spoils the continuity of the story. Juan Carlos Thorry, Alicia Barrié, Sabina Olmos and the orchestra of Juan D'Arienzo were starred. Adiós pampa mía, of December 27, 1946, with the then fashionable singer Alberto Castillo and his colleague Alberto Vila in his farewell to cinema and artistic life.

El tango vuelve a París (1/16/48), with Alberto Castillo, Elvira Ríos and the presence of Aníbal Troilo. Derecho viejo of January 4, 1951, where Eduardo Arolas's life is portrayed with a lot of fantasy added. El hincha, of 4/13/1951, with a theme related to soccer where the performance of Enrique Santos Discépolo as leading actor is outstanding in his great role, after his failures as director and as actor.

Someone said that in spite of his bad temper he was a warm fellow, that you can feel his friendship in spite of his authority. And that he was a miracle of speed when he had to write. It was also said that he needed to produce permanently, because he was always with little money, he bet a lot on roulette, on horses and on anything.

One night pressed by time, at a stretch he wrote for the theater La muchachada de a bordo, which was not a play that deserved an award, but which turned out an extraordinary box-office boom.

One evening several friends were reunited after dinner. Romero was narrating the plot of his next movie which was similar to all his previous ones, and when it was the time to say that the heroine was seduced and later abandoned by the bad guy, one of the group said inadvertently: «Yes, and afterwards she sings a tango». Romero was offended and answered in a loud voice: «Yes, she will sing a tango, because I feel it this way and so feels the people for whom I write and direct».

And this was absolutely true.