Samuel Linnig

Real name: Linnig, Samuel Guillermo Eduardo
Lyricist and scrip writer
(12 June 1888 - 16 October 1925)
Place of birth:
Montevideo Uruguay
Jacobo A. De Diego

on of Samuel Linnig, Belgian, and María Mintegueaga, Basque. He was born in Montevideo on the old street Queguay 1323 (today Paraguay), on June 12, 1888. His father was merchant and amanuensis of the Uruguayan caudillo Aparicio Saravia.

Samuel Linnig was a peculiar figure of the nightlife in Buenos Aires. He was fair-haired, very elegant in his choice of clothes. He always wore a cane and white gloves, and added a nervous gesture to his unmistakable figure. He had a great passion for gambling which he kept until the time of his death. He was a man of refined manners, but had a full command of the argot spoken by prostitutes. He died a bachelor but a son survived him.

In 1912, Alfredo A. Bianchi, director like Roberto F. Giusti of the Nosotros magazine and rhabdomancer of juvenile restlessnesses, was the one who brought him from the Café Los Inmortales to the magazine after he heard him talk about the musician Beethoven, the poet Maeterlinck and the playwright Porto Riche.

In the renowned magazine run by Giusti and Bianchi, an unparalleled prestigious tribune, he published his early poems and wrote commentaries about theater and art, i.e.: the article he wrote about the sculptor Pedro Zonza Briano (on the nº 54), and the other he wrote about his fellow countryman José Enrique Rodó (on nº 97). In his early commentaries as theater critic, it results surprising that he considered unpleasant Ibsen’s play Specters, and even on other occasion he said «sincerely and with no fear of being wrong» of José de Maturana’s Canción de primavera, that «it is the best poetic piece of Argentine theater.»

In 1915, far from that spiritual restlessness we have mentioned, he started his career as playwright working in association with Luis Rodríguez Acasuso, but under the pseudonyms Lasalle (Linnig?) and Del Campo (Acasuso?), a play titled El señor que hace como si fuera intendente (The man who pretends to be a mayor), premiered at the Teatro Nuevo, stirring a great scandal and then later was banned by the municipal censorship. All this was far removed from the purge in the theater that he demanded time before writing for the Nosotros magazine.

But there was a reaction. On September 15, 1916 during an Angelina Pagano’s benefit performance he made public the play La túnica de fuego at the Teatro Buenos Aires along with the small play La copa de cristal. Samuel Linnig then wanted that his aspirations as comedy dramatist came true. His play dealt with a love affair following the steps of one of his teachers, Georges de Porto Riche, the renowned author of Les amants. A critic said: «Had not the author been compelled to taking into account the prudishness of our public, he would have come to other conclusions in his research of passion and the dialogue of the comedy would have been lighter and more natural».

Luck did not help Linnig in his life. As a matter of fact he did nothing to appeal to it because he lacked the passion he devoted to gambling. The weeds smothered the good grains in his orchard, so all was due to his negligence as cultivator. He began to «hear the lament of things dying», especially after the premiere of Jesús y los bárbaros on August 9, 1918 at the Teatro Nacional performed by the Vittone-Pomar theater company. With this play the author «pretended to overwhelm the audience’s conscience by means of emotion». When the Germans invaded his father’s fatherland, this event sprang up as a plot to build a melodrama that constantly touched the truculences of the Grand Guignol.

Two years later, teaming up with Alberto T. Weisbach, he premiered Delikatessen Haus at the Teatro Ópera again with Vittone-Pomar. It was an extremely bad one-act farce that the public wildly disapproved of and whistled. When the final curtain fell the worst came, Linnig appeared on the stage and said: «I thank those who applaud and I regard as imbecile those who whistle at me». That evening, Linnig fled from the theater hidden behind a false beard which prevented the public who were waiting for him outside to identify him.

But not everything was regrettable on that unfortunate evening. Linnig achieved a big success due to the premiere of a tango piece which became very popular. Its title is a term that was incorporated into the Buenos Aires popular language as also happened with canillita, mina or percanta. We are alluding to “Milonguita (Esthercita)”, title of the tango that clearly personifies a woman of the Buenos Aires nightlife. María Esther Podestá sang that tango to great acclaim. In fact, a critic said, it was the only thing acclaimed that evening on May 12, 1920 at the Teatro Ópera. The author's popularity was born there.

Because of the boom of the tango “Milonguita (Esthercita)”, its author designed a play in which the life of Esthercita Torres was narrated, «la pebeta más linda 'e Chiclana» (the most beautiful girl in Chiclana). So on August 25, 1922 the Pascual Esteban Carcavallo theater company premiered the play Milonguita. The recognition the play achieved was almost identical to the one achieved by the one-act farce with German title and quite similar for two reasons: its quality, since it won a contest among the worst plays of the year and because in it another tango was premiered and it was as well sung by everybody in Buenos Aires: “Melenita de oro”.

Between those two plays, Samuel Linnig premiered other works whose performance on stage had no further consequence. They were: one, La dama del Plaza Hotel, premiered at the Teatro Buenos Aires on September 13, 1920 by the Muiño-Alippi company and, the other, Maison Ristorini which Pierina Dealessi and Carlos Morganti made public on August 16, 1924 at the Teatro Maipo.

Another title of his that would close his output, was the sainete Puente Alsina premiered on June 10, 1925 at the Teatro Nacional in which Manolita Poli sang the tango “Campana de plata”.

Among the plays that deal with the Buenos Aires underground, we can say that "Puente Alsina" has the merits of its colors, the description of its characters and a precise construction that the author had not achieved since La túnica de fuego.

Three tangos, then, strengthened Linnig's popularity, but the tango fans seem to have forgotten it. Besides his merits as lyricist, we have to point out that he was loved in the theater milieu because of his great pleasantness and for his brave behavior as unionist during the strike in 1821.

Two days before the opening of Puente Alsina, Samuel Linnig was no longer seen at the places he used to frequent: the Authors' Society, where he used to squander his money at the gambling tables, and the Los 36 billares Café.

Soon the reason of his absence was known and it was quite alarming because he had not been at the opening of Puente Alsina. He was ill, a fever was awfully undermining his health. As his health was seriously in danger it was decided that he had to be taken from Adrogué where he lived (30 km south from the capital) to Buenos Aires.

On October 16 at 10 am Armando Discépolo and Rafael De Rosa got him out of his house, put him in an ambulance and took him to the Hospital Español. José Antonio Saldías was also among the group of friends who were worried because the fever was devouring him.

The patient was looking at the half-open door of the room. Suddenly, everybody present saw that the sick man smiled and his small eyes opened wide were fixed at a still spot.

«—Look —he said, directing his eyes towards the door—, I have to bet on that!»

On the door the number 13 was written. Half an hour later, after his last impossible bet, this line of his came true: «Y toda la luz me dice un gran adiós...» (and all the light bids me adieu)

Published in La Campaña, supplement of Tango y Lunfardo, Nº 40, Chivilcoy, October 29, 1988. Director: Gaspar J. Astarita./i>