Dorita Davis

Real name: Gallardo de Regard, Emma
Nicknames: La Calandria Criolla
(6 September 1906 - 13 January 1980)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

he was born a few meters from the corner of Salta and Independencia, in the neighborhood of Montserrat, Buenos Aires. She only attended grammar school and when she was a grown-up girl she was employed in a few business offices.

She used to sing for the sake of singing like many girls did at that time. With her family she moved to a low house between two tall buildings on Ayacucho Street near Las Heras Avenue. One day the Williamses, a married couple that lived in the vicinity, suggested her parents that she may study with a French woman, a singing teacher that they knew. So it happened, and the teacher liked her so much that she offered to take her to Europe to polish her training. Her parents opposed to it and the trip was frustrated.

Time later she married and quit her job. Then another opportunity came. It was the year 1929. Her husband’s sister decided to apply for an audition on LS4 Telefunken Service radio station located on 1737 Rivadavia Street because a reciter was needed, and the former asked her to accompany her. After her sister-in-law auditioned they asked Emma if she had any artistic ability. Immediately she began to sing. As it happens generally, the former was not chosen and Emma was offered forty pesos a month to appear four times a week.

After six months when the time of the long awaited raise in salary came, the radio station —which was agent of a German enterprise that manufactured electrical devises— decided to quit broadcasting. She did not give up and went to see Pablo Osvaldo Valle, then art director of Radio Belgrano. He listened to her and told her that even though she had a good voice she did not know how to sing. Anyhow he hired her for ninety pesos a month for daily performances at any hour. It was a quite heavy job. She only resisted for two months because when they paid her there was an unfair discount, so she quit.

Soon afterwards she got in touch with Francisco Mastandrea, one of the pioneers of soap opera on radio, leader of casts that performed plays in a gaucho fashion. At that time, this gentleman aired the program Una hora en la pampa on Radio Belgrano. Because there was no written script each artist improvised his part. Mastandrea asked for her 250 pesos a month. When the director Jaime Yankelevich knew it, he asked ironically if she was a star from the Teatro Colón. Immediately he offered her 150 pesos. «He didn’t like me —said Dorita— but the public did. But when he came to know that other radio stations were after me, without a word he raised my wage to 250 and never again he made me a discount».

She was shy and always avoided appearing before a large audience. She preferred to be alone. Rosita Quiroga based her career on her recordings but Dorita’s field was the radio. Prieto and El Mundo radio stations also had her in their broadcasts and Radio Belgrano aired her for twelve years. She was not fond of tours, but she only made a few throughout the interior of the country.

The Vittone-Pomar-María Esther Podestá theater company summoned her to join the cast at a play and, so as not to reject from the start the offer, she asked the exaggerated sum of 1500 pesos a month. They accepted her all the same. Of course, there was a trick, after exactly eighteen days she quit with the excuse that they had not paid her.

Raúl Rosales —the one who signed her for the first time in 1929— was who found a sobriquet for her. Later magazines named her La Muñequita que Canta (The singing doll) or the widespread name La Calandria Criolla. And it was perfect. Discepolín said about her: «He has the voice of a bird, of a happy bird, with neither a tinge of the outskirts nor dramatic sobs».

She appeared at the Teatro Maipo alongside Gloria Guzmán. In the movies she was starred as herself, in 1933, at the film Ídolos de la radio and, in 1936, in Alma del bandoneón.

She composed some pieces: “Primer beso”, “Rayito de sol”, “Llevame en tus alas”.

The Sintonía magazine run by Emilio Karstulovic, —also owner of Radio La Voz del Aire and race-car driver— opened in 1933 a readers' poll to choose Miss Radio. That year she turned out third after Libertad Lamarque and Amanda Ledesma.

She defined herself as a true bourgeois that rejected tours, movies and theater because she regarded them exhausting.

When the first test of the television kits bought by Yankelevich was made Eva Perón, Iris Marga and she appeared on the screen. People say that her last radio appearance was in an interview made in 1946 by Juan José de Soiza Reilly, writer and journalist.

She gradually withdrew with the same criterion with which she carried out her singing career. Her ever-present smile and her melodious voice stay in our memory. Some recordings with the Orquesta Victor Popular have remained: “La carreta”, “Mi refugio”, “Amor y celo”, “Rosa en pena”, “La curiosa” and as well with Adolfo Carabelli, “Justicia baturra”, “Canción de amor” in duo with Carlos Lafuente. With the Orquesta Típica Victor: “Celosa” and “Te quiero”. And with Roberto Firpo and in duo with Príncipe Azul, “Titina” and “Pensando en ti”.

But her story does not end here, fate once again crossroads with her. A quarter of a century later, there is a coda in her career, a revival.

The television emmcee Pinky conducted a long program on Saturday afternoons, back in 1972. At a section of the program devoted to reminiscing, in which old performers were remembered, she appeared at age 66 años singing wonderfully (I witnessed her performance). The chosen tune was “Yo tan sólo veinte años tenía” (I Was Only Twenty). The veteran singer drew the attention of the audience in the studio and won a long applause.

Later there were other appearances but Dorita rejected several offers to return. Finally Pinky persuaded her to record a long-playing disc with twelve numbers, on four of them accompanied by the Osvaldo Requena Orchestra: “Barrio reo”, “Vida mía”, “Quiero verte una vez más” and “Pregonera”. The remainder with guitar group: “Tu olvido”, “Lo han visto con otra”, “Yo tan sólo veinte años tenía”, “Milonga del aguatero”, “Tu vieja ventana”, “Muchacho”, “Bien criolla y bien porteña” and “Puentecito de mi río”.

The charming bird silenced her singing six years later with the serene happiness of her ephimeral return, but her voice is still among us. And we still admire her because of her gaiety and talent.