Héctor Ángel Benedetti

The movies of Canaro

rancisco Canaro's history as film producer was a succession of peaks and falls, an interesting love-hate relationship. Financially, he was always on the losing side or, at least, that was what the musician assured. Below we analyze the movies released by his Río de la Plata company. Its first hit achieved by Ídolos de la radio (Idols of the radio) could not foretell the unlucky series that would follow. Years after this artistic and commercial flaw, Canaro would say that «… sound movies were a complete failure for me, and they left me silent». An irony of fate, only humor allowed him to define how his dreams had stumbled in a medium that was always hostile to him.

Ídolos de la radio (Idols of the radio) (1934)
Direction: Eduardo Morera. Script: Arnaldo Malfatti and Nicolás de las Llanderas. Photography: César Sforza. Music: Francisco Canaro. Sound: Ricardo Raffo. Cast: Ada Falcón, Ignacio Corsini, Olinda Bozán, Tito Lusiardo, Antonio Podestá, Pablo Osvaldo Valle, Eduardo de Labar, Mario Fortuna, Carmen Cárdenas, Tita Merello, Dorita Davis, Tomás Simari, Cuarteto Vocal Buenos Aires, Trío Gedeón, Hamilton Vocal Quartet, Mario Pugliese and his group Los Bohemios, Don Dean's Jazz group, Angelita Fernández, the imitators Fred and Leo, Francisco Canaro, Ernesto Famá. Premiere: October 24, 1934 at the Monumental cinema theater.

At the beginning of 1934, Francisco Canaro, Jaime Yankelevich and Juan Cossio founded the Productora Cinematográfica Argentina Río de la Plata, under the artistic direction of Morera. The first thing they shot was this film (whose first title was Broadcasting and then a warehouse located on 518 Uruguay Street was used as a studio). It paved the way for a new subject matter in the Argentine cinema: the radio milieu as a generator of situations and as a excuse for the parade of famous artists. In spite of the rudimentary thing that it seems today, the film achieved a brilliant success and it was well sold in Spain, thanks to the administration of Canaro himself. Today it is distributed in mutilated copies in which the entire performance of Tita Merello is missing.

Por buen camino (On the right way) (1935)
Direction: Eduardo Morera. Script: Francisco Chiarello. Photography: Roberto Schmidt. Music: Francisco Canaro. Cast: Olinda Bozán, José Gola, Paquito Bustos, Blanca de Castejón, Marcos Caplán, Anita Lang, Armando de Vicente, the catchers Conde Novina and Máscara Roja (Red Mask), Ana Lang. Premiere: October 31, 1935 at the Broadway cinema theater.

The second movie had an initial impact that didn't continue in the following dates, and it ended up totally forgotten. It was an exaltation of sports (the following year the Olympics would be held). For this film, Canaro composed a march entitled “Paso al deporte”, with lyrics by Eduardo Ursuni, and the tango “El que a hierro mata”, with lyrics by Ivo Pelay.

Las exequias de Carlos Gardel (Carlos Gardel's funeral rites) (1936)
Direction: Eduardo Morera. Shooting: February 5 and 6, 1936.

Documentary about the deathwatch and the funeral retinue that accompanied the remains of Gardel to the Cementerio del Oeste (western Cemetery), in Chacarita. It included scenes with the Canaro's orchestra.

Ya tiene comisario el pueblo (The town already has a sheriff) (1936)
Direction: Eduardo Morera and Claudio Martínez Payva. Script: Claudio Martínez Payva. Photography: Bob Roberts. Music: Francisco Canaro and Lucio Demare. Editor: Fernando Chiarini. Cast: Paquito Bustos, Agustín Irusta, Aída Sportelli, Aída Luz, Totón Podestá, Leonor Rinaldi, Roberto Fugazot, Héctor Quintanilla, Alberto Puértolas, Antonio Daglio, Atilio Supparo, Elisardo Santalla, Froilán Varela. Premiere: October 29, 1936 at the Broadway cinema theater.

The original play was a boom since its presentation at the Teatro París, on Suipacha street. But it was adapted to the movies with certain clumsiness and, keeping in mind that the whole country knew the comedy by heart, the movie had scarce repercussion. Its allusions to the electoral fraud drew the attention of the critic Roland who had the kindness of speaking well of it. Thirty years later, Enrique Careers directed a remake with Niní Marshall and Ubaldo Martínez.

La muchacha del circo (The girl of the circus) (1937)
Direction: Manuel Romero. Script: Manuel Romero. Music: Alberto Soifer. Cast: Luis Arata, Rosa Rosen, Gerardo Blanco, Delfina Jauffret, Héctor Cataruzza, Roberto Blanco, Vicente Forastieri, Irma Córdoba, León Zárate. Premiere: May 5, 1937 at the Monumental cinema theater.

Based on the play Gran Circo Rivolta, premiered by the company Muiño-Alippi, the most expensive production in the company was carried out. It turned out as one of the worst movies in the history of the Argentine cinema; anodyne and bizarre and, without a doubt, Romero's poorest work. As a result of the box office failure the Yankelevich-Cossio-Canaro partnership was dismembered. The musician tried to sell the studio to Ángel Mentasti, owner of Argentina Sono Film; but the sudden death of Mentasti frustrated the operation. He also tried to team up with Romero but failed, and Canaro had to continue on his own.

Dos amigos y un amor (Two friends and one love) (1938)
Direction: Lucas Demare. Script: Lucas Demare, according to original plot by Massa and Martinelli. Photography: César Sforza. Music: Francisco Canaro. Cast: Pepe Iglesias, Juan Carlos Thorry, Norma Castillo, Santiago Gómez Cou, María Esther Buschiazzo, Francisco Bastardi, Delia Codebó, Francisco Canaro, Angelita Fernández. Premiere: February 8, 1938 at the Broadway cinema theater.

«Neither better nor worse than a photographed radio soap opera», Calki wrote. The presage could not be worse: Canaro, as producer, facing a discipline he didn't master; Demare, directing his first movie and hardly having a scarce experience as editor; Pepe Iglesias and Norma Castillo, in their film debuts. However, the dice were luckily tossed and the film was a remarkable box office success. They could hardly believe it.

Cantando llegó el amor (Love came singing) (1938)
Direction: James Bauer. Music: Lucio Demare, conducted byBert Rosé. Cast: Agustín Irusta, Perla Mux, Amalia Bernabé, Miguel Di Carlo, Aurelia Musto, Aurora Gibellini, Vicente Álvarez, Fanny Navarro, Rafael de Rosas, Arturo Arcari. Premiere: September 1, 1938 at the Mogador cinema theater.

After the oasis that Demare's movie meant, bad luck returned. This time they tried to make a musical comedy modeled after Cervantes' El celoso extremeño. The result: eighty five minutes of boredom. Fanny Navarro, who later would be one of the top local stars, in this —her third movie— hardly appears.

Turbión (1938)
Direction: Antonio Momplet. Script: Antonio Momplet (dialogues by Antonio Saldías). Photography: Adolfo Slazy. Music: Francisco Canaro, Bert Rosé, Dajos Béla. Editor: Marco F. Dor, Isaac R. Lam. Cast: Francisco Petrone, Luisa Vehil, Paquita Vehil, Gracia del Río, Fausto Fornoni, Francisco Álvarez, Froilán Varela, Claudio Leiva, Miguel Coiro, José De Ángelis, Isabel Figlioli, Daniel Belluscio, Teresita Padrón, Barreta. Premiere: October 8, 1938 at the Broadway cinema theater.

Canaro, in his memoirs, placed Turbión after Veinticuatro horas en libertad (Twenty-four hours at large), but the former was premiered before. For Turbión, Canaro and Manzi composed the rumba “Salú... salú...” and a «new dance» called “Milongón”. The movie deserves to be rated better: the bad commentaries that Canaro himself made determined that most of the critics had no good opinion of it, when in fact it was a remarkable police film, with commitment and well developed. Commercially, a failure.

Veinticuatro horas en libertad (Twenty-four hours at large) (1939)
Direction: Lucas Demare. Script: Antonio Botta and René Garzón. Photography: Paul Perry. Music: Dajos Béla and Bert Rosé. Cast: Pepe Churches, Niní Gambier, Miguel Gómez Bao, Semillita, Enrique Roldán, Lea Conti, Carlos Enríquez, Liana Moabro, José Casamayor, the Dixie Pals, Cirilo Etulain, Juan Bono, Cayetano Biondo. Premiere: June 21, 1939 at the Renacimiento cinema theater.

The character of Niní Gambier was thought for another Niní: no one less than Niní Marshall. It could not be. However it was shot, and once it was finished they sought after some manager willing to premiere it. It could not be. On the verge of exasperation, Canaro decided to pay for a theater; at least somebody would go. But not even the ushers saw it. It could not be.

El diablo andaba en los choclos (The devil was among the corncobs) (1946)
Direction: Manuel Romero Script: Pedro Pico and Ivo Pelay. Photography: Carlos Torres Ríos. Music: Francisco Canaro. Editor: Jorge Garate. Cast: Luis Sandrini, Silvana Roth, Alita Román, Irma Lagos, Eduardo Sandrini, María Esther Buschiazzo, Mabel Urriola, Adrián Cúneo, Rufino Córdoba, Max Citelli, Vicente Forastieri, Rosita Leporace, Helena Ruiz, Iris Portillo. Premiere: May 17, 1946 at the Iguazú cinema theater.

After years of inactivity in film investments, Canaro reappeared as co-producer with Sandrini for an adaptation of an Orlando Aldama's play. In spite of the incredible international success that the film achieved, the company only covered the expenses. What happened? Because the Interamericana distributor had offered for the rights of exploitation some $350.000 and, before the shooting was finished, Canaro and Sandrini surrendered them for this figure thinking that the costs would only be $250.000. But it was a wrong deal: the expenses were $348.000 and the Interamericana obtained this way, by a proportionally minimum payment, an impressive gain. El diablo andaba en los choclos was one of the Argentine movies most successful in the box office, but except its distributors nobody got a coin. In Spain it was premiered under the title Mientras el cuerpo aguante (As long as my body stands it), something that Canaro surely thought while he made his balance sheet.

Con la música en el alma (With music in my soul) (1951)
Direction: Luis Bayón Herrera. Script: Carlos A. Petit. Photography: Roque Funes. Music: Francisco Canaro. Editor: Jacinto Cascales y Manuele. Cast: Andrés Poggio ("Toscanito"), Francisco Canaro, Tito Lusiardo, Olga Casares Pearson, Guillermo Montero, Marga Landova, Anery Aste, Ramón Garay, Alberto Arenas, Alberto Rudoy, Irma Denás, Jaime Andrada. Premiere: January 10, 1951 at the Normandie cinema theater.

At the Teatro Casino the musical comedy by Manzi, Bruno and De Bassi had been staged to a good acclaim since its premiere in 1949; Canaro, with certain naiveté, thought it was right to make a movie of it. Toscanito had been successful in a couple of films and here he repeated all his clichés; however, the audiences accepted him and he came out safe and sound. The movie was fairly successful, but the co-production intent with the company EFA didn't work and Canaro had to file a lawsuit to obtain the refund of the $400.000 invested. And it was the last attempt of Canaro to produce a movie: after this film, he decided to sell all that was left of the Río de la Plata company to Mr. Adolfo Wilson, of the Cinematográfica Terra.