Néstor Pinsón
| Ricardo García Blaya

Gardel fifteen short films

emories by Antonio Merayo, lighting operator

He was responsible for the photography of numerous films up to the last years of the 70s. The first one was Tango premiered in 1933, and which turned out to be the first feature film with soundtrack which made use of the optical system (the soundtrack is attached to the film tape). In it, a great number of tango artists, musicians and singers can be seen.

Gardel short films were shot between the months of October and November in 1930.

According to Merayo: «I met Gardel in the film studio which was just a shed made of zinc sheets placed in 700 Méjico street (Buenos Aires) but it disappeared a long time ago. Its owner and producer had a 16 mm film lab and a wide courtyard. Towards the side ther were various rooms used for make-up and stage props and at the back, films were shot. The sound was in charge of two boys, one named Raffo and the other Schmidt, and we had a Lee De Forest camera which had a box attached with as special lamp which impressed the sound on the film itself.

«Even though the zinc sheets had been covered with an insulating material because of the sound in films, we had to make a glass booth where we enclosed the camera with its corresponding flexible cord and engine.

«To get closer was really a problem. There was no travelling and we had to move the booth with the camera.

«As for the lights, there were not small lamps, all them were big and as there were not sceneries, there were not back-light views possible. Then we had to flood the set with light what caused an excessive heat which did not please Gardel at all. He named the film set as the Turkish bath.

«He besides had to have a careful attention to load the camera, which was very special because it had a small window for high speed, and in case it got stuck, the mechanism would all break. With that very camera some feature films were shot later.

Merayo goes on telling us that «Gardel was a great fellow, a boy uncomplicated and generous who got friendly with everybody.

«While he was waiting that we got the lights ready, he, wearing a T-shirt, went to the courtyard where some boys gave him to drink some mate while he talked about his future tour. Gardel was very enthusiastic with filming and told them that he when he came back he was going to take up ferature films seriously.

«We shot for fifteen days, one movie a day, and on the last evening the popular singer Azucena Maizani, a very close friend of his, came to see him with a box full of ties as a gift. When she left Gardel told me: «Well, boy, just choose one!». I asked him which one I should choose and he answered: «The one you like most, the one you prefer!»

«Gardel was a guy who made himself be loved.»

He ends his story describing how those short films were made: «Part by part. Each song was shot separately. First a part was made taking the whole, later a closer take and at last a close-up.

«While we were filming, Gardel talked to everybody and when the filming was over he left to have lunch with Eduardo Morera, the director, and sometimes with Francisco Canaro and José Razzano. Gardel enjoyed eating abundantly and because of it he was somewhat fat. Anyway he was very exquisite and stylish to dress. It was a pleasure to see him.»