25 November, 2007

Fernando Fernan Gomez (1921-2007)

Fernando Fernan Gomez, with one of his numerous intenational awards, was one of Spain's most accomplished actors and directors. He was also a key collaborator in the early career of Jess Franco. His recent death is a milestone in the history of Spanish popular culture.

The prolific Spanish stage and screen actor (over 200 film and television appearances from the early 1940s to this year), director of television, film and theater productions, novelist, screenwriter, playwright and poet, he was one of Spain's cultural icons during the second half of the 20th century.

A friend and colleague of Jess Franco, he gave a heartfelt, soulful performance as the doomed Detective Miguel Mora in RIFIFI EN LA CIUDAD (1964), a tremendous film noir set in a corrupt South American police state which remains one of Franco's very best, if rarely seen, works. Those who complain of Franco's technical incompetence, zoom shots, etc, should take the time to see this superior b&w thriller, which is definitely in dire need of a subtitled R1 DVD presentation. Orson Welles was so impressed when it was screened for him that he hired Franco to direct second unit for his CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. One of Gomez' most memorable film roles was in Victor Erice's critically acclaimed SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE (1973).

As a director, actor and writer Gomez was equally at ease with comedy and drama, finding an acting role for Franco, as the mentally stunted Venancio, in his black comedy Extraño viaje, El (1964). Voted the seventh best Spanish film of all time EL EXTRANO VIAJE is not as well known in the US, perhaps that will change in the future. Gomez died November 21, of cancer. He had been married to his long time companion, actress Emma Cohen (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO), since 2000.
If you are a serious Jess Franco collector lobby an appropriate US DVD company to release RIFIFI EN LA CIUDAD.
(C) Robert Monell, 2007


Tobias Thuresson said...

Rififi En La Ciudad has got one of the coolest creditsequenses ever. I´d love to see a decent Dvd of this one.

Robert Monell said...

I agree, Tobias. It's Franco's all time best credit sequence, imo, or at least my favorite. It's a mixture of jazz musical, erotic and noir motifs, like the film itself. The performances by Gomez and Jean Servais are terrific. People don't know what they're missing!

Nzoog Wahrlfhehen said...

Agustín González, the gay villain from RIFIFI (who also played the main character of a stage play by his friend Fernán-Gómez) has been dead for very little and now the time has come for Fernán-Gómez (he should be referred to as such, with the hyphenated surname, rather than simply Gómez). Following the deaths of Fernando Rey, Fernán-Gómez and Francisco Rabal, the grand old men are all gone, except for José Luis López Vázquez.
Fernán Gómez published a book compiling several articles on different themes. One of them was on Agustín González, another was on Jess Franco.
It's wretched, by the way, that this should have occurred one day before Emma Cohen's birthday.

Robert Monell said...

Thanks for the information and correction on his name, Nzoog. I wonder what he said about Franco? He's really great in RIFIFI.

Anonymous said...

Gran actor, sin duda, dotado de mal carácter. Gran actor, sin duda, aunque no entrañable, como Fernando Rey o Antonio Garisa.