04 December, 2011
Franco's occasional actors: AGUSTÍN GONZÁLEZ
Although Jess Franco has been likened on occasions to Roger Corman, let’s face it, it cannot be said that many people on to bigger things started out with him as has been the case with Corman or, within Franco’s own country, Iquino. But there are a few exceptions, one of them being Agustín González, a now deceased actor who has had a theatrical award and a square in Madrid posthumously named after him. And indeed, despite his impressive number of film credits, it was on the stage in Madrid, where he was born, that Agustín González Martínez (1930-2005) really made his mark.
Starting out in a university theatre group during his student days, he eventually graduated to the legitimate stage in 1953. As for his film debut, González claims in a book-length interview with him that Jess Franco, “a very good friend of mine” (1) , on seeing him in a play, recommended him to Juan Antonio Bardem for a role in Bardem’s Felices pascuas(1954), on which Franco was working as an assistant director. What followed was an extremely active career in supporting roles, occasionally landing the odd lead, Julio Diamante’s Los que no fuimos a la guerra (1965) and Carlos Serrano’s Batida de raposas (1976). A regular in the cinema of Luis García Berlanga and Fernando Fernán-Gomez, he also worked for Carlos Saura, Mario Camus, Joaquín Romero-Marchent, Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi, José María Forqué, Eloy de la Iglesia, José Luis Garci and other distinguished Spanish directors. He may also have served as a good luck charm as the first two Spanish films to win the Oscar to the Best Foreign Language Film featured him prominently in the cast: Garci’s 1982 To Begin Again (a poor film, but with González as a scene-stealing hotel concierge) and Fernando Trueba’s Belle Epoque (made in 1992, and featuring González in his by-then familiar manic priest act).
In the midst of all this film activity, González was essentially concentrating on a distinguished career on the stage, including the title role in Othello, Don Latino in Valle-Inclán’s Luces de bohemia (which he repeated in the film version of 1985), the lead of Fernando Fernán-Gómez’s play Las bicicletas son para el verano (which he repeated in Jaime Chávarri’s film version of 1984), Henry II in James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter and the writer in Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth.He was excellent playing the silent main role in a production of Samuel Beckett’s video-play Eh, Joe?.
Film-wise, he did not truly rise to prominence until the late 1970s, when he emerged as a bald-headed, mustached, gruff-voiced character star actor, much in demand for either comic or “straight” performances as authoritarian right-wing types. In the 1980s, he came close to becoming part of the “inner circle” of Spanish film actors inhabited by Fernando Fernán-Gómez, Paco Rabal and José Luis López Vázquez. A tendency to be typecast, along with a penchant for theatrical hamming, may have kept him from quite making it but he nonetheless remained busy in second leads and “guest star” cameos for the rest of his filmography. Other than repetitions of his stage successes, he also played some leads: cast against type as a liberal lawyer in Pedro Costa Musté’s El caso Almería (1984); a more characteristic villainous protagonist in Santiago San Miguel’s Crimen en familia (1985); a hard-nosed cop in the same director’s Solo o en compañía de otros(1991).
It goes without saying that he found himself, on occasion in Euro-genre films. The parts he played parts in this region include his maniacal character in Ricardo Blasco’s Gringo (1963) and, in another rare lead, the troubled man in the fantasy Testigo azul (Alucinema)(1989) , directed by Francisco Rodríguez Gordillo , who was later to helm the Paul Naschy film Licántropo . González was also, in fact, once directed by Naschy himself, in the comedy Madrid al desnudo (1979), playing a sleazy publisher. This is one of the very few times in which he did not dub his own voice. As a point of interest, in Pilar Miró's drama Gary Cooper, que estás en los cielos (1980), González appears as a Spanish actor who's off to Italy "to make that shitty horror film".
Gringo(1963, Ricardo Blasco)
Madrid al desnudo (1979, Paul Naschy)(Voice dubbed by Antolín García)
Testigo azul (Alucinema)(1989, Francisco Rodríguez Gordillo)(Best Actor award at the Imagfic festival for this role)
Agustín González appeared in two Jess Franco films. In the first of these, Rififí en la ciudad, he played (or, perhaps, overplayed) the gay gangster. In the second, La muerte silba un blues, he plays the shorter role of a cop, appearing early in the film. What follows are caps from his two Franco roles:
Rififí en la ciudad(1963)
La muerte silba un blues(1964)
González received the Gold medal for Contributions to the Fine Arts in 1983; he was also nominated to the Goya (Spanish Oscar) on four occasions. He died suddenly at the age of 74, while engaged in a production along with José Luis López Vázquez (seen with Soledad Miranda in Robert monell's previous blog entry) and Manuel Alexandre (the trumpeter in Franco's La muerte silba un blues). His personal partner for many years (1954-1986) was the noted actress María Luisa Ponte, also seen in several Jess Franco films.
Some of his stage roles:
As Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (Tony Isbert played Romeo)
As Don Latino in Valle-Inclán's Luces de bohemia (one of the actor's "signature" roles)
In the title role of Molière's Tartuffe (TV production)
As Andrew Wyke in Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth
Trailer for Crimen en familia, with Agustín González as the villainous lead.
Agustín González singing, in José Luis Cuerda’s Así en la tierra como en el cielo (1995)
Agustín González and Fernando Fernán-Gómez (of Rififí en la ciudad) in a scene from José Luis Garci’s The Grandfather (1998).
Agustín González’s imdb entry:
Agustín González’s Wikipedia entry:
Cover of a book of interviews with Agustín González
The inauguration of a square in Madrid named after Agustín González in 2006
(1) Lola Millás. Agustín González: Entre la conversación y la memoria (Madrid: Ocho y Medio. 1995)
Text by Nzoog Wahrlfhehen