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Emilio Fernández in the film The Soldiers of Pancho Villa (1959)
Emilio Fernández Romo
March 26, 1904
|Died||August 6, 1986 (aged 82)|
Mexico City, Mexico
Emilio "El Indio" Fernández (born Emilio Fernández Romo, Spanish: [eˈmiljo feɾˈnandes ˈromo]; March 26, 1904 – August 6, 1986) was a Mexican film director, actor and screenwriter. He was one of the most prolific film directors of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in the 1940s and 1950s. He is best known for his work as director of the film María Candelaria (1944), which won the Palme d'Or award at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival. As an actor, he worked in numerous film productions in Mexico and in Hollywood.
Born in Sabinas, Coahuila, on March 26, 1904, Emilio Fernández Romo was the son of a revolutionary general, while his mother was a descendant of Kickapoo Indians. He was the older brother of the Mexican actor Jaime Fernández. From his parents he inherited a deep feeling and love for his country, as well as its customs and indigenous beliefs, that led him to build his personality as a man of impetuous character. From his earliest years and throughout his life, he was characterized by a strong personality, brash character and pride in his indigenous roots, traits forged by the great influence exercised on him by his family.
When he was a teenager, a fatal event forced him to flee his home and enlist in the ranks of the Mexican Revolution. Later, he entered the Mexican Military Academy (where in 1954 he gained the rank of colonel). In 1923 he took part in the uprising of Adolfo de la Huerta against the government of Álvaro Obregón, but this insurrection failed and he was sent to prison. He escaped, and left Mexico to go into exile, first in Chicago and later in Los Angeles. There he earned his living as a laundry employee, bartender, longshoreman, press assistant, and finally as a stonemason for Hollywood studio construction, a circumstance that favored his foray into film as an extra and as a double for stars like Douglas Fairbanks.
Model for the Oscar statuette
Though rumored, Fernández was not the model for the Oscar statuette, at least not according to the statuette's sculptor, artist George Stanley. The legend suggested that MGM art director Cedric Gibbons, one of the original Motion Picture Academy members tasked with creating the Academy Award trophy, was introduced to Fernández by actress Dolores del Río and persuaded him to pose nude. Stanley, when asked if a model was used for the figure, answered, "No, just imagination."
His appearance in the film industry, though casual at first, became a commitment, encouraged by the same De la Huerta, who told him: Mexico does not want or need more revolutions Emilio. You are in the Mecca of film, and film is the most effective tool we humans have invented to express ourselves. Learn to make movies and you return to our homeland with that knowledge. Make our films so you can express your ideas so they reach thousands of people. In 1930 he had an experience that significantly marked his career as a creator: his stay in the United States coincided with the arrival in the country of Sergei Eisenstein (Russian film director). He went to private screenings of Eisenstein's films, which deeply impressed him, revealing a style that was different from that used in Hollywood aesthetics. Three years later, he was influenced by seeing fragments of Que viva Mexico! (an Eisenstein film made in that country), which consolidated his desire to make films with a relentless and direct style, where the exaltation of both the strength and the beauty of Mexico was evident. Over time, this was evident in most of his films, in which the aesthetics of the Revolution, the evocation of Mexican natural landscapes and the exaltation of patriotism are constants.
He returned to Mexico in 1933, thanks to an amnesty granted by the government, with the firm decision to continue his film career, but during the first year he made a living as a boxer, a diver in Acapulco, a baker and an aviator. In 1934, he appeared in the film Cruz Diablo, directed by Fernando de Fuentes. His looks also landed him a starring role playing a native in Janitzio by Carlos Navarro.
"El Indio" continued to keep busy in Mexico, performing melodramas and folklore films. In 1941, with the financial support of General John F. Azcárate and the encouragement of his friend, the actor David Silva (then a law student), he filmed La isla de la pasión with which he made his debut as a director. That same year he traveled to Cuba where he met the woman who would be his first wife, Gladys Fernandez, and he adopted her daughter Adela.
In 1943 he was contacted by the Mexican film Studios Films Mundiales. Emilio Fernández (director), Mauricio Magdaleno (writer), Gabriel Figueroa (photographer), Dolores del Río and Pedro Armendáriz (actors), creating the team that achieved the biggest blockbusters of the time. Their first work together was Flor silvestre, the film that debuted Dolores del Río in the Mexican cinema.
Next, Fernández filmed María Candelaria (1944), for which he was awarded the Palm d'Or at Cannes along with Gabriel Figueroa. He developed his own style which had such an effect in the industry that his portrayal of rural Mexico became a standard for the film industry, and also became the image of Mexico in the world.
In 1945, based on the history of American writer John Steinbeck (who adapted the screenplay in collaboration with him), Fernández filmed La perla, one of the most important films in his long filmography, considered by critics as a work of art which portrays a story of ignorance and human misery, achieved by the superb photography of Figueroa and rigorous direction of Fernández. It is an allegory about the limits of wickedness of man in his greed and desire for power. This film won the award for Best Cinematography, and a mention for Best Film contribution to progress in the Venice Film Festival (1947). It also received the Silver Ariel (1948) for Best Picture, Directing, Male Performance and Photography; the award of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (1949), and the award for Best Cinematography at the Festival of Madrid (1949).
By that time his career was at the pinnacle of success. Then came the films that consolidated his style and strengthened their reputation in the world. Among the most significant are: Enamorada with María Félix; The Fugitive ; Río Escondido (winner of Best Cinematography in the Karlovy Vary in Czechoslovakia); Pueblerina with his then wife Columba Domínguez and Maclovia. These films were imbued with realism and nationalism with a strong indigenous character, revealing his love of the Mexican landscape and beauty in indigenous traits. These attributes helped to shape the image of Mexico in the world at that time. In 1949, Salon Mexico won the award for Best Cinematography at the festival in Brussels, Belgium. He followed these in 1950 with urban films, Víctimas del Pecado, starring Ninón Sevilla, and Cuando levanta la niebla, with Columba Dominguez and Arturo de Córdova. In 1950, he made his only film in Hollywood The Torch, a remake of Enamorada starring Paulette Goddard.
As the years passed, the aesthetics of Indio Fernández began to be viewed as old fashioned by critics, who called his films "precious" and accused Fernandez of showing the world a false image of Mexico. By the mid-1950s, the films of Fernández fell into obscurity as he was supplanted by other notable Mexican film directors like Luis Buñuel. Fernández returned to his role as actor. Although he did little directing in the 1960s, he had several roles as an actor, appearing in: The Soldiers of Pancho Villa (1959), La bandida (1962); The Night of the Iguana (1964, directed by John Huston, where he shared credits with Richard Burton and Ava Gardner); Return of the Seven (1966); The Appaloosa (1966, with Marlon Brando), among many others. His 1967 film A Faithful Soldier of Pancho Villa was entered into the 5th Moscow International Film Festival. He also acted in three films directed by Sam Peckinpah: The Wild Bunch (1969), Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974).
During the last years of his life, he found it impossible to direct, and although his performances as an actor in films in Mexico and abroad continued to be numerous, they failed to restore the happiness that directing gave him. In the late 1970s he was imprisoned in Torreón after he was found guilty of the death of a farmer. He was released after 6 months probation. Lack of signatures every week, due to an accident, caused him to be imprisoned again. Those were hard times, in which he held his character and his passion for film. He was a man of 74 years, silent and taciturn, who refused to recognize the twilight of his career. Free again, he returned to his mythical house in Coyoacan, to live in solitude and sell crops from his garden to survive.
In early 1986, Emilio Fernández suffered a fall at his home in Acapulco, which caused a fracture of the femur. According to his daughter Adela, in the hospital he received a blood transfusion that was infected with malaria. Emilio Fernández died on August 6, 1986.
Fernández's death left a void in the history of Mexican cinema. He was beloved by his countrymen for passionately portraying the people, the customs, and the identity of Mexico. In addition to his 129 films, he is also seen as bequeathing Mexican culture to the world through countless beautiful images of Mexicans and evocations of an orderly Mexican society that loved the world. His film legacy has been recognized with the Ariel Award, the Colón de Oro in Huelva, Spain, and with a chair in his name at the Moscow Film School. Emilio Fernández Romo was known for creating visceral characters, for the drama of his stories, for the use of indigenous characters and their issues, and for reproducing authentic Mexican culture in both Mexican and European films[clarification needed] . With photographer Gabriel Figueroa, writer Mauricio Magdaleno, and actors Pedro Armendáriz, Dolores del Río, María Félix and Columba Dominguez, Romo conducted various productions that promoted both national customs and the values associated with the Mexican Revolution.
Gladys Fernández, a 16-year-old Cuban girl, became his first wife in 1941. Their relationship was affected by Emilio's passion for Hollywood diva Dolores del Río and Gladys ended up leaving him. Emilio and Gladys had a daughter, the writer Adela Fernández y Fernández.
His most stable relationship was with the actress Columba Domínguez. They were together for seven years, but the relationship collapsed because Columba became pregnant, and he did not want more children. She decided to have the baby without his consent, and the breakup was brutal. Their daughter, Jacaranda, died in 1978 after falling from the top of a building.
His marriage to Gloria De Valois Cabiedes produced another daughter, Xochitl Fernandez De Valois, and he was married to Beatriz Castaneda from 1964 to 1970.
Fernández was infatuated with the British-American actress Olivia de Havilland, whom he never met. Fernández asked the then-president of Mexico, Miguel Alemán, to extend a street in Coyoacán to his mansion, and to name it Sweet Olivia. Thus, he would always have her symbolically near, transformed into a street, and always at his feet.
After the death of Fernández, a lawsuit broke out between his daughter Adela and Columba Domínguez. Adela had been named sole heir of her father and took possession of his house, an impressive fortress in the neighborhood of Coyoacán in Mexico City, which Columba claimed as her own. According to Columba, Adela was not a biological daughter of Fernández, but was adopted by him when she was abandoned by her mother. Adela's death in 2013 left the legal situation unclear.
The House-Fortress of Fernández, managed by his daughter Adela until her death in 2013, became a space dedicated to various cultural activities in Mexico City, and has served as a backdrop for filming over one hundred Mexican and foreign films.
|Year||Original title||English title||Production country||Language||Cast||Award nominations|
(Wins in bold)
|1941||La isla de la pasión||The Island of the Passion||México||Spanish||Pedro Armendáriz, Isabela Corona|
|1942||Soy puro mexicano||I'm a Real Mexican||Mexico||Spanish||Pedro Armendáriz, Andres Soler|
|1942||Flor Silvestre||Wild Flower||México||Spanish||Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz|
|1943||María Candelaria (aka Xochimilco)||Portrait of Maria||Mexico||Spanish||Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz||Cannes Film Festival – Palm d'Or|
|1944||Las Abandonadas||The Abandoned||Mexico||Spanish||Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz||Ariel Award – Best Actress|
|1944||Bugambilia||Bugambilia||Mexico||Spanish||Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz|
|1945||La perla||The Pearl||Mexico||Spanish||Pedro Armendáriz, María Elena Marqués||Venice Film Festival – Golden Lion|
Ariel Awards – Golden Ariel, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Cinematography
Golden Globe – Best Cinematography
|1945||Pepita Jiménez||Mexico||Spanish||Ricardo Montalbán, Rosita Dáz Gimeno|
|1946||Enamorada||In Love||Mexico||Spanish||María Félix, Pedro Armendáriz||Ariel Award – Best Actress|
|1947||The Fugitive (producer)||The Fugitive||United States||English||Henry Fonda, Dolores del Río|
|1947||Río Escondido||Hidden River||Mexico||Spanish||María Félix, Carlos López Moctezuma||Karlovy Vary International Film Festival – Best Photography|
|1948||Maclovia||Maclovia (aka Damn Beauty)||Mexico||Spanish||María Félix, Pedro Armendáriz|
|1949||Pueblerina||Small Town Girl||Mexico||Spanish||Columba Dominguez, Roberto Cañedo||Cannes Film Festival – Official Selection|
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival – Best Photography
|1949||La Malquerida||A Woman without Love||Mexico||Spanish||Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz|
|1950||Salón México||Mexico Lounge||Mexico||Spanish||Marga López, Miguel Inclan||Brussels Film Festival – Best Photography|
|1950||Duelo en las montañas||Duel in the Mountains||Mexico||Spanish||Rita Macedo, Roberto Cañedo|
|1950||The Torch||United States||English||Paulette Goddard, Pedro Armendáriz|
|1950||Un día de vida||One Day of Life||Mexico||Spanish||Columba Domínguez, Roberto Cañedo|
|1951||Vìctimas del Pecado||Victims of the Sin||Mexico||Spanish||Ninón Sevilla, Rodolfo Acosta|
|1951||Maria Islands||Mexico||Spanish||Pedro Infante, Jaime Fernández|
|1951||La bienamada||The Beloved||Mexico||Spanish||Columba Domínguez, Roberto Cañedo|
|1952||Siempre tuya||Always Yours||Mexico||Spanish||Jorge Negrete, Gloria Marín|
|1952||Acapulco||Mexico||Spanish||Elsa Aguirre, Miguel Torruco|
|1952||Cuando levanta la niebla||When the Fog Lifts||Mexico||Spanish||Columba Domínguez, Arturo de Córdova|
|1953||La Red (aka Rossana)||The Red||Mexico||Spanish||Rossana Podestà, Armando Silvestre||Cannes Film Festival- Best Narration|
|1953||El Rapto||The Rapture||Mexico||Spanish||María Félix, Jorge Negrete|
|1955||La rosa blanca||The White Rose||Cuba||Spanish||Jorge Mistral, Rebeca Iturbide|
|1955||La Tierra del Fuego se apaga||Tierra del Fuego is off||Argentina||Spanish||Jorge Mistral, Bertha Moss|
|1958||Una cita de amor||An appointment with love||Mexico||Spanish||Silvia Pinal, Jaime Fernández||8th Berlin International Film Festival – Official Selection|
|1962||Pueblito||Little Town||Mexico||Spanish||Columba Domínguez, Lilia Prado||San Sebastián International Film Festival – Las perlas del Cantábrico|
|1963||Paloma herída||Wounded Dove||Mexico/Guatemala||Spanish||Patricia Conde, Columba Domínguez|
|1967||Un Dorado de Pancho Villa||A Faithful Soldier of Pancho Villa||Mexico||Spanish||Emilio Fernández, Maricruz Olivier||5th Moscow International Film Festival – Official Selection|
|1969||Un Crepúsculo de un dios||A Twilight of a God||Mexico||Spanish||Emilio Fernández, Guillermo Murray|
|1974||La Choca||la Choca||Mexico||Spanish||Pilar Pellicer, Gregorio Casals||Ariel Award – Best Direction, Best Supporting Actress, Best Photography, Best Edition|
Karlovy Vary Film Festival – Best Direction
|1976||Zona Roja||Red Zone||Mexico||Spanish||Fanny Cano, Armando Silvestre|
|1979||México Norte||Mexico North||Mexico||Spanish||Patricia Reyes Spíndola, Roberto Cañedo|
|1979||Erótica||Erotic||Mexico||Spanish||Jorge Rivero, Rebecca Silva|
- 1928: El destino
- 1930: Oklahoma Cyclone – Pancho Gomez (uncredited)
- 1930: The Land of Missing Men – Lopez – aka Black Coyote
- 1930: Headin' North – Mexican Gambler (uncredited)
- 1931: Sunrise Trail – Pancho (uncredited)
- 1932: The Western Code – Indian Joe
- 1933: Laughing at Life – Revolutionary (uncredited)
- 1933: Flying Down to Rio – Dancer (uncredited)
- 1934: La buenaventura – Boris
- 1934: Corazón bandolero – Chacal
- 1934: Cruz Diablo – Toparca, bandolero
- 1935: Martín Garatuza
- 1935: Tribu – Itzul
- 1935: Janitzio – Zirahuén
- 1936: Celos – Sebastián
- 1936: María Elena – Bailarín de La Bamba
- 1936: Marihuana – El Indio
- 1936: Allá en el Rancho Grande – Dancer
- 1937: El superloco – Idúa
- 1937: El impostor
- 1937: Las cuatro milpas
- 1937: Las mujeres mandan – Bailarín
- 1937: Almas rebeldes
- 1937: Adiós Nicanor – Nicanor
- 1939: Juan sin miedo – Valentin
- 1939: With Villa's Veterans – Mayor El Indio Fernández
- 1940: El fanfarrón: ¡Aquí llegó el valentón! – Aguilucho (Juan José)
- 1940: Los de Abajo – Pancracio
- 1940: El charro Negro – Emilio Gómez
- 1941: El Zorro de Jalisco – Ernesto
- 1941: Rancho Alegre
- 1942: La isla de la pasión
- 1943: Wild Flower – Rogelio Torres
- 1959: The Soldiers of Pancho Villa – Coronel Antonio Zeta
- 1962: Pueblito – Coronel (uncredited)
- 1963: La bandida – Epigmenio Gómez
- 1963: Paloma herida – Danilo Zata
- 1964: El revólver sangriento – Félix Gómez
- 1964: The Night of the Iguana – Barkeeper (uncredited)
- 1964: Yo, el valiente
- 1964: Los hermanos Muerte – Marcos Zermeño
- 1965: The Reward – Sgt. Lopez
- 1965: La conquista de El Dorado
- 1965: Un callejón sin salida – Moran
- 1966: La recta final – Don Lucio
- 1966: Duelo de pistoleros – Pancho Romero
- 1966: The Appaloosa – Lazaro
- 1966: Los malvados – El coyote
- 1966: Return of the Seven – Lorca
- 1967: A Covenant with Death – Igancio
- 1967: Un tipo dificil de matar
- 1967: The War Wagon – Calita
- 1967: A Faithful Soldier of Pancho Villa – Aurelio Pérez
- 1967: El silencioso – Emilio Segura
- 1968: Guns for San Sebastian
- 1968: El caudillo – Coronel
- 1968: Un toro me llama
- 1969: The Wild Bunch – General Mapache
- 1969: Duelo en El Dorado – Indio Romo
- 1969: El crepúsculo de un Dios – Himself
- 1970: The Phantom Gunslinger – Sheriff
- 1971: La chamuscada (Tierra y libertad) – Coronel Margarito Herrero
- 1971: La sangre enemiga – Juan
- 1972: Indio – Victorio
- 1972: El rincón de las vírgenes – Anacleto Morones
- 1973: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid – Paco
- 1974: Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia – El Jefe
- 1974: Breakout – J.V.
- 1975: Lucky Lady – Ybarra
- 1975: Detras de esa puerta – Police Director
- 1976: Zona roja
- 1979: Erótica – Hernández
- 1980: Las cabareteras
- 1982: Una gallina muy ponedora
- 1983: Mercenarios de la Muerte – Maestro tata
- 1984: Under the Volcano – Diosdado
- 1985: Treasure of the Amazon – Tacho / Paco
- 1985: Lola la trailera – Leoncio's Bodyguard
- 1986: Los Amantes del Señor de la Noche – Don Venustiano
- 1986: The Kidnapping of Lola – Commander Prieto
- 1986: Ahora mis pistolas hablan
- 1987: Arriba Michoacán (final film role)
- "Festival de Cannes: María Candelaria". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
- Emilio Fernández biography
- "ABC press kit, 1977 (50th) Academy Awards :: Academy Awards Collection". digitalcollections.oscars.org. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
- "6 things you may not know about Oscar statuettes". forevergeek.com. March 2010. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
- "5th Moscow International Film Festival (1967)". MIFF. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
- La historia detrás del mito: Emilio "Indio" Fernández by TV Azteca
- El orgullo de la seducción: Emilio Fernández Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine
- Taibo I., Paco Ignacio (1987). Emilio Fernández <1904–1986>. Universidad de Guadalajara. ISBN 968-895-016-5.
- Domínguez., Columba (1987). Emilio Fernández "El Indio" que amé.