Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Interview with Ángel del Pozo (Part 1 of 2)


With green eyes and a clear forehead, Ángel del Pozo is one of the most characteristic faces of Spanish cinema from the early sixties and mid-seventies, the three decades that comprise his active years as an actor. Although his beginnings in the middle would take place playing roles of gallant in some of the most successful titles of our cinema of those years, the case of Margarita is called my love (1961), or Vuelve San Valentín (1962), the sequel to the famous Valentine's Day (1959), the truth is that his career is most remembered among fans for his work in the then flourishing co-productions, of which he was one of our most active actors. A good example of this is that he ventured into practically all the genres harvested by popular cinema of the time: adventure, war, horror, science fiction, western ...

A baggage that, despite the time that has passed, has been far from being forgotten. Something that, in a way, was staged last October with the tribute that the Almería Western Film Festival dedicated to him in its tenth edition, where he was awarded the honorary prize "Tabernas de cine", which was received in his name for his daughter, the journalist Almudena del Pozo. A precaution due to the current situation caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic, since at eighty-six years of age Ángel del Pozo is still in full force, as shown in the following interview we conducted by telephone, and in which he shows an admirable memory.

[“Savage Pampas”]

In his youth he combined his university studies with his participation in the TEU. How was your interpretive vocation born?

Well, I started in the theater in something called "Hermandades del trabajo" on Juan de Austria street in Madrid, organized by companies that had a patron. I worked in a store with my father and I met people who invited me to go to “Brotherhoods” to try out to play basketball, but I didn't like that at all. But at the same time, a man who was there, named Fernando Anguita, who later became a television producer, asked me if I wanted to work as an actor in a play. I said good and started with a work that was Giménez-Arnau's Died fifteen years ago.

I kept working until I had an offer to join the company of Lilí Murati, who was a very famous actress. His company toured all of Spain, although he normally worked three or four months in Madrid, at the Reina Victoria theater. I was talking with the director of the company and he told me to see the play and look at the character of the young gallant there. I checked, and then they tested me for two days. There were afternoon and evening shows, at 7 and 11, so I did four tests. When I finished the fourth test on the second day, the company representative told me to go down to Lilí Murati's dressing room, the director was there and wanted to talk to me. He offered to sign me for a year to go on tour with them, but I told him I had to talk to my parents first to see what they thought. I spoke to my parents.

Precisely, one of the works he represents with Lilí Murati's company is Un brute para-Patricia (1960), whose adaptation to the big screen would mark his film debut ...

Yes, in the cinema I worked for three days playing a very small role in Un brute para-Patricia, directed by León Klimovsky and whose protagonists were José Suárez, Susana Campos and María Martín. Someone had seen me and this movie came out. Then I did El indulto (1960) by José Luis Sáenz de Heredia, with Pedro Armendáriz, Conchita Velasco and Paula Martel; then I worked on My Street (1960), which was a film directed by Edgar Neville, in which we worked all the most prominent actors and actresses of the time; and I also did a session in 091, police al spoken (1960), directed by José María Forqué. Then I made a film in Italy called Los mercenarios / La rivolta dei mercenary (1961), in which Conrado San Martín and Virginia Mayo starred, and on the way back they called me to play a role in Margarita is called my love  with Mercedes Alonso, Antonio Cifariello and José Luis Ozores. My character was a young man, naturally, since I had hair and stuff, and at the Coliseum movie premiere there were rumors among people asking who I was. It can be said that I was quite successful and as a result of that I began to work.

The truth is that, during his early years as a film actor, he specialized in roles as a young gallant ...

Yes, they gave me handsome roles. In this style I participated in Vuelve San Valentín, in which I was paired with María Cuadra or Escuela de seductoras (1962). Then I did El valle de las espadas / The Castillian (1963), which was a very successful film in Spain, in which I played the prince of Navarra and my father was Broderick Crawford, who was an American with Oscar. Also working were Frankie Avalon, Alida Valli, Germán Cobos as the chief of the Moors, Fernando Rey, Julio Peña… Javier Setó directed it and on the day of the premiere at the Palacio de la Música there was great applause.

[Ángel del Pozo with María Cuadra in "Vuelve San Valentín"]

During those years, it began to be lavished on many of the co-productions that were so in vogue in the cinema of our country at that time, such as the aforementioned Los mercenarios or El valle de las espadas. I imagine that one of the reasons that led to your participation in this type of film would have to do with your possible knowledge of languages, right?

I was a little good in English, but I went to an academy to learn it better. It helped me a lot, because I have made many films shot in that language.

But were these films shot in English or, as other actors maintain, were only lipsticks made so that later the dubbing could fit in?

It depends. In American or American-produced films such as Las Amazonas / Le guerriere dal bosom nudo (1973) directed by Terence Young, who was the director of the first 007 with Sean Connery, they were shot in English. El Cóndor (El Condor, 1970), which I did with Jim Brown and Lee Van Cleef, was shot in English. But when I went to France it was shot in French, and when I went to make a film in England we shot in English. When they were co-productions between Spain and Italy, if the film was important, like, for example, El falcón y la presa / La resa dei conti (1966), directed by Sergio Sollima and by Tomas Millian and Lee Van Cleef, we shot it in English. And Face to face / Faccia a faccia (1967), with Gian Maria Volonté, who was Italian, we also shot it in English.

Did the shooting of these films in co-production change much to those of the clearly Spanish films in which you had played in the beginning?

Nerd. You played your role and there was a director, whoever it was. With American directors I have worked with Vincent Sherman in Cervantes / Le avventure e gli amori di Miguel Cervantes (1966), starring Horst Buchholz and Gina Lollobrigida and playing Don Juan de Austria. By the way, in this movie, in a scene in which Don Juan de Austria met with his generals, I asked who Álvaro de Bazán was. They pointed out the actor who was playing him and I told them it was impossible, because Álvaro de Bazán was completely bald and the actor who was going to play him had hair. And by decision of the director, they had to stop filming and it resumed the next day with a Spanish actor who was bald playing Álvaro de Bazán. I have read a lot, and among my favorite characters when I was young was Juan de Austria, and finding myself doing it in the cinema was very exciting for me, of course.

["The Man Called Noon"]

In the mid-sixties, he began his association with the so-called western Spaghetti, in which he soon became one of its most common and recognizable performers. What was the reason for this specialization in the genre? Did you have a special interest in him?

I kept making movies until at a certain point the opportunity to do a western arose. I went to Almería, I did it, and then I shot a lot more Western movies. I was 1.88, or somewhere around, I have green eyes like my mother and grandmother, and I did not look much like what they considered a Spanish actor, but could look like an American actor. That influenced a lot for him to make films of this type. Besides, I learned to ride a horse shortly after I started in the movies and I was good at it. So, nothing, they gave me the gun and the cowboy suit and since there were a lot of Western movies in co-production, I worked on a few. Tabernas I have traveled it on horseback many times ...

Within his career in spaghetti wéstern he would work under the orders of some of the most important directors of the current, among which we can mention Sergio Sollima, Tonino Valerii, Giorgio Ferroni or our Eugenio Martín. Which of them would you highlight and why?

Sergio Sollima was a pretty good director. With him I did The Falcon and the Prey and a year later Face to face. But Eugenio Martín was a very good director too. I worked with him in The Challenge of Pancho Villa / Pancho Villa (1972), in which there were Telly Savallas, Clint Walker, Chuck Connors and Anne Francis, who was a beautiful American actress, and Eugenio Martín directed very well. But hey, even if it was not in the western world, I have worked with Michelangelo Antonioni in El reportero / Professione: reporter (1975) with Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider. And when I started working in the cinema Antonioni was one of my idols. He had seen the night (La notte, 1961) and he seemed to me a wonderful director, as he was. He is the director that has had the most impact on my professional life, because the fact that my name appeared in a cast with Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider and with Michelangelo as director, is important.

I have also worked with Orson Welles, but as an actor, not as a director. It was in The Treasure Island / Treasure Island (1972), a film that has gone around the world and continues to place on television.

 [To be continued tomorrow]

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