Tuesday, November 23, 2010

El Cine de Oro: The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema

Many believe the heyday of Mexican cinema was between 1935 and 1959.  Posters and other movie promotional art from this "Golden Age" are considered very valuable.  Little noticed and not widely collected, the movie art from this time is so desirable because it is truly rare, and because it packs a powerful nostalgic wallop.

Early Mexican movie posters, lobby cards, hand bills, and the like are primarily scarce because they were produced in very limited runs.  The Argasanchez film archive estimates the Mexican film industry may have had as little as one percent of the poster production of its early Hollywood counterparts circulating to advertise coming attractions.  Besides starting out with fewer of them, Mexican movie posters and other promotional graphics were also printed on flimsy paper stock that was not meant to last.  Finally, with regard to the posters, a devastating fire at the Argasanchez archive in 1982 limited access to these art forms even more.

The love that Mexican and Spanish language film-goers had for Cine de Oro's genres and stars further enhance the coveted nature of the posters and lobby cards.  Early audiences in Central America, South America, and Spain could not get enough of rural genre films (like the classic Allá en el rancho grande "Out on the Big Ranch" directed by Fernando de Fuentes), or musicals (such as Fuentes' Jalisco canta en Sevilla "Jalisco Sings in Seville" starring ranchera singer Jorge Negrete and co-produced with a Spansh film company). Urban comedies with stars like Cantinflas and Tin Tan were also audience favorites.

Golden Age Mexican films are not all the pedestrian fare that recent viewers might imagine.  Cutting edge film auteur Luis Bunuel was influenced by the realism of the urban mexican film genre, and did many films in Mexico later in his career.  Early Mexican film also had collaborations with famous writers. La Perla (The Pearl), for example, was the work of Pulitzer prize-winning author John Steinbeck, and was produced by Mexico's own flamboyant D.W. Griffith character, Emilio Fernández, known as "El Indio."

Labor disputes and the eventual concetration of film production into a few hands changed the nature of the early Mexican cinema industry that was once supported by plentiful state subsidies.  Many say that el Cine de Oro ended when another beloved ranchera singer and leading man, Pedro Infante (known as El Ídolo del Pueblo or The Idol of the People), died in a private plane crash in April 1957.

Info from Argasanchez Archive and Wiki 
Pedro Infante, likely the most famous actor and singer of the Golden Age of Mexican Movies, shows his stuff:

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