Orduña, Juan de

(1902-1974)
   In his prime as director, Orduña became synonymous with good taste and a certain decorativism within the film industry. He was a favorite of actresses, loved working with them, and gave them undivided attention, not unlike Hollywood's George Cukor. He knew the mechanisms of the woman-centered film, and discovered the star potential of Aurora Bautista and Sara Montiel, arguably the two biggest stars of the Franco period. In the light of contemporary Spanish cinema, he is regarded as a representative of the "wrong" kind of Spanish traditions. He never aspired to art, but his focus on women performers, ruffles, and vases is also part of the particular magic of cinema—the kind of magic that very few did better during the classic period.
   Orduña started in the movies as an actor in 1924 (in the first version of La casa de la Troya [ The House of Troya ]), and he became popular as a leading man in a series of titles throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the most popular being Pilar Guerra (José Buchs, 1926), El misterio de la Puerta del Sol (The Mystery of the Puerta del Sol, Francisco Elías, 1929), El Cura de Aldea (The Village Priest, Francisco Camacho, 1936) and, especially, Nobleza baturra (Aragonese Nobility, Florián Rey, 1935). But his ambitions went beyond acting. As early as 1924, he set up Goya Film, a production company specializing in zarzuela and literary adaptations. He collaborated with Benito Perojo, starring in the successful Boy (1925). In 1927, he began alternating acting and direction.
   After the war, Orduña created a new producing company, POF, under which he went on to make some of his most successful films between 1941 and 1966, including La Lola se va a los puertos (Lola Goes to the Ports, 1947) and Cañas y barro (Mud and Reeds, 1954). He started working for CIFESA in 1942, taking responsibility for 12 titles in the company, among them some of their biggest successes of the 1940s including ¡A mí la legion! (On with the Legion! 1942). From 1949, he became the main artistic force behind a series of successful historical melodramas, a genre for which he was particularly well suited. Three of these starred Aurora Bautista: Locura de amor (Madness for Love, 1948), Agustina de Aragón (1950), and Pequeñeces (Small Matters, 1950); the fourth, Alba de América (Dawn of America, 1951) was a box-office failure and brought an end to the cycle. For the company, these films were an attempt to earn government funding with historical and patriotic plots, but for Orduña they became an opportunity to try his skills at lavish costume pictures with generous budgets. They have not stood the test of time well: their rhythms are too slow to be entertaining, their stories too corny and bombastic to be taken seriously. They remain, however, singular, extremely well crafted films attempting a new approach to the genre.
   After the fall of CIFESA, Orduña returned to his own company. A second wave of popularity as director came with El ultimo cuplé (The Last Torch Song, 1957). Although ultimately Sara Montiel benefited most from its huge success, the film stands as a monument to Orduña's very particular talents. El ultimo cuplé became the blueprint for Montiel's succeeding star vehicles, but Orduña's career flagged again in the 1960s. After four decades in the movies, neither comedia desarrollista nor social drama, the most prominent formulas of the period, suited him. He tried costume drama once more in Teresa de Jesús (1961), starring his favorite actress, Aurora Bautista, but times had changed and the film was largely ignored in a country that was preparing itself for modernity. The latter part of his career as a film-maker was taken up by conventional comedies (La tonta del bote, [ The Dumb Girl, 1970 ]), Manolo Escobar musicals (Me has hecho perder el juicio [ You Made Me Lose My Judgement, 1973 ]), and even one spaghetti Western (Delitto d'amore, 1965) directed without an ounce of flair or distinction. By the late 1960s, he turned to television, where he successfully filmed a series of zarzuelas.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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