by Sidney Pink
We had drinks first, and I observed the only real drinking was done by Espartaco. While the rest of us drank wine, Espartaco drank his whiskey. To those of you who may not know, in Spain the only true whiskey is Scotch. Julio had no tiem for drinking since he was too busy translating the rapid-fire Espartaco-Pink question and answer period. I was full of questions about Spain, Spanish production facilities, and the script for EL VALLE. Espartaco, on the other hand, was eager to find out the strength of my connections and power to get him his heart's desire, a release deal with a major company. He had no interest in his wife's career - his sole concern was for the film career he envisioned for himself. It was clear to me that Espartaco, although a professed Catholic, gave not even lip service to that religion. He would blow Maruja off the minute his need for her was over. Although many of the beautiful women we worked with fell for this miserable excuse for a man, he never fooled me or my associates.
The worse thing was he had no talent to back up his ambition. It became obvious that Julio Pena was merely a mouthpiece and Emiliano was in over his head. Espartaco (clearly in charge) dominated the conversation, and as I listened, I made a mental note I had to speak and read Spanish if I intended to do business with him. I was almost positive I was not getting a real translation of what Espartaco was saying.
During dinner, we agreed to meet again the following morning at the MD offices. After talking to Maruja herself, we would go look at the studio, lab, and postproduction facilities in Madrid. Considering the needs of the Bronston program, I knew the facilities would have to be at least the equal of the rest of Europe, and now Spain was the focus of the ever-shifting search for another Hollywood, they would soon be the equivalent of our U.S. counterparts.
When I requested an English version of the script, I was told none existed, but if I would agree to write the English script and dialogue, they would have Julio Pena go to work immediately in preparing a translation. I had no choice but to accept, but with the added proviso that if, in my sole discretion, the subject matter and story proved of no interest to an international audience, I would have no obligation to continue with the project.
I arrived at their MD offices as scheduled and met Maruja Diaz in person. She can only be discribed as a Spanish version of Lucille Ball. She wore that animated and impish Lucy look and was a born clown. She was in her late thirties, a trifle too plump for American tastes, but she was delightful. She spoke no English either, but she was easy to understand by her expressiveness and animation. She was incapable of fraud and wore her heart on her sleeve for all to see. She was desperately in love with Espartaco, who treated her like dirt.
I came to love Maruja and I hated seeing her treated like that. She was a wonderfully talented woman who rose from an uneducated but warm and loveing Spanish family. It was her depth and warmth coming from the screen and engulfing audiences that made her a star. I think she knew I liked her and she responded in kind. We spent a great deal of time together trying to make PELUSA an international picture, but it just didn't work: it ws just too darned much like a local joke. When Espartaco turned on her, she lost so much of herself that she never again made a hit picture.
Our tour of the Madrid, ChaMartin, and Roma studios convinced me Spain had everything necessary for becoming an international film production center. MD agreed to send the translated script within the next four weeks, and I flew back to Copenhagen, leaving Luis Sanchis to draw up whatever documents were needed to record and protect our agreement.