by Sidney Pink
(After making three films in Denmark, American producer, director, writer Sidney Pink investigated production facilities in Yugoslavia.)
I scheduled my return to Copenhagen from Belgrade with stopovers at Palma de Mallorca and Madrid. Leo Bertelsen was a yearly visitor to Mallorca, and he suggested the beauty and climate of that island would be perfect for my family's winter stay. I also heard of the bargain-basement cost of food and hotels in the city of Palma from Leslie Faber. Leslie gave me the name of a Mallorcan lawyer who assisted British Lion in several lawsuits. Luis Sanchis was a graduate of Oxford and very conversant in English as well as familiar with the film industry...
I spend only three days in Mallorca, but in those three days Luis and I formed a relationship that lasted throughout my entire nine years in Spain. He became my friend, my lawyer, and my confidante. Luis never once betrayed a confidence, and never meddled where he was not wanted: he also gave me some of the best advice of my life. Luis was responsible for my first coproduction in Spain and represented my companies in all of their dealings with the Spanish government.
While in Mallorca, Luis contacted a producer in Madrid who was preparing a giant production that needed international stars and know-how. The company was the personal production arm of one of Spain's top box-office stars, Maruja Diaz, whose last picture, PELUSA, had set new records in all Spanish-speaking countries. She was married to a young Venezuelan, Espartaco Santoni, whose hungry ambition was driving him to expand the horizons of her talents and money. He was anxiously searching for someone who could help him get worldwide distribution for a project called EL VALLE DE LAS ESPADAS or THE VALLEY OF THE SWORDS. Luis was acquainted with the company and Maruja as well as the script. It was the true story of Fernan Gonzales, Spanish hero and the grandfather of El Cid.
Samuel Bronston was shooting a spectacle film with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren based on the life and exploits of El Cid. The time seemed propitious for a follow-up picture that could reap the benefits of the Bronston superproduction. Luis made an appointment for me to meet the heads of Producciones Cinematograficas MD, and I flew to Madrid.~I arrived in Madrid at ten o'clock in the morning, where I was met by three gentlemen from MD (which I later learned stood for Maruja Diaz, who owned and starred in all of that company's films). Espartaco Santoni was as phoney as his name implied. He had the swarthy good looks of his Italian heritage, and he was overly anxious to be gracious. He was of medium height and weight and exuded a reptilian charm that, while it repelled me, must have been like an aphrodisiac to certain types of women. My instant dislike of him was most unusual for me, but as I learned later, my instincts about him were well founded.
His associate was Emiliano Piedra, who was everything Espartaco would have liked to be. Emiliano was the Spaniard we had been brainwashed into visualizing by Hemingway and other writers, who depicted the average Spanish caballero as gallant, righteous, and honest. Emiliano was a true Castilian, with a fair complexion and delicate features. He allowed his companions to carry the conversation and only spoke when necessary.
I learned to like and respect Emiliano; he was a man of honor and never went back on his word, although others were not so kind to him. (It was Emiliano who later got taken by the late Orson Welles on FALSTAFF, which, contrary to the original contract, was made in black and white instead of color. Welles spent almost $300,000 on colorful and costly materials for costuming. These were, of course, indiscernible in the finished black and white feature. Emiliano lost a fortune on that venture.) Emiliano was a scion of an aristrocratic family and was (as I learned later) the financial angel for the company. A mediocre actor named Julio Pena accompanied Emiliano and Espartaco to serve as out interpreter, since neither Espartaco nor Emiliano spoke any English and I, unfortunately, spoke no Spanish.
They got me through customs and immigration quickly; I don't believe it took five minutes. Prestige and power work wonders in unraveling the omnipotent red tape of the Latin countries. I was given VIP treatment and taken by limousine to the Hotel Fenix, a large, luxury hotel right off the Rambla, as the Avenida del Generalissimo was called. The hotel was located just a few minutes from the downtown area and the other older hotels like the Palace and the Ritz. It was within walking distance of the Prado as well as the Castellano Hilton, headquarters for the American stars and directors who were working in Madrid.
My new associates took me to the desk, advising me to rest until they returned "later that afternoon, at about 10:30." When I asked Julio how that could be considered afternoon, I got my first lession in Spanish life. He informed me evening did not begin until after dinner, and we were going to dine at an outdoor restaurant, La Florida, where dinner wasn't served before eleven.
(Pink always refers to Maruja Diaz, but the public knew her as Marujita Diaz. The writer and director of PELUSA, Luis de los Arcos and Javier Seto, would also be part of the team making THE CASTILIAN.)