[See previous post: “Sara Montiel Biography: Legendary Spanish Movie and Recording Star Dead at 85.”] Next in line for the sultry, husky-voice actress was another tear-jerking blockbuster: Luis César Amadori's La Violetera (“The Violet Peddler,” 1958), for which Montiel reportedly (if somewhat dubiously) earned US$1 million. In this romantic musical melodrama, Montiel plays Soledad Moreno, a flower seller in turn-of-the-century Madrid who falls in love with an aristocrat (Raf Vallone). Inevitably, class issues arise. The heartbroken Soledad flees Spain for France, where she becomes (once again) a singing sensation. Tears, tantrums, the sinking of the Titanic, psychological trauma, and eternal love ensue. (Image: The sensual Sara Montiel strikes a Gina Lollobrigida-like pose.)
“La violetera was even bigger than El último cuplé,” Montiel affirmed. “That's when I became fully aware that I was born to become a movie star.” And a recording star as well, as “La Violetera” was a major seller worldwide, eventually becoming her trademark song.
Among Sara Montiel's other personal successes of the late '50s and '60s were Tulio Demicheli's Carmen la de Ronda / A Girl Against Napoleon (1959), based on Prosper Mérimée's novel and co-starring Jorge Mistral and Maurice Ronet; Mi último tango (“My Last Tango,” 1960), about a maid who inadvertently becomes a tango-singing sensation in Argentina, also co-starring Ronet and directed by La Violetera's Luis César Amadori; and Amadori's Pecado de amor (“Sin of Love,” 1961), as a former singing star (Magda Beltrán) who becomes a nun (Sister Belén) to atone for her past sins.
Sara Montiel hands El Cid to Sophia Loren
Sara Montiel claimed to have turned down the female lead role in husband Anthony Mann's Spanish-set historical epic El Cid (1961), starring Charlton Heston, recommending the Italian Sophia Loren in her place. El Cid turned out to be a major international hit.
Instead of El Cid, Montiel, whose marriage to Mann would end in divorce in 1963, was seen in Alfonso Balcázar's La bella Lola (1962), a version of Camille co-starring Antonio Cifariello and Franck Villard (in place of Montiel's original choice, Roger Moore); Rafael Gil's World War I-set espionage melodrama La reina del Chantecler (“The Queen of the Chantecler,” 1962), in which Montiel falls for no-good journalist and spy Alberto de Mendoza (among whose spying buddies is Greta Chi's Mata Hari); and Henri Decoin's Casablanca, Nest of Spies / Noches de Casablanca (1963), featuring another set of spies, Maurice Ronet, and Fabio Fabrizi. (This film's French-language title inspired the title, though not necessarily the plot, of the Michel Hazanavicius / Jean Dujardin spoof OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies.)
In Rafael Gil's Samba (1965), Sara Montiel plays no less than two (Spanish-speaking) Brazilians: an actress who gets bumped off by her lover and her dead-ringer slum dweller, who, during the course of the film, finds love, intrigue, (rumba-sounding) samba singing, Carnival dancing, and the smuggling of precious stones.
Sara Montiel as Esa Mujer: Pedro Almodóvar inspiration
Mario Camus directed Esa mujer (“This Woman,” 1969), a sort of The Nun's Story meets Madame X meets Sarah and Son (a 1930 mother love melodrama that earned Ruth Chatterton a Best Actress Academy Award nomination). In Esa mujer, Montiel plays Soledad Romero Fuentes, a missionary nun who gets raped, becomes pregnant, abandons her convent, becomes a singing sensation, falls in love with a man who turns out to be her (long-thought-dead) daughter's lover, and is ultimately accused of murder. And that's only part of the plot.
Fast-forward to 1983 and inveterate Sara Montiel fan Pedro Almodóvar's unusual look at life in a convent, Dark Habits / Entre tinieblas, and to 1999 and Almodóvar's Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award winner All About My Mother, which features Penélope Cruz as a pregnant nun whose “father of the child” is a transvestite named Lola who also happens to be dying of AIDS.
Five years after All About My Mother, Almodóvar paid direct homage to his idol in the brilliant Bad Education (2004). For starters, Gael García Bernal sings “Quizás, quizás, quizás” by mimicking Montiel in Casablanca, Nest of Spies. Additionally, Bad Education features its two schoolboy-lovers masturbating one another while watching Montiel in Esa mujer on the big screen.
[“Sara Montiel La Violetera blockbuster, Pedro Almodóvar Icon” continues on the next page. See link below.]