Lina Romay, a pretty brunette who starred in numerous risqué features for longtime companion Jesus Franco (a.k.a. Jess Franco), has died. According to online reports, Romay died of cancer on Feb. 15. She was 57.
Born Rosa María Almirall Martínez in Barcelona on June 25, 1954, Romay began her film career while in her late teens. The source for her artistic name was another Lina Romay, a singer with Xavier Cugat’s band who had featured roles in movies such as Love Laughs at Andy Hardy and Joe Palooka in the Big Fight. (This Lina Romay died at age 91 in December 2010 in the L.A. suburb of Pasadena.)
The Spanish Lina Romay’s movies, however, were anything but G-rated fare. Her gialli and erotica efforts had titles such as Tender and Perverse Emanuelle (1973), Justine and the Whip (1979), The White Slave (1985), and Alone Against Terror (1987). From the early ’70s to 2005, she was featured in more than 100 productions. (Possibly more than 200, according to some sources.)
Among Romay’s movies directed (and oftentimes edited/scored/shot/etc.) by Jesus Franco (a.k.a. Jess Franco and countless other pseudonyms) were Swedish Nympho Slaves (1977), The Sadist of Notre Dame (1979), White Cannibal Queen (1981), Hellhole Women (1981), and Macumba Sexual (1983). Romay also helped Franco in the directorial/editing process, and under the pseudonyms Lulu Laverne/Candy Coster directed a dozen movies in the 1980s. Additionally, she was perfectly comfortable performing in sexually explicit fare.
Needless to say, the Franco-Romay movies were no-budget efforts. Yet, the couple managed to carve out for themselves a lasting place in the realm of erotica/gialli filmmaking. “It’s said than I am an exhibitionist,” Romay is supposed to have once remarked. “Every actor is one – I gladly accept that. I’m not a hypocrite.”
I’m unfamiliar with Romay’s film work, but she may have had quite a bit of acting talent to back up her exhibitionist side. In his Lina Romay obit, movie blogger Tim Lucas wrote:
“No other woman gave quite as much of herself to the fantastic cinema as Lina Romay. As Franco’s muse, she inspired and facilitated as many as 200 or more films, and in many of them she withheld nothing of herself from his voracious camera, body or soul. Theirs was an ideal meeting of exhibitionist and voyeur, both giving generously to one another in one of cinema’s most provocative love stories. As the years passed, Lina changed and her body changed, but it never mattered to Franco, who continued to star her and film her as if she were the most desirable woman on earth. This is not to say that Franco’s adoration of her was blind; on the contrary, Lina became a skilled actress under his tutelage, acquitting herself admirably not only as vampire women and nymphomaniacs, but in roles requiring the deft touch of a light comedienne. She could carry a film without dialogue; she could be funny, tragic, insanely desirable, shocking, even embarrassing in ways that left one admiring her bravery.”
If so, how many performers can lay claim to such versatility and dramatic effectiveness?
Three years ago, Jesus Franco was given an Honorary Goya – the Spanish equivalent of the Honorary Oscar. (Imagine such an honoree at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards.) Franco is now 81.
Lina Romay photo.