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Amália in the Cinema

A different artistic dimension

"Capas Negras" (1947)

The voice and figure of Amália Rodrigues also marked its presence on the big screen, besides the great concert halls around the world. When she was a little girl, she used to say that she wanted to be Sylvia Sidney or Greta Garbo, and when the films had sad endings, she wanted to change them, to make up other endings. The desire of being an artist always accompanied her, but she never thought that it could really happen.

When she appeared in the first films, Amália was already known in Lisbon for acting in fado houses, on theatre and revistas (sort of vaudeville theatre), and she had already recorded her first albums in Brazil. Cinema was another important aspect of Amália’s career.

The great debut of Amália on cinema was in 1947, although the first invite had come years early, in 1941, by the hands of António Lopes Ribeiro to be in Pátio das Cantigas. The main character was made for Amália, a young girl who sang fado, and that was called Amália. However, the make-up artist António Vilar thought that Amália’s eyebrows did not fit in cinema and the role ended up being played by Maria Paula, a Portuguese actress.

Amália had several participations in films, as a protagonist or even acting in her own name.

The biggest successes were Capas Negras and Fado, História de uma Cantadeira. The success was so much that crowds gathered to see Amália and there were necessary police cordons so that she could pass.

But our greatest highlight goes to the film Amantes do Tejo. It traveled the world and, that way, everyone could see and listen to Amália Rodrigues. People fell in love with Amália’s voice while singing “Barco Negro”, which led her to Olympia (Paris) and to an international career. “The film gave me the kick-off to France and France gave me the kick-off to the World.”, she says to Vítor Pavão dos Santos for her biography. In almost every participation in cinema, Amália interprets various musical themes. As Ilhas Encantadas is the only one where she does not sing.

People fell in love with Amália’s voice while singing “Barco Negro”, which led her to Olympia (Paris) and to an international career.

Participations as a protagonist

"Fado, História de uma Cantadeira" (1947)

"Fado Corrido" (1964)

The great debut of Amália as an actress was in the 1947 film Capas Negras. It was one of the great successes of Portuguese cinema, beating records of ticketing and headline permanence.

Then, it followed the 1947 film Fado, História de uma Cantadeira – another great hit, seen by thousands of spectators, week after week. The plot resembles to episodes of Amália Rodrigues’ life. However, in her biography, she claims that “(…) it has nothing to do with my story, unless the part where I married a guitarist and that I sold fruit.”.

After, “Fado” she is invited by Leitão de Barros to be the lead actress of the 1949 film Vendaval Misterioso, in the role of Eugénia da Câmara.

In 1958, she stars as the main actress in Sangue Toureiro, the first feature film of Portuguese fiction in colours. Amália Rodrigues plays the role of a succeeded fado singer, and Diamantino Viseu the one of a bullfighter.

It follows Fado Corrido, 1964 film, where the protagonists are the director himself and Amália Rodrigues, in the role of a fado singer.
At last, As Ilhas Encantadas, a 1965 film, the only one where she does not sing, was shot on the island of Porto Santo (Madeira). And it is in the film recordings that she ends up meeting Augusto Cabrita. “It was in the shootings of As Ilhas Encantadas that I met Augusto Cabrita. I was in Porto Santo, without make-up on, just with my hair tied up and, when I showed up all dressed up, he was very disappointed and did not want to photograph me like that. I had to tell him: « I am Amália Rodrigues, not Hunila, and I want photos of my own. »”, says in her biography to Vítor Pavão dos Santos.

These were her participation on the big screen as the protagonist. Besides those, Amália did also shorter appearances in various films.

Special participations

Even without playing the main role, Amália and her voice are present in various films.

In Fado Malhoa, a set of 1947 short films directed by Augusto Fraga and shot in Madrid. Amália appears singing the theme “Fado Malhoa” with Jaime Santos, in a recreation of the painting O Fado. In the film Sol e Toiros, from 1949, Amália arises in a tribute scene to the bullfighter and interprets the fado “Silêncio”. Música de Sempre (Musica de Siempre) is a 1955 musical, constituted by a succession of musical frames recorded in studio sets – Amália Rodrigues enters in the film singing the theme “Lisboa Não Sejas Francesa”. In 1955, she enters the film Os Amantes do Tejo, a very important film in Amália’s international career. In this film she interprets “Barco Negro” and “Solidão”. Primavera em Portugal (April in Portugal) is a 1955 short film of travel, in a trip through Lisbon – Amália appears in the Alfama neighbourhood singing the themes “Coimbra” and “Canção do Mar”. The interpretation of the theme “Coimbra” had a such a huge success that it became known as “Abril em Portugal”. Canções Unidas (Las Canciones Unidas) was a 1960’s work signed by four directors, with a selection of great names of the music of all over the world, where each country exposes their culture with the interpretation of a musical theme – Portugal presents fado, with Amália Rodrigues interpreting “Uma Casa Portuguesa”. The 1966 film Via Macau (Via Macao) counts with her interpretation of “Le Premier Jour du Monde”. Finally, in 1991, she enters the film Até ao fim do mundo, directed by Wim Wenders – Amália appears in an electric train talking to a couple of sweethearts and applauding them.

A project to be carried out with Anthony Quinn

Amália left some projects to be carried out. One of them, who knows if not the most important of them all, was with Anthony Quinn. The invite happened when Amália went to Cannes to receive an award at M.I.D.E.M. (1967). Quinn suggested that she participated in Bodas de Sangue, by Lorca. It was all agreed on and there were even exchanged letters. However, the inheritors of Lorca did not give permission to make the film. Anthony Quinn wrote to Amália, asking her to choose another argument, but as she says in her biography to Vítor Pavão dos Santos:

“(…) I am too sloppy and did not know how to look for an argument, I did not have trust in myself, I was embarrassed to ask people for help, I did nothing. I did not even answer him. It was a shame!”