The Violet Seller

The Violet Seller, better known under its Spanish title La Violetera, is a 1958 Spanish-Italian historical jukebox musical film produced by Benito Perojo, directed by Luis César Amadori and starring Sara Montiel, Raf Vallone, Frank Villard, Tomás Blanco and Ana Mariscal.[1]

The Violet Seller
La Violetera - 1958 film poster - Spain.jpg
Spanish theatrical release poster
SpanishLa Violetera
ItalianLa bella fioraia di Madrid
Directed byLuis César Amadori
Produced by
Screenplay byJesús María de Arozamena
Story by
  • Manuel Villegas López
  • Jesús María de Arozamena
  • André Tabet
Starring
Music byJuan Quintero
CinematographyAntonio L. Ballesteros
Edited byAntonio Ramírez de Loaysa
Color processEastmancolor
Production
companies
  • Producciones Benito Perojo (Spain)
  • Vic Film (Italy)
  • Trevi Cinematográfica (Italy)
Distributed by
Release date
  • 6 April 1958 (Spain)
  • 29 June 1959 (Italy)
Running time
108 minutes
Countries
  • Spain
  • Italy
LanguageSpanish

The film was inspired by the song "La Violetera" composed by José Padilla in 1914, with lyrics by Eduardo Montesinos, that is incarnated in the film by Montiel as Soledad, a street violets seller who, after meeting and breaking with Fernando, the love of her life, becomes a famous singer who sings the song in her concerts.[2]

The Violet Seller received excellent reviews upon its release on April 6, 1958, although some reviewers found the plot too trite and conventional. Montiel's performance was widely praised while the production and the remaining main cast received generally positive reviews. It was immensely popular in Spain and it had a wide international release making it the worldwide highest-grossing Spanish-language film made up to that point.

The film's soundtrack garnered also excellent reviews, had a wide international release and received a Golden Disk award for the number of records sold.

PlotEdit

Madrid. December 31, 1899. On New Year's Eve, Soledad, a street violets seller and a novice variety show singer at Salón Bolero music hall, meets Fernando, an influential and wealthy aristocrat, and they immediately fall in love with each other.

Fernando is under constant pressure from his older brother Duke Don Alfonso, who reminds him of his duties, including his engagement to Countess Doña Magdalena. Even though their union is impossible due to social inequality, Fernando opposes the social norms and causes a scandal in Madrid's high society circle by moving Soledad into a luxurious apartment and announcing their engagement. Alfonso dies in a duel trying to defend Fernando's honor. Now being a Duke, feeling guilty of his brother's death and trying to obey his will, Fernando breaks up with Soledad. But, only some hours later, he realizes that he can not live without her and he returns to the apartment that she has just left to go to Paris with Henri Garnal, an important theatrical French producer that was impressed when seeing her singing that same day.

In Paris, Soledad becomes a famous singer star. Fernando marries Magdalena and leaves Spain when appointed ambassador to Brazil while Soledad gives concerts in the best theatres all around Europe accompanied by Garnal. In her debut in Madrid, Soledad and Fernando meet again, he tries to explain what happened, confesses her his love and asks her to leave with him; she confesses her love back but she eventually refuses him. When going to the United States for her debut on Broadway, Soledad survives seriously ill and Garnal dies on the sinking of the RMS Titanic. After a long recovery, having lost her singing voice, sad and lonely, she can not manage to get a job in Paris and she runs out of money.

Nearly ten years after becoming a widower, Fernando returns to Madrid, on New Year's Eve, when he is appointed to be a minister in the government. He finds Soledad at Salón Bolero music hall, trying to make a modest come back lip-synching "La Violetera" to one of her old recordings in front of an audience, with the orchestra miming. She is stunned when she sees him, and misses her cue, but she gathers her courage and, with great effort, is able to sing in tune the song in full when the orchestra starts to play the music live. They come together in a big hug and they kiss each other while the people in the hall celebrate the New Year.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

DevelopmentEdit

After the unexpected success of Montiel's singing leading role in The Last Torch Song, a low-budget musical film that became a blockbuster,[3] in June 1957 she signed with producer Benito Perojo a lavish contract to make four films in three years,[4] being the first of them The Violet Seller, a large-budget international co-production musical film that was initially intended for Carmen Sevilla.[5] Montiel retained some control over the production in regards to the songs and her wardrobe. The economic agreement was 10 million pesetas[a] (US$240,000) for four films,[6] which means that she was to receive 2.5 million pesetas (US$60,000) per film, making her the highest-paid Spanish star at a time when the highest-paid stars were netting 1 million pesetas (US$24,000) per film.[7] With the success of The Violet Seller, and in a contractual dispute for the next film, A Girl Against Napoleon, the agreement was improved on her benefit.[8] Many years later, she began to say that she had been paid more than US$1 million (42 million pesetas)[b] for each of these films,[9] and the press widely spread it, but this amount is far from what was published back then.

Following the successful formula already used in The Last Torch Song, a list of cuplés, made famous at the late 19th Century and early 20th Century by singers like Raquel Meller, were arranged to fit to Montiel's voice by composers Juan Quintero and Gregorio García Segura and the corresponding musical numbers were tucked into the plot and were carefully staged to make her shine on-screen.[10] Initially, Montiel's role was scripted to sing only three songs, but she insisted on including up to twelve songs.[f] She even selected the songs, supervised their arrangement and recording and made sure they fit the plot properly.[11] She also required the hiring of top international stars, Italian actor Raf Vallone and French actor Frank Villard, to stage along her.[11]

FilmingEdit

Principal photography began in November 1957 under the direction of Luis César Amadori,[12] and took place at CEA Studios in Madrid where the full-scale period sets were constructed under the art direction of Enrique Alarcón.[13] It was mainly filmed on studio by cinematographer Antonio L. Ballesteros in colorful Eastmancolor, and only a few scenes were filmed on location in Madrid.[14] As the film was a co-production with Italy, in mid-January 1958, some scenes were filmed in Turin and in Milan to comply with the requisites in place to be a co-production.[15][16] In late January 1958, some exterior footage was filmed on location in Paris.[17] The songs were recorded by Hispavox and, as usually those days, the dialogues were added during post-production. For the Spanish original version, Spanish actors were dubbed by themselves and foreigners were dubbed by Spanish voice actors.[18] The score was composed and conducted by Juan Quintero.

Costumes were designed by Joaquín Esparza. Montiel was dressed by Humberto Cornejo and by Spanish haute couture firms Vargas Ochagavía and Marbel. Mariscal was dressed by Vargas Ochagavía and the general wardrobe was provided by Cornejo.[19]

CensorshipEdit

The film had to deal during production with Francoist film censors that condemned what, according to them, was an immorality in some plot lines and an excessive sensuality of Montiel on-screen. They even cut a scene off that was showing Montiel neckline too close and another that was showing excessive love effusiveness between the main characters.[20] It premiered in Spain only authorized for audiences over 16 years old.[21] This rating was lowered to only authorized for audiences over 14 years old later and it was eventually rated suitable for all ages.

ReleaseEdit

Premiere and initial releaseEdit

The Violet Seller opened on April 6, 1958 in Spain.[21] That same evening, the formal premiere was held in a grand gala at the 1,400-seat Rialto theatre in Madrid,[22] with a big crowd blocking the Gran Vía. The demand for tickets was so high at the Rialto that they had to start selling them up to five days in advance to avoid crowds at the ticket window.[23] The film was running there for 31 weeks,[24] making it the second highest grossing film in Madrid in the 1950s,[c] only surpassed by The Last Torch Song.[25] On April 11, it opened at the 1,643-seat Tívoli theatre in Barcelona,[26] and it was running there for 26 weeks.[27] After its exclusive first-run in over 25 theatres in major Spanish cities, it entered general release the following season and was running across the country for several years.[28] In Italy, it opened on June 29, 1959 in 3 theatres in Rome.[29]

The film had a wide international release with the dialogues dubbed or subtitled into other languages in non-Spanish speaking countries, while the songs kept in their original version. Perojo claimed to have received offers from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures for the world release of the film but that he had already pre-sold the rights to distributors in some countries.[8] In English it was initially titled Buy My Violets,[30] but although its official title is The Violet Seller, it is widely named under its Spanish title La Violetera. The worldwide box office was initially estimated in over US$5 million,[8] beating The Last Torch Song, the worldwide highest-grossing Spanish-language film made up to that point, and catapulting Montiel's career as an actress and a singer even more.[31]

An alternative cut of the film was released in some countries. In this 90 minutes version some scenes were slightly altered with additional footage not present in the original version, such as the musical number of Soledad on tour around Europe where some footage was replaced with other showing her singing "Cuore ingrato". The alternative version opened on July 10, 1959 in France.[32] On July 18, it premiered in Paris at the 4,670-seat Gaumont-Palace, the largest cinema in the world at the time.[33] In two years, it sold two million tickets across France, reaching 2.7 million tickets sold in the following years.[32]

Home videoEdit

The film was released on videocassette and DVD several times in different countries, and after a digital High-definition remastering and restoration, it was released on March 13, 2014 on Blu-ray in Spain.[34]

ReceptionEdit

 
Montiel was praised for her performance.

Critical responseEdit

Upon its release, the press generally gave The Violet Seller excellent reviews; however, while its production values and acting were universally recognized, some reviewers of the time found the plot too trite and conventional.[35]

A. Martínez Tomás wrote for La Vanguardia that the plot is only a pretext for an artistic and personal exaltation of Sara Montiel, it is full of clichés, the anachronisms are blatant throughout it and the action has a very conventional line but its attractive force and its aesthetic emotion are maintained throughout the film.[26] ABC, in its Sevilla edition, felt that in a national film had never been such brilliant nuances, to attract attention and suggest the viewer, who follows the incidents of the emotional and entertaining narration so closely that the growing interest in each scene becomes irrepressible until its culmination.[36]

Much of the praise was reserved for Montiel in particular, for her acting, singing, charming, beauty and sensuality. ABC felt that such is her performance that no Spanish actress could surpass her in this performance, inimitable, natural and unique, which undoubtedly reaches the character of quite an event.[36] Vallone, Mariscal, Villard and Blanco were also praised for their performances.[36]

Other aspects of the production praised were the "attractive and sumptuous" costumes, the "beautiful" Alarcón scenography, the "graceful" selection of cuplés, the "excellent" Ballesteros cinematography and the "expert and clever" Amadori direction.[26][37]

AccoladesEdit

The Violet Seller and Miracles of Thursday represented Spain at the special onetime World Film Festival organized within the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.[38] Montiel received the Medal for Best Actress and Alarcón received the Medal for Best Set Decoration at the 1958 Cinema Writers Circle Awards.[39] The film received the Award for Best Spanish Picture and Montiel received the Award for Best Spanish Actress at the 1958 Triunfo magazine annual vox populi poll.[40][41] The film received the 2nd place Award for Best Picture, endowed with 250,000 pesetas, and Montiel received the Award for Best Actress at the 1959 National Syndicate of Spectacle Awards.[42]

Critical re-evaluationEdit

In revisiting the film recently critics give the film mixed reviews; although its historical value within the History of Spanish cinema is universally recognized, they find it old-fashioned, sexist and overemotional.[43]

Guillermo Altares wrote in 1994 for El País that it's cinematographic value nowadays is almost non-existent.[43] Cristina Veganzones wrote in 2016 for ABC that one of the most sexist phrases in History is sang by Montiel in "Es mi hombre".[44] Fernando Méndez-Leite stated in 2018 in Televisión Española that the film is not exactly a musical film, it is a melodrama with songs.[5]

SoundtrackEdit

Sara Montiel Performs The Songs Of The Film The Violet Seller
Soundtrack album by
Released1958
StudioHispavox
GenreCuplé
LabelHispavox
Sara Montiel chronology
Baile con Sara Montiel
(1958)
Sara Montiel Performs The Songs Of The Film The Violet Seller
(1958)
Besos de fuego
(1958)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Billboard     [45]

The soundtrack album of the film titled Sara Montiel Performs The Songs Of The Film The Violet Seller[d] (Spanish: Sara Montiel interpreta las canciones de la película «La Violetera») was originally released in 1958 in Spain by Hispavox in one LP[46] and three EP.[47][48][49] It was released in different vinyl editions in Italy, Portugal, France, Greece, Israel, Japan, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and the United States.[50]

All songs in all released editions are performed by Sara Montiel. There are three additional cuplés performed in the film, "Soy castañera" (by Larruga) and "La primavera" (by Cadenas, Retana, Badía) performed by Tony Soler and "Venga alegría" (by Tecglen, Casanova) performed by Blanquita Suárez, that were not included in any of the editions.[13]

ReceptionEdit

The soundtrack topped sales in Spain and in Latin America and, in July 1959, Hispavox served a Golden Disk award to Montiel for the number of records sold there.[51] She netted the 10% of the records sale as royalties from the recordings.[52]

It also garnered excellent national and international reviews upon its releases. In the United States, on October 27, 1958, Billboard magazine picked it as "The International Album Billboard Spotlight Winner of the Week" for being one of the best releases in the Columbia Records' "Adventures In Sound" series.[45] On September 25, 1961, Billboard rated the album reissue with "4 Stars Strong Sales Potential" rating.[53]

Spanish original editionEdit

LP - HH 1114 - Side A
No.TitleWriter(s)Conductor / arrangementLength
1."La Violetera"
García Segura3:36
2."Mimosa"Martínez AbadesQuintero2:38
3."Flor de té"Martínez AbadesQuintero2:46
4."Bajo los puentes de París (Sous les ponts de Paris)"ScottoQuintero2:30
5."Gitana[e]"Tabet 2:20
6."Frou Frou"ChatauQuintero2:59
LP - HH 1114 - Side B
No.TitleWriter(s)Conductor / arrangementLength
1."Mala entraña"Martínez AbadesQuintero2:18
2."Rosa de Madrid"
  • Soriano
  • Barta
Quintero2:15
3."Nada[e]"
  • Camorra
  • Segura
  • Montiel
 3:17
4."Tus ojitos negros"
  • Vivas
  • Barta
García Segura2:33
5."Cuore ingrato «Catarí»[f]"
Quintero2:31
6."Agua que no has de beber"Martínez AbadesGarcía Segura2:25
7."La Violetera (bis)"
  • Padilla
  • Montesinos
Quintero4:20
EP - HH 1751 - Side A
No.TitleWriter(s)Conductor / arrangementLength
1."La Violetera"
  • Padilla
  • Montesinos
García Segura3:36
2."Bajo los puentes de París (Sous les ponts de Paris)"ScottoQuintero2:30
EP - HH 1751 - Side B
No.TitleWriter(s)Conductor / arrangementLength
1."Mimosa"Martínez AbadesQuintero2:38
2."Flor de té"Martínez AbadesQuintero2:46
EP - HH 1752 - Side A
No.TitleWriter(s)Conductor / arrangementLength
1."El Polichinela"
  • Valverde
  • Cadenas
Quintero2:00
2."Frou Frou"ChatauQuintero2:59
EP - HH 1752 - Side B
No.TitleWriter(s)Conductor / arrangementLength
1."Agua que no has de beber"Martínez AbadesGarcía Segura2:25
2."Cuore ingrato «Catarí»"
  • Cardillo
  • Cordiferro
Quintero2:31
EP - HH 1753 - Side A
No.TitleWriter(s)Conductor / arrangementLength
1."Mala entraña"Martínez AbadesQuintero2:18
2."Es mi hombre (Mon Homme)"
Quintero2:25
EP - HH 1753 - Side B
No.TitleWriter(s)Conductor / arrangementLength
1."Tus ojitos negros"
  • Vivas
  • Barta
García Segura2:33
2."Rosa de Madrid"
  • Soriano
  • Barta
Quintero2:15

ReissuesEdit

The soundtrack has been reissued several times in different countries in vinyl, cassette and CD. In 2010 it was remastered and released in CD first and for music download later.[50]

LegacyEdit

In popular cultureEdit

Correos, the Spanish postal service, issued in 2014 a sheet of stamps in tribute to three recently deceased famous Spanish cinema artists: Sara Montiel, Alfredo Landa and Manolo Escobar. The stamp that pays tribute to Montiel depicts her in a scene from The Violet Seller.[54] In 2016, Fotogramas film magazine listed Soledad Moreno among the "25 Most Elegant Characters in Spanish Cinema".[55]

NotesEdit

^ a. In Spain, 10 million pesetas (€60,101) in 1957, adjusted for inflation using the consumer price index, in 2020 would be approximately €3 million,[56] while its purchasing power would be between 10 and 16 million €.[57]
^ b. The exchange rate in June 1957 was of 42 pesetas to the United States dollar.[58]
^ c. Back then in Spain, boxoffice grosses were a secret kept by exhibitors for tax reasons. The only guide to estimate them was the length of the first-run and the capacity of the venue.[24] It was not made mandatory to officially communicate the number of tickets sold until January 1, 1965.[59]
^ d. The soundtrack was released under the English titles Sara Montiel Interpret The Songs Of The Film La Violetera in Israel and La Violetera, Original Sound Track Recording in Canada and the United States.
^ e. The songs "Gitana" and "Nada" do not appear in the film. In the Spanish LP original edition they replaced "El Polichinela" and "Es mi hombre (Mon Homme)" which were released on two separate EPs.
^ f. In the Spanish original version of the film, Montiel sings eleven different songs and she reprises "La Violetera" with a different arrangement. She sings an additional song, "Cuore ingrato «Catarí»" that, although not present in the Spanish original version of the film, appears in the alternative version released in some countries.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Mira, Alberto (2010). Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema. Scarecrow Press. p. 239. ISBN 9780810859579.
  2. ^ ""La violetera", in "Historia de nuestro cine"". Diez Minutos (in Spanish). 11 June 2018. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
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  4. ^ "Montiel signs with Benito Perojo a contract to make four films in three years". ABC (in Spanish) (Madrid ed.). 15 June 1957. pp. 68–69. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "History of our cinema - La Violetera (introduction)". RTVE (in Spanish). 12 June 2018. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  6. ^ "Sarita Montiel And Perojo Near An Adjustment". Variety. 3 September 1958. p. 11. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  7. ^ "Spain's Top Stars Bursting Bounds Of the Economy". Variety. 17 July 1957. p. 13. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c "Spain's Sarita Montiel Global Allure Makes Her Trading Item With Yanks". Variety. 13 May 1959. p. 21. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
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  12. ^ "Spain Pix Prod. Back To Normal After Lag". Variety. 6 November 1957. p. 11. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Bolín, Guillermo (28 December 1957). "Sara Montiel will sing ten "cuplés" in "La Violetera"". Blanco y Negro (in Spanish). pp. 73–76. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
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  23. ^ "Rialto theatre announcement". ABC (in Spanish) (Madrid ed.). 6 April 1958. p. 87. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
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  31. ^ Edwin López Moya (12 April 2018). "New Sara Montiel biography is being written in Philadelphia". Al Día News. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  32. ^ a b "Box-office 1959". Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée (in French). 19 July 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  33. ^ "La Violetera". René Chateau Vidéo (in French). Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  34. ^ "Mercury Films and Divisa Home Video agree to launch 300 great films from Spanish cinema on Blu-ray and DVD" (in Spanish). Europa Press. 4 March 2014. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  35. ^ "Excellent performance by Sarita Montiel in "La Violetera"". La Opinión (in Spanish). 20 April 1960. p. 4. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
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  38. ^ "How Films Line Up For Brussels Fest". Variety. 21 May 1958. p. 26. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  39. ^ "1958 Spanish production Cinema Writers Circle Awards". Cinema Writers Circle (in Spanish). Retrieved May 16, 2020.
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  44. ^ Veganzones, Cristina (19 August 2016). "Sexist Scenes and Songs that Went Unnoticed at Their Time and Today Scandalize Us". ABC (in Spanish). Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  45. ^ a b "The Billboard Spotlight Winners of the Week". Billboard. 27 October 1958. p. 26. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  46. ^ "Sara Montiel interpreta las canciones de la película "La Violetera" - LP - HH 1114 - Spanish original edition". Discogs. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  47. ^ "Sara Montiel interpreta las canciones de la película "La Violetera" - EP - HH 1751 - Spanish original edition". Discogs. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  48. ^ "Sara Montiel interpreta las canciones de la película "La Violetera" - EP - HH 1752 - Spanish original edition". Discogs. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  49. ^ "Sara Montiel interpreta las canciones de la película "La Violetera" - EP - HH 1753 - Spanish original edition". Discogs. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  50. ^ a b "Sara Montiel interpreta las canciones de la película "La Violetera" - LP - All releases". Discogs. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  51. ^ "Golden Disk Montiel". Variety. 15 July 1959. p. 19. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  52. ^ Werb, Hank (16 July 1958). "Chronicle from Madrid". Variety. p. 62. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  53. ^ "Reviews of New Albums". Billboard. 25 September 1961. p. 41. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  54. ^ "Spanish cinema. Sara Montiel, Alfredo Landa and Manolo Escobar". Correos (in Spanish). Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  55. ^ Iglesias, Iván (17 October 2016). "The 25 Most Elegant Characters in Spanish Cinema". Fotogramas (in Spanish). Retrieved June 13, 2020.
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External linksEdit