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Emilio Fernández

Emilio Fernández
Emilio Fernández in the film The Soldiers of Pancho Villa (1959)
Born Emilio Fernández Romo
(1904-03-26)March 26, 1904
Hondo, Coahuila, Mexico
Died August 6, 1986(1986-08-06) (aged 82)
Mexico City, Mexico
Years active 1928–1986
Spouse(s) Gladys Fernández
Columba Domínguez

Emilio "El Indio" Fernández (born Emilio Fernández Romo, Spanish: [eˈmiljo feɾˈnandes ˈromo]; March 26, 1904 – August 6, 1986) was a Mexican film director, actor and screenwriter. He was one of the most prolific film directors of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in the 1940s and 1950s. He is best known for his work as director of the film Maria Candelaria, which won the Palme d'Or award at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival.[1] As an actor, he worked in numerous film productions of Mexico and also in Hollywood.

Early life

Born in Sabinas, Coahuila, on March 26, 1904, Emilio Fernández Romo was the son of a revolutionary general and a woman descendant of Kickapoo Indians. He was the older brother of the mexican actor Jaime Fernández. From his parents he inherited the deep feeling and love for his country, as well as customs, indigenous beliefs and thoughts that led him to build his personality as a man of impetuous character. From his earliest years and throughout his life was characterized by a strong personality, brash character and strong indigenous roots, traits forged by the great influence exercised by his family in it.[2]

Being a teenager, a fatal event forced him to flee the home and enlist in the ranks of the Mexican Revolution. Later, he entered in the Military Academy (where in 1954 he was conferred the Colonel degree). He took part in the uprising of Adolfo de la Huerta against the government of Álvaro Obregón in 1923, but this insurrection failed and he was committed to prison, from which he escaped, to leave the country and go into exile first in Chicago and later in Los Angeles. There he earned his living as laundry employee, bartender, longshoreman, assistant press, and finally, in Mason near of Hollywood studios constructions; circumstances that favored his foray into film as an extra and double of stars like Douglas Fairbanks.

Model for the Oscar statuette

Fernández is often said to be the model for the Oscar statuette, although there is no historical evidence for this.[3] According to the legend, in 1928, MGM's art director Cedric Gibbons, one of the original Academy Award members, supervised the design of the award trophy by printing the design on a scroll. In need of a model for his statuette, Gibbons was introduced by his future wife, Dolores del Río to Fernández. Reluctant at first, Fernández was supposedly convinced to pose nude to create what today is known as the "Oscar".[4]


His appearance in the film industry, but casual at first, became a conviction, even reinforced, by the same De la Huerta, who told him: Mexico does not want or need more revolutions Emilio, you are at the Mecca of film, and film is the most effective tool we humans have invented to express ourselves. Learn to make movies and you return to our homeland with the baggage. Click our film so you can express your ideas so they reach thousands of people.[2] In 1930 he had an experience that significantly marked his career as a creator: his stay in the United States coincided with the arrival in the country of Sergei Eisenstein (Russian film director). Went to private screenings of his films and so impressed him, revealing a shape and different to those used in Hollywood aesthetics; three years later he was influenced after seeing fragments of Que viva Mexico! (Eisenstein film made in that country), consolidated his purpose of making films with a relentless and direct style, where the exaltation of both the strength and the beauty of Mexico was evident. Over time, this was evident in most of his films, in which the aesthetics of the Revolution, the evocation to the Mexican naturally and exaltation of patriotic are a constant.

He returned to Mexico in 1933, thanks to an amnesty granted by the government, with the firm decision to continue his film career, but during the first year he made a living as a boxer, diver in Acapulco, baker and aviator, until 1934, when he appeared in the film Cruz Diablo, directed by Fernando de Fuentes. His looks also landed him a starring role playing a native in Janitzio of Carlos Navarro.

"El Indio" well know the American intentions to keep busy in Mexico performing melodramas and films folklorists, away from the contradictions, helplessness and doom of the lower classes, but within this director seething desire to return and exit in defense of history, culture and national identity. That's why in 1941, with the financial support of General John F. Azcárate and impulse of his friend, the actor David Silva (then a law student), filmed La isla de la pasión with which he made his debut as a director. That same year he traveled to Cuba where he met the woman who would be his first wife, Gladys Fernandez, and he adopted her daughter Adela.

By 1943 he is contacted by the Mexican film Studios Films Mundiales. Emilio Fernández (director), Mauricio Magdaleno (writer), Gabriel Figueroa (photographer), Dolores del Río and Pedro Armendáriz (actors) conformed the team that achieved the biggest blockbusters of the time arose. His first works together were Flor silvestre, the film that debuted Dolores del Río in the Mexican cinema.

Next, Fernández filmed María Candelaria, for which he was awarded the Palm d'Or at Cannes[1] along with Gabriel Figueroa(1943). He developed his own style which had such an effect in the industry that his portrayal of rural Mexico became a standard for the film industry and also became the image of Mexico in the world.

In 1945, based on the history of American writer John Steinbeck (who adapted the screenplay in collaboration with him), filmed La perla, one of the most important films from his long filmography, considered by critics as a work of art; in it a story of ignorance and human misery, which was achieved by the superb photography of Figueroa and rigorous direction of Fernandez, an allegory about the limits of wickedness of man in his greed and desire for power account. With this tape again transcended internationally, winning the award for Best Cinematography, and a mention for Best Film contribution to progress in the Venice Film Festival (1947). Also received the Silver Ariel (1948) for Best Picture, Directing, Male Performance and Photography; the award of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (1949), and the award for Best Cinematography at the Festival of Madrid (1949).

By that time his career was at the pinnacle of success, then came the films that consolidated her style and strengthened their reputation in the world, among the most significant are: Enamorada with Maria Félix; The Fugitive which helped to address with the famous American director John Ford; Río Escondido (winner of Best Cinematography in the Karlovy Vary in Czechoslovakia); Pueblerina with his then wife Columba Domínguez and Maclovia, among the most important, all of them imbued with realism and a nationalist with a strong indigenous character and campirano where evidenced his love of the Mexican landscape and beauty in indigenous traits, attributes, for that time, would shape the image of Mexico in the world. In 1948, Salon Mexico won the award for Best Cinematography at the festival in Brussels, Belgium. Following with urban films, made in 1950 Víctimas del Pecado, starring by Ninón Sevilla, and Cuando levanta la niebla, with Columba Dominguez and Arturo de Córdova. In 1950, she filmed his only film in Hollywood The Torch, a remake of Enamorada starring Paulette Goddard.

Years passed, the aesthetics of Indio Fernández, seemed no longer own time, was criticized giving the adjective "precious" was accused of showing the world a false image of Mexico.

In the middle of the 1950s, the films of Fernández fall in decadence and he is relegated by other notable Mexican film directors like Luis Buñuel. Fernández returned to his role as actor. The 1960s represented a period of little work as director by contrast, in the field of acting their shares were abundant and appeared in: The Soldiers of Pancho Villa (1959), La bandida (1962); The Night of the Iguana (1964, directed by John Huston, where she shared credits with Richard Burton and Ava Gardner); Return of the Seven (1966); The Appaloosa (1966, with Marlon Brando), among many others. His 1967 film A Faithful Soldier of Pancho Villa was entered into the 5th Moscow International Film Festival.[5] He also acted in three films directed by Sam Peckinpah: The Wild Bunch (1969), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1973), and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1975).

During the last years of his life, he found it impossible to steer, and although his performances as an actor in many films in Mexico and abroad continued to be numerous, failed to restore happiness to the creation grant him. In the late 1970s he became a prisoner in Torreon, after found guilty of the death of a farmer. He left after 6 months probation, and the missing signature every week, due to an accident, he was again imprisoned. Those were hard times, in which he held his character and his passion for film. He was a man of 74 years, silent and taciturn, who refused to recognize the twilight of his career. Free again, back to its mythical house in Coyoacan, to live in solitude and sell your garden to survive. The actions followed, when the August 6, 1986 died, one of the most important directors of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.[2]


When he died, he left a void in the history of Mexican cinema, bequeathing: a filmography that sum around 129 films, countless beautiful images of the people, hundreds of evocations of a Mexico that was planned and loved the world, the memory a man who loved his country, his customs and its identity defended at all costs. A path was recognized repeatedly with the Ariel Award, the Colón de Oro in Huelva, Spain, and a chair with his name on the Moscow Film School. Emilio Fernández Romo was known for his visceral character, but also to achieve integrating a film crew that attracted the attention of the Merican and European films, both the dramatic power of their stories as indigenous character issues.

With Gabriel Figueroa as a photographer, Mauricio Magdaleno as a writer and actors Pedro Armendariz, Dolores del Rio, Maria Felix and Columba Dominguez, he conducted various productions that promoted national customs and values associated with the Mexican Revolution.

He was portrayed by Joaquín Cosio in the Mexican biographical film Cantinflas.

Personal life

He met a Cuban girl of 16 years old, who would be his first wife in 1941: Gladys Fernandez. His relationship as affected by the Emilio prowess to conquer the Hollywood diva: Dolores del Rio, an idyllic ghost present in the life of the actor. Gladys ended up abandoning. With her, he had a daughter, the writer Adela Fernández y Fernández.

His most stable relationship was with Columba Domínguez. They were together for seven years. The relationship collapsed because Columba "rebelled". Furthermore, Columba was pregnant and he did not want more children. She decided to have it without their consent and the breakup was brutal. His daughter, named Jacaranda, died tragically in 1978 falling from the top of a building.

He had other brief marriages with Gloria Cabiedes and a girl named Beatriz.

Fernandez was deeply in love with the British actress Olivia de Havilland, whom he never met. Fernandez asked the then president of Mexico Miguel Aleman to prolong a street in Coyoacán to his mansion to then name it Sweet Olivia. Thus, he always had near and symbolically (turned into street), always at his feet.[6]

After the death of Fernandez, broke a lawsuit between his daughter Adela and Columba Domínguez. Adela was named sole heir of his father and took possession of his house, an impressive fortress in the neighborhood of Coyoacán, in Mexico City, which Columba claimed as her own. And, according to Columba, Adela was not a biological daughter of Fernández. Fernandez adopted her when she was abandoned by her mother. Adela's death, which occurred in 2013, left the legal situation unclear.[7]

The House-Fortress of Fernández, run by his daughter Adela (until her death in 2013), became a room dedicated to various cultural activities of Mexico City, and has served as a backdrop for filming over one hundred Mexican and foreign films.


As director

Year Original title English title Production country Language Cast Award nominations
(Wins in bold)
1941 La isla de la pasión The Island of the Passion México Spanish Pedro Armendáriz, Isabela Corona
1942 Soy puro mexicano I'm truly Mexican Mexico Spanish Pedro Armendáriz, Andres Soler
1942 Flor Silvestre Wild Flower México Spanish Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz
1943 Maria Candelaria (aka Xochimilco) Portrait of Maria Mexico Spanish Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz Cannes Film FestivalPalm d'Or
1944 Las Abandonadas The Abandoned Mexico Spanish Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz Ariel Award - Best Actress
1944 Bugambilia Bugambilia Mexico Spanish Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz
1945 La perla The Pearl Mexico Spanish Pedro Armendáriz, María Elena Marqués Venice Film Festival - Golden Lion
Ariel Awards - Golden Ariel, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Cinematography
Golden Globe - Best Cinematography
1945 Pepita Jiménez Mexico Spanish Ricardo Montalbán, Rosita Dáz Gimeno
1946 Enamorada In Love Mexico Spanish María Félix, Pedro Armendáriz Ariel Award - Best Actress
1947 The Fugitive The Fugitive) United States English Henry Fonda, Dolores del Río
1947 Río Escondido Hidden River Mexico Spanish María Félix, Carlos Lopez Moctezuma Karlovy Vary International Film Festival - Best Photography
1948 Maclovia Maclovia (aka Damn Beauty) Mexico Spanish María Félix, Pedro Armendáriz
1949 Pueblerina Small Town Girl Mexico Spanish Columba Dominguez, Roberto Cañedo Cannes Film Festival – Official Selection
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival - Best Photography
1949 La Malquerida A Woman without Love Mexico Spanish Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz
1950 Salón México Mexico Lounge Mexico Spanish Marga López, Miguel Inclan Brussels Film Festival
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1950 Duelo en las montañas Duel in the Mountains Mexico Spanish Rita Macedo, Roberto Cañedo
1950 The Torch United States English Paulette Goddard, Pedro Armendáriz
1950 Un día de vida One Day of Life Mexico Spanish Columba Domínguez, Roberto Cañedo
1951 Vìctimas del Pecado Victims of the Sin Mexico Spanish Ninón Sevilla, Rodolfo Acosta
1951 Islas Marías Marias Islands Mexico Spanish Pedro Infante, Jaime Fernández
1951 La bienamada The Beloved Mexico Spanish Columba Domínguez, Roberto Cañedo
1952 Siempre tuya Always Yours Mexico Spanish Jorge Negrete, Gloria Marín
1952 Acapulco Mexico Spanish Elsa Aguirre, Miguel Torruco
1952 Cuando levanta la niebla When the Fog Lifts Mexico Spanish Columba Domínguez, Arturo de Córdova
1953 La Red (aka Rossana) The Red Mexico Spanish Rossana Podesta, Armando Silvestre Cannes Film Festival- Best Narration
1953 Reportaje Report News Mexico Spanish
1953 El Rapto The Rapture Mexico Spanish María Félix, Jorge Negrete
1955 La rosa blanca The White Rose Cuba Spanish Jorge Mistral, Rebeca Iturbide
1955 La Tierra del Fuego se apaga Tierra del Fuego is off Argentina Spanish Jorge Mistral, Bertha Moss
1958 Una cita de amor An appointment with love Mexico Spanish Silvia Pinal, Jaime Fernández 8th Berlin International Film Festival - Official Selection
1962 Pueblito Little Town Mexico Spanish Columba Domínguez, Lilia Prado San Sebastián International Film Festival - Las perlas del Cantábrico
1963 Paloma herída Wounded Dove Mexico/Guatemala Spanish Patricia Conde, Columba Domínguez
1967 Un Dorado de Pancho Villa A Faithful Soldier of Pancho Villa Mexico Spanish Emilio Fernández, Maricruz Olivier 5th Moscow International Film Festival - Official Selection
1969 Un Crepúsculo de un dios A Twilight of a God Mexico Spanish Emilio Fernández, Guillermo Murray
1974 La Choca la Choca Mexico Spanish Pilar Pellicer, Gregorio Casals Ariel Award - Best Direction, Best Supporting Actress, Best Photography, Best Edition
Karlovy Vary Film Festival - Best Direction
1976 Zona Roja Red Zone Mexico Spanish Fanny Cano, Armando Silvestre
1979 México Norte Mexico North Mexico Spanish Patricia Reyes Spindola, Roberto Cañedo
1979 Erótica Erotic Mexico Spanish Jorge Rivero, Rebecca Silva

As actor



  • Taibo I., Paco Ignacio (1987). Emilio Fernández <1904-1986>. Universidad de Guadalajara. ISBN 968-895-016-5. 
  • Domínguez., Columba (1987). Emilio Fernández "El Indio" que amé. 

External links

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