“Castilla y León: cinema setting” is a photographic exhibition, organized by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports, through the Castilla y León Film Commission that compiles images of the most notable international productions filmed in Castilla y León during the 50s-70s.
The Council of Culture, Tourism and Sports inaugurates on February 8 at the Provincial Historical Archive the exhibition “Castilla y León: cinema setting” that can be visited until March 31. The exhibition includes reproductions from the Spanish Film Archive, Provincial Historical Archive of Ávila, Provincial Historical Archive of Soria, Torrelobatón City Council, the Álvaro de Castro Photographic Fund and the Alamy Agency.
The exhibition includes some of the many scenes recorded in locations in Castilla y León, with real natural and heritage settings. The renowned director Orson Welles filmed six feature films in Spain and four of them immortalized settings in Castilla y León. Segovia, Pedraza and Valladolid are part of the locations of “Mr. Arkadin” (1955). At the Colegio de San Gregorio in Valladolid, the masked ball scene took place with almost 300 extras, among them, the writer Miguel Delibes. In “Pride and Passion”, by Stanley Kramer (1957) and with a luxury cast starring Sophia Loren, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra, the wall of Ávila is dynamited with cannon shots in the final scene of the production.
“El Cid” (1961) is an epic film directed by Anthony Mann starring Charlton Heston and Sofía Loren, with scenes shot in Ampudia (Palencia) and Torrelobatón (Valladolid) that required the participation of hundreds of extras. In “The Fall of the Roman Empire” (1964) by Anthony Mann, the Sierra de Guadarrama, in particular La Pedriza, the Granja de San Ildefonso and the forests of Valsaín, witnessed the passage of the Roman legionaries. In “Doctor Zhivago” (1965) by David Lean, the Aldeadávila dam (Salamanca) became the scene of a Bolshevik construction; a large part of the exteriors were filmed in the province of Soria: among the pine forests of the Pantano de la Cuerda del Well; the Soria-Cañuelo station hosted three steam locomotives; The landscapes of Ólvega, with the imposing Moncayo in the background, were transformed into the Russian Ural Mountains, and the town of Candilichera housed the Barykino ice palace.
“Chimes at Midnight” (1965), one of Orson Welles’ most notable films, was filmed in various locations in Ávila, Segovia and Soria. The film “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly” (1966) by Sergio Leone, filmed some of the most iconic scenes of the film in the province of Burgos: the mission was recreated in the Monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza, the prison camp was built near Carazo, and the battle between the northerners and the southerners took place on the Arlanza River, near Covarrubias, as if it were the Río Grande. In the municipality of Contreras, 250 Spanish soldiers built the Sad Hill cemetery, a setting that was recovered in 2015 and has more than 8,000 tombs. “Robin and Marian” (1976) by Richard Lester, filmed some of its scenes in the Villalonso castle (Zamora).
Castilla y León: film setting
The 50s-70s were the golden years of independent production in Hollywood. With the rise of other media such as television, which provided similar and free entertainment content, producers were quick to react and decided to focus first on spectacle and, later, on eroticism. The spectacle included impressive outdoor filming, exciting action scenes, special effects and, of course, hundreds, or even thousands of extras, supporting the stars.
Thus a new Hollywood genre emerged: post-war epic cinema, which stood up to the content provided by television. Independent producers assumed the risk of large productions in exchange for marketing, distribution and commercialization services. And to reduce costs in the face of a possible commercial failure, they looked to Europe to film.
Spain was one of the places where independent producers went to film exterior scenes. Later, and thanks to the free publicity of the film star Ava Gardner who fell in love with Spain, the Spanish government became aware of the potential for tourist promotion that film production represented. In 1953, the Madrid Pacts were signed between Spain and the United States, and with this agreement a new climate was generated in the relationship between the two countries that favored greater development of audiovisual productions.
Starting with the filming of “Alexander the Great” in 1955, Spain became a destination for numerous film productions, thanks to its immense landscape and climatic possibilities. Super-productions began to arrive that chose Castilla y León as an alternative and complement to the filming that was taking place in Madrid. Its proximity to the capital, its varied natural landscape and its rich heritage attracted directors such as Orson Welles, David Lean, Stanley Kramer and Anthony Mann, putting the Community at the center of major international production companies.