Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Restoration & New Print
A major restoration of this film has been done by Charles Doble. He has restored the ballets to their full length (they were cut in the version shown on TV) and restored some of the missing scenes from the back story.
The restored film had its premiere at the San Sebastian film festival in September 2002. It was shown three times at the festival. For the first screening, Charles introduced it, giving some of the background to the film & details of the restoration. For the second screening, Charles had had to go home but by then Ian Christie & star of the film Rosita Sergova had arrived in San Sebastian, so they came to see it.
Because the film had only just been printed there was a slight delay each time they changed reels, but that was the only thing wrong with it. It was wonderful to see it on the wide screen, as it was intended to be seen. The colours were gorgeous, bright & clear. The restored sections of the ballets meant that they now make complete sense, fitting well into the story.
The main story is really a sort of travelogue around Spain (which is why it was so appropriate to show the restoration in Spain) with some dance interludes.
Mainly set to the music of "The Honeymoon Song" by Mikis Theodorakis, performed here by Marino Marini and his quartet, it was subsequently recorded by many people including The Beatles.
Ballet dancer Anna (Cato?) (Ludmilla Tchérina) has just given up the ballet to marry Kit Kelly (Anthony Steel). They are touring Spain for their honeymoon before going to live on the sheep station that Kit runs in Australia. They arrive in Spain and start driving around in their open top Bentley. They soon encounter a large American car driven at high speed, but they have hopes that they won't meet up with those maniacs again - some hope :)
As the American car races past them at high speed, Kit comments that they must get through a lot of tyres. Sure enough, we next see them having to change their burst tyre. The car is driven by the famous Spanish dancer Antonio (Antonio) and his wife Rosita Candelas (Rosita Sergova). They are a fiery couple, always arguing and when Antonio goes down to a stream to wash up after changing the tyre, Rosita drives away without him. Antonio, stranded in the middle of nowhere, starts dancing down the road in his classic Zapateado.
Kit & Anna drive by and offer Antonio a lift. Anna declares she is hungry & and Antonio says he knows where they can get a good Spanish breakfast. They drive in to the "Tavern del Toro" where Antonio is known and start to eat a wonderful breakfast. Antonio thinks he has seen Anna before but she says that this is her first trip to Spain. One old lady pushes forward her daughter (granddaughter?) who she wants to dance for Antonio. Lucia (Carmen Rojas) dances the "El Macarona (?)" flamenco but then Antonio asks the musicians to play "El Taranto" to really see what she can do. After a short while Antonio joins her and there follows some of the sexiest dancing I've ever seen on screen.
Rosita turns up at the end of the flamenco and another argument ensues so Kit & Anna slip away.
The honeymoon continues and Kit & Ann arrive at their hotel just in time to admire the sunset. They want to learn some Spanish but everyone insists on speaking English to them. After a delightful meal, where Kit insists on drinking only Pepsi Cola, they retire to their room where Anna does her best to distract Kit from his book on "Fertility and Animal Breeding". That Kit's a real romantic :) Next day, after a bit more travelogue, Kit & Anna enter the bar - only to find Antonio is already there. They are introduced to the "cocktail set" and discover who Antonio is.
Anna goes to Antonio's studio where they are rehearsing his new ballet, "Los amantes de Teruel" (The lovers of Teruel) as a classical ballet but with a Spanish style. Anna has some suggestions to help the pas-de-deux. When she says she can't explain them, only show him, he realises she is a dancer and at last discovers who she really is. As Anna dances with Antonio neither are aware that Kit has come to the studio and is watching, not very pleased that his wife is dancing again. We see that Antonio's company includes Rosita and that Lucia has now joined them as well.
Kit and Anna travel south (a bit more travelogue) and go to see the painting "The burial of Count Orgaz" by El Greco. Kit suddenly has an artistic streak awakened and uncharacteristically declares that that is how Antonio's ballet should be staged. They then visit the Mosque at Cordoba and other places
Early the next morning Kit goes off to help a breeder of bulls with his round-up and Anna is taken to the Alhambra at Granada by Antonio. They dance around the palace in a light hearted flirtation and Anna declares that she really has given up the ballet and is willing to settle down with Kit. Antonio isn't so sure. When they go to join Kit he has switched from Pepsi Cola to wine (at last) and there is a mild confrontation between Kit and Antonio. The film is building up to the two men representing Don Diego & Don Pedro, competing for the attentions of Doña Isabel in the story of "Les amantes de Teruel" (The Lovers of Teruel) which will be the finalé of the film.
Kit and Anna go to see a performance of "El amor Brujo" (Bewitched Love). The story is that of a girl who's lover had died but now haunts her and prevents her from getting on with her life (& new lover). The lead is beautifully danced by Antonio & Rosita with a cameo from Léonide Massine as the ghost (an incredible performance given his 60+ years) and Carmen Rojas as the girl's friend who tries to lure the ghost away. Also seen are Antonio's sister Pastora as the sorceress. The restored version contains the full ballet, a lovely mixture of classical ballet and flamenco style. Some Powell touches may be seen here as they dance through the gypsy caves with the "slithy toves" (creatures from beyond the grave) and the wide screen shot with Antonio & Rosita dancing in one cave & Carmen & Massine in another. While Antonio is dancing he is flirting with Anna much to Kit's disgust. Anna & Kit argue that night.
The next night, in Teruel, the guide (the voice of the guide is actually Michael Powell) explains the legend of the lovers of Teruel to Kit and Anna as they stand on the terrace looking at the statues. But Anna falls ill and develops a fever. In her fevered imagination she hallucinates the story of the Lovers of Teruel as a great ballet, with Ludmilla dancing the part of Doña Isabel and Antonio as Don Diego, her lover. Of course it would have been better had Anthony Steel danced the role of Don Pedro, the man Isabel was forced to marry - but Tony Steel was no dancer. Again a mix of classical ballet and Spanish style, with Antonio looking good in his Moorish make-up. The restoration contains the full ballet to the music of Manuel de Falla. The final funeral has the echoes of the El Greco painting mentioned earlier.
The next morning Antonio comes to visit Anna, now in hospital with Kit by her side. We learn that Anna and Kit will be off to Australia in a few days and Kit thinks that at last they have seen the last of Antonio. But no, he tells them he is starting a world tour!
Antonio dances out of the hospital and the camera says farewell to Spain.
A film with some drawbacks, mainly in the travelogue sequences which seem very tame and dated nowadays. But the restored version shows that the dance sequences are as exciting as they ever were. They are now complete ballets and make much more sense and fit the overall story much better.
At San Sebastian we had the pleasure of seeing it with Rosita Sergova and talking to her about it afterwards. She was very open in her praise for her fellow performers and expressed delight at seeing so many familiar places and faces, especially those at Antonio's studio.
See pictures of Rosita Sergova and others at the festival.
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