- Vajda, Ladislao
- (1906-1965)Before settling down in Spain in 1942, Laszlo Vajda already had an impressive list of directing credits in his native Hungary, and in France and Italy, made as he sought refuge from anti-Semitic laws. Vajda's father was the playwright and producer Laszlo Vajda, who was a scriptwriter for G.W. Pabst and worked with Michael Curtiz. After a career that took him to different countries and provided training in a variety of areas in the film industry, his son brought to Spanish cinema a precision and imagination in terms of framing that is most evident in Marcelino Pan y vino (Marcelino Bread and Wine, 1955) that can be traced to European art cinema of the 1930s. His films of the 1940s were mostly conventional comedies, in which he compensated with craft for the weaknesses of the material. It was only after he met scriptwriter José Santugini Parada in 1950, who would go on to become a frequent collaborator, that he reached maturity in the Spanish film industry, completing a series of very personal and highly accomplished projects in the decade that followed.Vajda shot two excellent police thrillers, Séptima página (Seventh Page, 1950) and, especially, El cebo (The Bait, 1958), an atmospheric Hispano-Swiss co-production about a serial child murderer from a script by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Another genre that suited his talent was the musical: he directed a number of them, including Ronda española (Spanish Tour, 1952), Aventuras del barbero de Sevilla (Adventures of the Barber of Seville, 1954), and his adaptation of the zarzuela Doña Francisquita (1953). Following a 1950s trend in Spanish cinema, he also directed a mountain-set story of fair outlaws, reminiscent of Hollywood westerns and rooted in populist Robin Hood legends, titled Carne de horca (Fated to be Hanged, 1953). Finally, he attempted a bullfighting drama with the intriguing Tarde de toros (Bullfighting Afternoon, 1956), an ensemble piece that follows the fates of several characters during a single corrida.But Vajda's best remembered films are the three projects he made starring child actor Pablito Calvo: Mi tío Jacinto (My Uncle Jacinto, 1956), Un ángel pasó por Brooklyn (An Angel Flew Over Brooklyn, 1957), and the legendary hit, Marcelino Pan y vino, one of the earliest Spanish film exports.Mi tío Jacinto remains an excellent illustration of Spanish neo-realism that replaces sentimentalism with social criticism. The narrative follows an orphan (Calvo) who tries to help his unemployed uncle. Un ángel pasó por Brooklyn uses the similar formula of a saintly boy who engages audiences' emotions. Marcelino remains his masterpiece, as well as one of the best crafted religious films made in Spain. It tells the story of an orphan abandoned at the gate of a monastery and brought up by the monks. He grows up enlivening their lives but painfully missing his mother. One day, he claims to have spoken to an image of Jesus Christ on the cross that was hidden away in an attic. The monks assume Marcelino is very sick, soon find him dead in the arms of Jesus. Vajda follows a literate approach that creates an effective aesthetic framework. Thanks to this, the film avoids some of the genre's pitfalls: it is told as a story and never attempts to present itself as reality.Vajda became a Spanish national in 1954. In the 1960s, he completed some international productions, financed by his own company. For his last title, La dama de Beirut (The Lady from Beirut, 1965), a Sara Montiel vehicle, he returned to Spain.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.