Cast & Crew
In 1576, Domenikos Theotokopoulos, known as El Greco, arrives in Toledo to execute a commissioned altarpiece. That summer he falls in love with an aristocratic Castilian, Jerónima de las Cuevas, while painting her portrait. Though he has won the favor of both Church and State, El Greco is rejected as a suitor by Jerónima's family; moreover, she is already betrothed to a young nobleman, Don Luis. Jerónima, despite her growing love for El Greco, remains bound by her vows and kisses the painter goodby. Their farewell is witnessed by Don Luis, who has been brought to the scene by Pignatelli, an old enemy of El Greco's. After El Greco has been wounded in a duel by Don Luis, he paints a humiliating caricature of Pignatelli. The latter retaliates by planting evidence of witchcraft in the artist's home. Jerónima learns of the plot but is unable to prevent the arrest and imprisonment of her beloved. In time, El Greco's eloquent definition of his art wins him an acquittal from the Cardinal Inquisitor, and he is released. Seeking Jerónima, he learns that she died giving birth to his child. The grief-stricken painter falls into a melancholia that is destined to remain with him the rest of his life. After years of restless wandering, he begins spending more and more time at a mental institution where, by studying the faces of the inmates, he finds the inspiration for some of his greatest paintings. One day he is joined by a young apprentice--his son born of Jerónima.
John Francis Lane
Rosi Di Pietro
Oscar De Arcangelis
Grazia De Rossi
John Francis Lane
Juan Albert Roses
Teatro Studio Of Madrid
José De Valdiviesco
Mario Van Riel
Tag line for El Greco
One of the major problems facing filmmakers hoping to bring the lives of the great painters to the screen is finding something dramatic to tie together shots of their masterpieces. Vincente Minnelli had the perfect topic when he filmed Lust for Life (1956), which focused as much on the madness of painter Vincent Van Gogh (Kirk Douglas) as on his work. Alexander Korda tied Rembrandt (1936) together with the scandals surrounding the painter's love life, with Charles Laughton caught between shrewish wife Gertrude Lawrence and loving mistress Elsa Lanchester. For this 1966 biography of the Greek-born painter whose unique vision invigorated the Spanish Renaissance, producer-star Mel Ferrer combined romance with royal intrigue, some of it invented. The result was a visually and musically rich but dramatically specious production.
The film accurately captures El Greco's problems in securing royal patronage once he travels to Spain from Italy, where he had begun building his reputation as an artist. The painter's style -- combining elements of the Byzantine and the Renaissance to create his characteristically elongated figures and working with crude, unmixed colors -- was a marked departure from his contemporaries' more measured approach to painting. As a result, his work was often rejected by those who had commissioned it. To flesh out the story, writers Juan Garcia Atenza and Rodrigo Rivero Balestia drew on sketchy accounts of El Greco's female companion or possibly common law wife, Jeronima de las Cuevas, to create a love story in which the artist falls in love with a nobleman's daughter already engaged to another. This leads to a duel with his beloved's fiancé and his being called before the Spanish Inquisition. At least the roles were well cast, with Italian beauty Rosanna Schiaffino as Jeronima, character actor Adolfo Celi as her father and Angel Aranda as her intended.
The real power of the film, however, lay in its photography and music. Ferrer had the film shot on location in Rome, Madrid and Toledo, often filming in the places where El Greco had painted, including Santo Domingo el Antiguo in Toledo. Cinematographer Leonida Barboni captured those locations beautifully while also matching the film's color palette to the rich colors in El Greco's paintings. For the score, director Luciano Salce turned to Ennio Morricone, who had previously composed music for five of his films, including The Fascist (1961) and Crazy Desire (1962). Morricone had also worked with such up-and-coming Italian directors as Bernardo Bertolucci, Lina Wertmuller, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Lucio Fulci and Sergio Leone. His work for the latter on classic spaghetti Westerns like The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) would make him an international sensation. For El Greco he combined native Spanish music to create atmosphere with soaring passages for orchestra and chorus to create one of his best romantic themes.
At the time, Ferrer was probably best known as Audrey Hepburn's husband, though he had also worked as an actor and director. His most popular role had been the lame puppeteer in Lili (1953), starring Leslie Caron. El Greco was only his second film as a producer and the first for which he accepted credit (he had produced without credit for the 1965 Spanish comedy Every Day Is a Holiday, which he also directed and wrote). His most successful effort as a producer would come with his next film, Wait Until Dark (1967), the classic thriller starring Hepburn.
El Greco premiered in Europe in 1966, but took almost a year to reach the U.S. Although 20th Century-Fox had bought U.S. distribution rights, it did not put its logo on the film. Perhaps that was a wise choice, as the best reviews went to the cinematography. Writing in New York Times, Bosley Crowther praised Barboni's work as "so technically perfect and exquisite it puts the dreary goings-on to dismal shame," while complaining that "Like so many films about nonconformists, which El Greco is solemnly said to be, it is so conformist and predictable it could have been stamped out by a machine." Time magazine was equally dismissive: "El Greco, like every movie biography of a master painter, uses the artist's art in much the way that a schoolgirl uses paper lace to decorate her valentines. On the heart of this large mushy studio card, dripping with De-Luxe color and local color (from stunning location sites in Spain), is the usual message: Be Mine."
The film faded quickly at the box office, making it difficult for fans to find and assess for themselves, a particular loss for those intrigued by descriptions of Barboni's cinematography and Morricone's score. In 2007, Greek director Yannis Smaragdis released his own film biography of El Greco, with Nick Ashdon in the title role. The film did very well in Greece, where it swept the Greek State Film Awards.
Director: Luciano Salce
Producer: Alfredo Bini, Mel Ferrer
Screenplay: Guy Elmes, Luigi Magni, Massimo Franciosa, Luciano Salce
Based on a story by Juan Garcia Atienza, Rodrigo Rivero Balestia
Cinematography: Leonida Barboni
Score: Ennio Morricone Cast: Mel Ferrer (Domenico "El Greco" Teotocopulo), Rosanna Schiaffino (Jeronima de las Cuevas), Adolfo Celi (Don Miguel de las Cuevas), Mario Feliciani (Nino de Guevara), Franco Giacobini (Francisco), Renzo Giovampietro (Brother Felix), Angel Aranda (Don Louis), Fernando Rey (Felipe II)
Filmed in Toledo, Spain. Opened in Rome in August 1966; in Paris in May 1967 as Le Greco.
Released in United States 1966
Released in United States 1966