New from Daylight Books! 70 color images with essay by Director Alex Cox. Fifty years ago the province of Almería, in the far southeastern corner of Spain, came to refer to itself as “The Movie Capitol of the World.” International stars – Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Clint Eastwood, and many others—passed through the barren landscape. But the aura of Hollywood glamour was mostly fiction.
The neighborhood of La Chanca is a historically impoverished zone made up of small dwellings built into the hillside on the outskirts of the city. The inhabitants painted their homes using whatever ingredients were available, resulting in a multicolored patchwork. Ruins still remain of a nineteenth century lead mining and transport operation that ran down the mountain to the nearby port. La Chanca has long been home to a diverse population, including fishermen and their families, a strong community of gypsies, and, more recently, immigrants from Morocco. Over the years, writers and photographers have been drawn to this spot as well.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the region of Almeria, Spain, was host to dozens of filmmakers who constructed elaborate movie sets, invoking locations from the American Southwest to Bedouin Arabia. Films shot here include Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, and Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood. Film directors sought to manipulate the otherwise uninhabitable landscape in order to create a world more imaginary than real. Four decades later remnants of the old movie sets remain in the desert, providing seemingly tangible evidence of human settlements that never really existed.
In October 2008 I photographed the interior of the former Carabanchel prison in Madrid, one of the most infamous architectural landmarks from Spain’s decades of dictatorship. General Francisco Franco ordered construction of the complex in the 1940s to house the regime’s many political prisoners. After the prison was finally closed in 1998, the building became a haven for squatters, graffiti artists, and curious visitors. A month after my visit the entire structure was demolished to make way for a new urban development.
China is poised to become the largest motion picture market in the world. Box office revenues in mainland China have been growing rapidly and are expected to overtake the US in the next few years. This past February, during the Chinese New Year, box office receipts exceeded the US for the first time. Just in the past five years, the number of movie screens in China increased from about 6,000 to 30,000. At the current rate, about 16 new movie screens are being added each day, mostly in fast-growing second- and third-tier cities. And China now makes more movies than Hollywood. Around the country, entire towns have been constructed for the sole purpose of making movies.
“You can sit here and look around the back and think you were in Los Angeles. Except it hasn’t got that word ‘Hollywood’ scorched across it.” from an interview with the late Eddie Fowlie,... Read More.
“You can sit here and look around the back and think you were in Los Angeles. Except it hasn’t got that word ‘Hollywood’ scorched across it.” from an interview with the late Eddie Fowlie, David Lean’s “Dedicated Maniac” Once Upon a Time in Almería: The Legacy of Hollywood in Spain’ (Daylight Books 2017)
“In May 1962, an isolated beach on the barren southeastern coast of Spain suddenly bustled with activity. Hundreds of local farm hands had been hired to construct a replica of the Red Sea port of Aqaba, circa 1917. It took them three months to build over 300 false front buildings. They planted palm trees, placed […]
For the town of Flagstone in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), production designer Carlo Simi constructed a western street set at the La Calahorra train station near Guadix. Little remains today but the brick structures of the Phoenix Bank and the Hotel, which have been partially absorbed into an adjacent chicken farm. […]
Sean Connery appeared in scenes from at least three different films on this small Spanish beach. In Shalako (1968), Connery is a former US Cavalry officer who tries to save a European hunting party from a band of Apaches in New Mexico. The hunting ranch is adjacent to the Monsul beach, though the camera angles […]