Category: Once Upon a Time in Almería

Nelson Algren and Simone De Beauvoir’s Road Trip Through Franco’s Spain  

Only a handful of photographs exist of Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren together from a love affair that persisted, mostly across the Atlantic ocean, for over a decade. Possibly the last photograph of them together is from a visit to Spain in May 1960. In the photograph, they stand with Catalan writer Juan Goytisolo to their right along the wall of the Alcazaba, an old Moorish palace, in Almería. A glimpse of the mountainous landscape beyond can be seen over Goytisolo’s shoulder. Beauvoir, in the middle, looks intently into the camera with the air of a school teacher, while […]

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Spartacus: Between Spain and Hollywood  

Spartacus was supposed to be filmed entirely in California. By 1960 there was growing alarm about the impact of “runaway” productions, which sought to cut costs by filming overseas, on Hollywood. Edward Muhl, longtime production director for Universal Studios, which was financing Spartacus, sought to demonstrate that an epic film could be made entirely in the US. Kirk Douglas, both producer and star, brought on a young Stanley Kubrick to direct (after firing Anthony Mann from the job). Kubrick, however, wanted to film in Europe. In the end, while the interiors and much of the first half of the film […]

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Remembering Joe Strummer  

Joe Strummer died sixteen years ago, on December 22, 2002. He had a life-long love for Spain, and particularly Almería. He traveled around Andalucía, became obsessed with Federico García Lorca, spent many hours in bars around Granada, and eventually bought a house in the village of San José on the coast of Almería. The Bar de Jo, along the coast at Los Escullos, paid homage to Strummer every summer, but was sadly shuttered this year. The 2011 documentary Quiero tener una ferretería en Andalucía (“I Want to Have a Hardware Store in Andalucía”–he loved hanging out at the local hardware […]

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50 Years Ago Today in Rome ….  

50 years ago today, on December 20, 1968, Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ was released in Rome. The film used multiple locations in southeastern Spain, constructing the town of Flagstone was along the train tracks near Guadix and McBain’s Sweetwater Ranch in the Tabernas desert. The log cabin ranch house is now the centerpiece of ‘Western Leone‘, one of three film sets turned tourist attractions. In contrast, little remains of Flagstone except for a few brick structures now partially incorporated into an adjacent chicken farm.

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Is this Hollywood?  

“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)

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The Attack on Aqaba  

“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 four full-size cannons on the hills above, and shipped 450 horses and 150 camels over from Morocco. Soon after, Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia would lead an army down from the hills to overtake the mock town.” From the essay accompanying the photographs. This […]

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La Calahorra  

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. Once Upon a Time in Almería: The Legacy of Hollywood in Spain’ (Daylight Books 2017)

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Playa de Monsul  

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 carefully crop out the Mediterranean Sea. In The Wind and Lion (1975), Connery “rescues” (or recaptures) Candice Bergen and her two children from a gang of thieves as they are camped out at the Playa de Monsul. And in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade […]

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The Cave of Conan  

Some of the cave scenes from Conan the Barbarian were filmed inside a large cavern in the quarries of La Molineta, on the outskirts of Almeria city. The cave also appeared in Fort Apache (1972) and other Westerns, and later housed an underground set for the film Solarbabies (1986). In 2011, the site was slated for redevelopment as the site of a future shopping mall. Demolition crews began to tear away at the rock while a group called “Salvemos La Molineta” held demonstrations to have the site declared a cultural treasure. But the economic crisis brought work to a halt, […]

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El Condor  

Originally an elaborate fortress constructed in 1969 for the film El Condor, this site was reused over the years for a variety of films, usually involving lots of dynamite. Titles include Blindman (1971) —with Ringo Starr as a love-struck Mexican thief—A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die (1972), Get Mean (1975), Conan the Barbarian, and Dollar for the Dead (1998)—a Sergio Leone tribute starring Emilio Estevez. The painted signs that appear—‘Pension Coyote’—are leftovers from the making of Italian film Honolulu Baby (2000), set in a nameless South American town populated entirely by beautiful women. The ‘Pension Coyote’ originally served […]

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