Category: Once Upon a Time in Almería

Candice Bergen on Almería: “It was the most romantic location of my life.”  

Candice Bergen was unfortunate enough to be kidnapped not once but twice along the southern coast of Spain in Almeria. It first happened in the 19th Century Old West (The Hunting Party, 1971). An outlaw (Oliver Reed) abducted her outside the schoolhouse, unaware she was the wife of a powerful cattle baron. Then, in 1904, while living in Morocco as an American expat, she was taken with her two children by the Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli (Sean Connery) and his band of Berber insurrectionists (The Wind and the Lion, 1975). She shows herself to be fearless, outsmarting and provoking her […]

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The Summer of 1970: Almeria becomes a global movie hub  

The summer of 1970 was a boom season for international movie productions in Spain. A long list of stars passed through Madrid and, of course, Almeria. Yul Brynner was here in June for Adios Sabata, then off to Yugoslavia for another production, before returning to Spain for The Light at the Edge of the World with Kirk Douglas. Omar Sharif and Jack Palance appeared in The Horsemen, Rod Steiger and James Coburn in Duck, You Sucker (Sergio Leone’s final Western), Robert Shaw and Martin Landau in A Town Called Hell, Oliver Reed and Candice Bergen in The Hunting Party, Faye […]

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Then and Now: The Attack on Aqaba  

Compare the beach at Algarrobico on the southern coast of Spain then and now in the video clip above. The city of Aqaba was reconstructed here in 1962 for the filming of this classic scene from Lawrence of Arabia. Though nothing remains of the set today, just the hulk of an abandoned hotel project. I previously wrote about the history of this spot on this blog here.

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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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