De Abreu, Gilda 1905–1979

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de Abreu, Gilda 1905–1979

PERSONAL: Born 1905; died, June, 1979; married Vicente Celestino.

CAREER: Co-owner of opera production company with husband Vicente Celestino; owner of film production company; actress and singer in theater, radio, and film; film director, beginning 1946, including films O Ébrio, 1946, Pinguinho de gente, 1949, Coração materno, 1951, and Cançao de amor, 1977.


Chico Viola não morreu (screenplay; title means "Chico Viola Didn't Die"), 1955.

Bonequinha de sêda, [Rio de Janeiro, Brazil], c. 1967.

Mestiça, a escrava indomavel (screenplay), 1974.

SIDELIGHTS: Gilda de Abreu was an influential movie writer and director in the Brazilian cinema, but she was also a songwriter, singer, novelist, playwright, and, with her husband, Vicente Celestino, a producer of light operas for the Rio de Janeiro stage. De Abreu's directorial film debut, O Ébrio, was a huge success that seemed to promise she would be a rising star within the industry. However, chauvinism within the film production culture of the time proved too overwhelming for her to surmount.

An adaptation of a play by Celestino, O Ébrio is a musical melodrama and biopic that was wildly popular in Brazil. A record five hundred prints were made in order to meet theatrical exhibition demand for the film. The 1940s, however, were a difficult time to be a woman producing and directing films in Brazil. The famed Brazilian machismo made it difficult for de Abreu to gain the respect of her largely male crew, who had a hard time taking orders from a woman. De Abreu wore pants on the set of O Ébrio, to minimize her female appearance in an effort to gain her crew's confidence, but this ploy proved unsuccessful. Despite O Ébrio's blockbuster status, she was hindered by the gender divide and found it nearly impossible to round up a crew and financing for her second feature. This film, Pinguinho de gente, was not nearly as well received as her first. Consequently, de Abreu's problems as a woman in the film industry continued.

De Abreu took matters into her own hands by assuming the role of producer for her third feature, Coração materno. In addition to producing, writing, and directing the film, de Abreu acted in it, proving her versatility. However, a combination of factors, includ-ing machista attitudes and Brazil's economic downturn, caused de Abreu to quit filmmaking after just three films. She was persuaded in 1955, however, to write the script for Chico Viola não morreu, and in 1973 Lenita Perroy talked her into adapting one of her own stage plays for the screen.

The incredible box-office success of O Ébrio and the relative success of de Abreau's third feature, as well as her screenwriting efforts, have left aficionados of Brazilian cinema wondering how much more she might have contributed to the evolution of a national art form had she not been thwarted because of gender. As late as 1979, just prior to her death, De Abreu continued writing novels and plays, showing that her diverse talents remained vital even though she was out of the public eye.



Johnson, Randal, and Robert Stam, editors, Brazilian Cinema, expanded edition, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

Pick, Zuzana M., editor, Latin-American Film Makers and the Third Cinema, Carleton University Film Studies Program (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1978.