Nationality: Spanish. Born: Fernando Casado Arambillet Veiga in La Coruña, 20 September 1917. Education: Attended Donoso Cortés Academy, Madrid; University of Madrid School of Architecture. Military Service: Fought for the Republic, Spanish civil war, 1936–39. Family: Married the actress Mabel Karr, 1960, daughter: Mabel. Career: 1936—film debut as extra in Nuestra Natacha; worked at dubbing foreign films (famous for his voice of Laurence Olivier); worked on stage in Las mocedades del Cid at Teatro Español and in plays for Francisco Melgares's company: a few later stage roles since the 1940s (in Anouilh's Becket, 1968); 1961—first of series of films by Buñuel, Viridiana; 1971—role in The French Connection brought international popularity; 1977—in TV mini-series Jesus of Nazareth, A.D., 1985, I Bromessi Sposi (The Betrothed), 1988; also served as president of the Spanish Academy of Cinematographic Arts & Sciences. Awards: Best Actor (co-recipient), Cannes Festival, for Viridiana, 1961; Best Actor, Cannes Festival, for Elisa, My Love, 1977; Best Actor, Spanish Goya Awards, for Diario de invierno, 1988. Died: Of bladder cancer, in Madrid, 9 March 1994.
Films as Actor:
Nuestra Natacha (Perojo) (as extra)
La gitanilla; Los cuatro Robinsones (The Four Robinsons)(Maroto)
Eugenia de Montijo (Rubio); El rey que rabió
Los últimos de Filipinas (Román); Misión blanca; Tiera sedienta (Gil)
La Pródiga (Gil) (as José)
Reina Santa (Gil) (as Infante Alfonso); La Princesa de los Ursinos; Don Quixote de la Mancha (Gil) (as Sanson Carrasco); Fuentovejuna (Román); Noche de Reyes (Lucia)
Locura de amor (The Mad Queen) (Orduña) (as Don Filipe el Hermoso); Si te hubieses casado con migo (Tourjansky)
Las aventuras de Juan Lucas (Gil)
Augustina de Aragón (Orduña); Mare Nostrum (Gil) (as Ulises)
Cielo negro (Mur-Oti); La Señora de Fátima (Gil); Esa pareja feliz (That Happy Pair) (Bardem and García Berlanga)
¡Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall! (Welcome, Mr. Marshall!) (Bardem and García Berlanga) (as narrator); Cómicos (Comedians)(Bardem); La laguna negra (Castillo)
Rebeldia (Conde); El Alcalde de Zalamea (Maesso); Aeropuerto(Lucía); Cabaret (Manzanos)
Marcelino, pan y vino (The Miracle of Marcelino) (Vajda);Tangier Assignment (Leversuch) (as inspector)
Un marido de ida y vuelta (Lucia)
Faustina (de Heredia); El amor de Don Juan (Berry) (title role); Una aventura de Gil Blas (Jolivet); Marcelino (Vajda)(as Brother Moderno); Pantaloons (Berry) (as Don Inigo)
La vanganza (Vengeance) (Bardem) (as Forastero); Les Bijoutiers au clair de lune (The Night Heaven Fell; Heaven Fell That Night) (Vadim)
Culpables (Castillo); Les habitantes de la casa deshabitada(Ramirez); Parque de Madrid (Salabery)
Sonatas (Las adventuras del Marques de Bradomin) (Bardem)(as Capt. Casares); Operación Relampage; Las dos y mediay venuno (Ozores); Nacido para la música (Né pour la musique) (Salvia)
Fabiola (Blasetti); Los ultimos dias de Pompeya (The Last Days of Pompeii) (Bonnard) (as High Priest); Don Lucio y el harmano pio (Conde); A las cinco de la tarde (Bardem);Teresa de Jesús (Orduña); La rivolta degli schiavi (The Revolt of the Slaves; Die Sklaven Roms) (Malasomma) (as Valerio)
Viridiana (Buñuel) (as Don Jaime); Goliat contra los gigantes(Goliath against the Giants) (Malatesta) (as Bokan)
Schéhérazade (La Schiava di Bagdad) (Gaspard-Huit andBourdon); Rogelia (Gil); La cara del terror (Face of Terror; Face of Fear) (Ferry) (as Dr. Charles Taylor);Tierra brutal (The Savage Guns) (Carreras) (as Don Hernán)
El espontánes (Grau) (as Painter); Dios eligió sus viajeros(Ozores); The Ceremony (Harvey) (as Sanchez); The Running Man (Reed) (as police official); El valle de las espadas(The Castilian; Valley of the Swords) (Setó) (as Ramiro II)
Los palomas (Gomes); El señor de la salle (Amadori); La nueva cenicienta (Sherman); Echappement libre (Backfire;Scappamento aperto) (Jean Becker)
España insolita; Misión Lisboa (Demicheli); Zampó y yo(Lucia); Cartas boca arriba (Cards on the Table) (Franco);The Amazing Dr. G (Simonelli); Totò de Arabia (Totò d'Arabia) (de la Loma); Due mafiosi contre Goldginger(Dos de la Mafia) (Simonelli); Cartes sur table (Attack of the Robots) (Franco)
Don Quixote (Rim); Dulcinea del Toboso; Das Vermachtnis des Inka (El Ultimo Rey de los Incas; Viva Gringo; Zevetut na Inkata) (Marischka) (as President Castillo); Campanadas a medianoche (Chimes at Midnight; Falstaff) (Welles) (as Worcester); Los jueces de la Biblia (Dolz and Baldi); El hijo del Pistolero (Son of a Gunfighter) (Landres) (as DonFortuna); Return of the Seven (Kennedy) (as priest); El Greco (Salce) (as King Philip II)
Un dollaro a testa (Navajo Joe) (Corbucci) (as Parson Rattigan);Robo de diamantes (Run Like a Thief) (Glasser) (as Col. Romero); Le Vicomte règle ses comptes (The Viscount)(Cloche) (as Marco Demoigne); Más allá de las montañas(Beyond the Mountains; The Desperate Ones) (Ramati) (as Ibram); Amor en el aire (Amadori) (as Saldiez)
Villa Rides (Kulik) (as Col. Fuentes); Le Avventure e gliamori di Miguel Cervantes (The Young Rebel; Cervantes;Les Aventures extraordinaires de Cervantes) (Sherman) (as Philip II); I Grande condottieri (Gideon and Sampson)(Baldi) (as the stranger); Une Histoire immortelle (The Immortal Story) (Welles—for TV) (as merchant)
Candidato per un assassino (Un sudario a la medida; Candidate for a Killing) (Elorrieta); Guns of the Magnificent Seven (Wendkos) (as Quintero); Fellini Satyricon (Satyricon)(Fellini); Il Prezzo del potere (The Price of Power) (Valerii)(as Pinkerton); El libro del buen amor (Marcos) (as voice)
Land Raiders (Day of the Landgrabbers) (Juran) (as priest);¡Vamos a matar, compañeros! (Compañeros) (Corbucci)(as Prof. Xantos); The Adventurers (Lewis Gilbert) (as Jaime Xenos); Tristana (Buñuel) (as Don Lope); Muerte de un presidente (Valerii); Los frios ojos miedo (Castellari);Histoira de una traición (Conde); Coartada en disco rojo (I due volti della paura) (Demicheli)
La cólera del viente (Camus and Colizzi) (as Don Antonio);La Luz del fin del mondo (The Light at the Edge of the World) (Billington) (as Capt. Moriz); The French Connection (Friedkin) (as Alain Charnier); A Town Called Hell (A Town Called Bastard) (Parrish) (as blind farmer); Bianco, rosso e . . . (The White Sister; The Sin) (Lattuada) (as chief physician)
La duba (Gil); Chicas de club (Grau); Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie)(Buñuel) (as Ambassador Raphael Acosta); Questa specie d'amore (Bevilacqua)
Antony and Cleopatra (Charlton Heston) (as Lapidus); La Chute d'un corps (Palac); Senso unico (One Way) (Mauceri);Zanna bianca (White Fang) (Fulci); La polizia incrimina, la legge assolve (High Crime) (Castellari); Tarot (Forqué);Pena de muerte (Grau); El mejor alcalde, el Rey (Gil)
Dites-le avec des fleurs (Grimblat) (as Jacques); La Femme aux bottes rouges (The Lady with the Red Boots; The Women with the Red Boots) (Juan Buñuel) (as Perrot); Fatti di gente perbene (La Grande Bourgeoise; The Murri Affair;Drama of the Rich) (Bolognini) (as Augusto Murri);Corruzione al palazzo di giustizia (Aliprandi)
Cadaveri eccellenti (Illustrious Corpses) (Rosi) (as Ministerof Security); French Connection II (Frankenheimer) (asAlain Charnier); Pasqualino Settebelleze (Seven Beauties;Pasqualino: Seven Beauties) (Wertmüller) (as Pedro); Il Contesto; ¿Existio Otra Humanidad? (Marcos—doc)
Le désert des Tartares (Il deserto dei Tartari; The Desert of the Tartars) (Zurlini) (as Nathanson); Strip-Tease (Lorente);A Matter of Time (Minnelli) (as Charles van Maar); Voyage of the Damned (Rosenberg) (as Cuban president)
Elisa, Vida mia (Elisa, My Love) (Saura) (as Elisa's father);Cet obscur objet de désir (That Obscure Object of Desire)(Buñuel) (as Mathieu)
Uppdragnet (The Assignment) (Arehn) (as Roberto Bidara);Dulce Piel de Mujer (Honey) (Angelucci)
Quintet (Altman) (as Grigor); Le Dernier amant romantique(The Last Romantic Lover) (Jaeckin) (as Max); L'Ingorgo(Traffic Jam; Bottleneck) (Comencini) (as Carlo);Caboblanco (J. Lee Thompson) (as Tereda)
El Crimen de Cuenca (Miro)
Tragala, pervo (Artero); La vera storia della signora delle Camelie (Bolognini); Casta e pura (Samperi)
Cercasi Gesu (Comencini) (as Don Filippo); Estrangeira(Grilo); Monsignor (Perry) (as Santoni); Pablo Picasso Pintor (Rossif) (as voice); Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (Sinkel—for TV)
Bearn o la Sala de Munecas (Chavarri)
The Hit (Frears) (as Chief Inspector); Un Amour interdit(Dougnac); Elogia della pazzia di desiderio erasmo (Aquerre)
Padre Nuestro (Our Father) (Regueiro) (as Cardinal); Rustler's Rhapsody (Wilson) (as railroad colonel); El Caballero del dragon (Colomo) (as Fray Lupo); Black Arrow(John Hough—for TV)
Saving Grace (Robert M. Young) (as Cardinal Stefano Biondi);Tiempo de silencio (Aranda); Hotel du paradis (Bokova)(as Joseph); Mi General (My General) (de Arminan) (asAdm. Comesana)
El Bosque encantado (The Enchanted Forest) (Cuerda) (as Mr. d'Abondo)
Captain James Cook (Clark—for TV); Diario de invierno(Requeiro) (as Father); Moon over Parador (Mazursky) (as Alejandro); Pasodoble (Sanchez) (as Don Nuno); El Tunel(The Tunnel) (Drove) (as Allende); El aire de un crimen(Isasi-Isasmendi); Esmeralda Bay (Franco) (as Ramos)
La bataille des trois rois (The Battle of Three Kings; Tambores de fuego; Drums of Fire) (Barka) (as Papa)
Diceria dell'untore (The Plague Sowers; A Breath of Life)(Cino) (as doctor); Naked Tango (Schrader) (as Judge Torres); A Breath of Life (Cino)
La Vida Lactea (The Milky Life) (Esterlich)
1492: The Conquest of Paradise (Ridley Scott) (as Friar Marchena); La Marrana (José Luis Cuerda)
Al Otro Lado del Túnel (At the Other End of the Tunnel; The Other Side of the Tunnel) (de Arminan); Madregilda(Regueiro)
By REY: articles—
"Fernando Rey y la generosidad de los actores," interview with F. Sánchez, in Cine (Mexico), March 1979.
"Entretien avec Fernando Rey," interview with J.-P. Bleys," in Positif (Paris), June 1986.
On REY: book—
Cebollada, Pascual, Biografia y peliculas de Fernando Rey, Barcelona, 1992.
On REY: articles—
Current Biography 1979, New York, 1979.
Bulnes, J., "Les immortels du cinema: Fernando Rey," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), 18 January 1990.
Obituary in New York Times, 10 March 1994.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 14 March 1994.
* * *
The cinema has produced a number of distinguished collaborations in which one senses a very special relationship between director, actor, and character: one thinks of Fellini and Mastroianni in La dolce vita and 81⁄2, of Bergman and von Sydow in the period from The Seventh Seal to Shame, of Ozu and Chishu Ryu through a long sequence of films. Such a relationship clearly existed between Luis Buñuel and Fernando Rey, and it is for his work with Buñuel that Rey is justly celebrated.
The precise nature of the director/actor/character relationship needs to be defined with care and delicacy: it is clearly different from case to case, and seldom a simple matter of the actor "representing" the director within the narrative. That description is perhaps closest to the truth in the case of Fellini and Mastroianni, and furthest from it in that of Buñuel and Rey. Superficially, it might even appear that Buñuel used Rey to depict precisely the kind of character toward which he has always been antagonistic—the wealthy bourgeois-capitalist patriarch. Yet for all his attacks on the bourgeoisie, Buñuel always had the honesty to acknowledge his own membership in it, and as he entered old age (the precise point where Rey enters his work) the acerbity of his films became increasingly mellowed by compassion and generosity. Rey's characters are always presented critically, they are always "wrong"; but Buñuel's point about them is that they cannot be right, that their entrapment in social structures and social conditioning is irreversible. So, while they are treated ironically and without sentimentality, Buñuel's love for them, rooted in a fellow feeling that derives doubtless from their age, is beyond dispute.
Rey's conservative Don Jaime in Viridiana, complexly associated with sexual repression, classical music, and emotional depth, commits suicide, making way for his illegitimate son, "progressive," promiscuous, opportunistic, and shallow. Both Tristana and Cet obscur objet de désir develop, painfully and sympathetically, a theme established in Viridiana, the elderly man's erotic and masochistic obsession with a beautiful young woman. Paradoxically, Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie gives him the most monstrous characteristics yet extends to him the most explicit forgiveness: he, of all the characters, at the end of the film is allowed to enjoy a meal undisturbed. The forgiveness entails three conditions: he eats because he is hungry, not to enact a reassuring bourgeois ritual; he sends his servant to bed and gets the food himself; he has just dreamed of the annihilation of his entire class (or at least of all the characters who represent it in the film). The last point, especially, suggests the basis for Buñuel's tenderness towards Rey's characters: their patriarchal position is invariably qualified by vulnerability and a profound unease.
In addition to his seminal work with Buñuel, Rey also had a number of fine performances for other noteworthy directors: Juan Antonio Bardem and Luis García Berlanga (¡Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall! and Esa pareja feliz), Orson Welles (Chimes at Midnight), Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), and Carlos Saura (Elisa, My Love, for which Rey won a best actor award at Cannes). But the role for which he is best known in the United States was his smooth French drug kingpin, Alain Charnier, in William Friedkin's worldwide smash The French Connection. Unfortunately, aside from his reprisal of Charnier in John Frankenheimer's excellent sequel French Connection II, Hollywood rarely handed Rey such juicy roles in which he could showcase his talent. The last two decades of his career until his death in 1994 pushed his number of film appearances over 150 but did not generate much of note. Rey did, however, in 1992 have a very well received lead role as Don Quixote in a critically acclaimed Spanish television series.
—Robin Wood, updated by David E. Salamie