Don Quintin the Bitter (1935)

Run Time - 86 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Don Quintin (Alfonso Munoz) is the boorish husband of Felissa (Luisita Esteso). When his wife becomes pregnant, Quintin assumes she's been unfaithful and walks out on her. The baby is born in a charity ward, whereupon Quintin, hoping to put the whole affair behind him, deposits the kid with a poverty-stricken family. Years later, the grown-up daughter (Ana Maria Custodio) comes into contact with the thoughtless Quintin once more. This time, however, Quintin isn't going to be able to ignore her: the girl's fiancé has sworn to kill the errant father on the spot! Don Quintin el Amargao (Don Quintin, the Bitter) was the first production of the Spanish Filmfono company. As with all of Luis Buñuel's early Spanish talkies, Buñuel refused to be credited for his role as the auteur of this film, and a clause of the contract he signed with Filmofono specified that his name be kept out of the credits. Credited director Luis Marquina had been moved up from the position of an assistant sound engineer. But Marquina proved so incompetent that Buñuel directed much of Don Quintín el Amargao himself, although when asked about it in later years, he merely stated that "My job was to keep my eye on the production so that it would stay within the budget." Nonetheless, Don Quintín el Amargao was huge commercial success in Spain, and is important to the development of Spanish cinema for several reasons. It was the first zarzuela -- a specific kind of soap opera/opera that is popular on the Spanish stage -- ever to be filmed in sound. Only a tiny fraction of Spanish-language films made prior to the Spanish Civil War were based domestically, and most of these films were poor attempts to compete with American and French imports. Don Quintín el Amargao was made specifically as an escapist piece of entertainment directed at the Spanish public, including themes and actors familiar from Spanish theater and the tradition of madrileños.