Fernando Rey
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Fernando Rey

Born on the 20th of September 1917, Fernando Rey played a significant role in the Spanish film industry. He was involved in television, theatre and film, three genres in which his natural talent blossomed and led to roles such as the fictional and well known character Don Quixote. He expanded his comfort successfully, performing within the United States as well as throughout Europe. His career has spanned over several decades and the actor has over 200 films to his name as well as several awards. Originally studying architecture at university, he was forced to change his plans due to the Spanish Civil war. He passed away on the 9th of March 1994 leaving behind a legacy of productions for new generations to appreciate.

The Early days and Progression in Cinema

Fernando Rey first got his foot in the door as an extra from 1936 onwards, and even managed a few small credited roles as well. It was at this time that he decided upon his stage name, Fernando Rey (Rey meaning King in Spanish). Once he had some experience under his belt, he was awarded his first speaking role in 1944 as the Duke of Alba in the film Eugenia de Montijo, directed by José López Rubio. In 1948, he played the part of the Spanish King, Felipe I el Hermoso, in the hugely successful Spanish film, Locura de amor.

This marked the beginning of a long and successful career in cinema as well as other forms of media such as radio, theatre and television. Rey also worked as a dubbing actor on Spanish television as well as a narrator on a number of important films such as Bienvenido, Mister Marshall in 1953 and Marcelino pan y vino in 1955.

International Period

The 1960s and 70s were a busy time for Rey. In 1960, he married the Argentinean actress Mabel Karr, with whom he had a son named Fernando Casado Campolongo a year later. These decades were also the time when he began working with the Spanish surrealist director, Luis Buñuel. It was thanks to this partnership that Fernando Rey got international recognition, becoming the first real international Spanish actor.

Together, Buñuel and Rey had a number of successes, including the movies Viridiana (1961), Tristana (1970), and El discreto encanto de la burguesía (1972); the latter won an Oscar for the Best Film in a Foreign Language. Their last success was the film Ese oscuro objeto del deseo in 1977, which was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, but lost out on both of them. However, Fernando Rey then went on to appear in a number of cinematic works in places like Italy, France, the UK and the US.

Over the years he had the chance to work with several important and influential artists. Fernando managed to capture the role of the villain in the French Connection 1 & 2, and his ability to speak English and French over his competition impressed the production team. His first taste of international success was in The Night Heaven Fell. Other works include Spaghetti Western and the political The Price of Power.

One of Fernando Rey's most famous roles however, was the role of Don Quijote which he played a significant amount of times. It was in fact one of his last roles to play, featuring in El Quijote de Miguel de Cervantes, which was directed by Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón for Spanish television. The work was met with notable success.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Fernando Rey appeared in even more works. He also received a number of awards during this time including a prize at the film festivals in San Sebastián and Cannes, as well as the Gold Medal from the Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematográficas de España. He also won a Goya Prize for Best Actor. Rey was also made the president of the Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematográficas de España in 1992 up until his death in 1994. Fernando Rey died at the age of 76 from cancer; a sad loss for the world of Spanish cinema.

Notable Films & Productions of Fernando Rey

  • Viridiana
  • Tristana
  • The Night Heaven Fell
  • Don Quixote
  • The French Connection 1 & 2
  • The Price of Power