Black Jack (1950)

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)

Penny Princess (1952)

Babes in Bagdad (1952)

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)

Come Die My Love (1952)

Decameron Nights (1953)

Our Girl Friday (1953)

That Man from Tangiers (1953)

The Robe (1953)

Malaga (Fire Over Africa) (1954)

The Black Knight (1954)

Mister Arkadin (1954)

King’s Rhapsody (1955)

Richard III (1955)

That Lady (1955)

Contraband Spain (1955)

Thunderstorm (1955)

The Spanish Gardener (1956)

Around the world in 80 Days (1956)

Zarak (1956)

Alexander the Great (1956)

Moby Dick (1956)

The Man Who Never Was (1956)

Port Afrique (1956)

Chase a Crooked Shadow (1957)

The Pride and the Passion  (1957)

The Sun Also Rises (1957)

Sail into Danger (1957)

Action of the Tiger (1957)

Spanish Affair (1957)

Across the Bridge (1957)

Tip on a Dead Jockey (1957)

Stowaway Girl (1957)

Sea Fury (1958)

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

South Pacific (1958)

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958)

The Man Inside (1958)

Wonderful Things (1958)

The Naked Maja (1958)

Solomon and Sheba (1959)

Suddenly Last Summer (1959)

John Paul Jones (1959)

North West Frontier (1959)

Honeymoon (1959)

It started With a Kiss (1959)

Tommy the Toreador (1959)

SOS Pacific (1959)

Action Stations (1959)


Black Jack (1950)

George Sanders, who would later make several films in Spain and finally commit suicide here, (although that kind of tourism is not encouraged), is the star, playing a drug smuggler in a film that suffered all sorts of setbacks during seven months of filming in Mallorca.

Among the turquoise waters of Mallorca’s glorious coves is Cala Barques, situated seven kilometres from Pollença, separated from Cala Clara by Punta dels Ferrers and belonging to the four beaches called Cala Sant Vicenç, the setting for this film.

The spectacular ravine and river at Torrent de Pareis was also used, and would become a popular set for many films to come, including ‘Cloud Atlas’.

Torrent de Pareis

Nicaresco, an immoral ship’s Captain comes ashore at Torrent de Pareis and then walks to Palma; a heroic feat if we know our geography.

He comes across George Sanders, painting to forget the war and flame-throwers, whose first words are “there’s something about Spanish architecture that gets me.”

Clearly this is a complex character, who quotes the Ancient Greeks as he drifts towards a clear conscience and death.

We see the castle of Bellver, on the outskirts of Palma, four times; three times in the distance, when Sander’s boat leaves harbour to check out the refugee ship, when he chases Nicaresco, recently turned mass murderer, through the harbour, and when the police set off to chase and kill poor George.


The best view however is when Mrs Burg arrives by plane and announces that she always wanted to buy a Spanish castle, as she circles above it.

The castle has some interesting legends and mythical characters, such as the witch Na Joana, who lived in a nearby cave and poisoned passers-by with her special brand of figs.

Many Spanish performers, including the legendary flamenco singer Lola Flores, participated in the film’s making.

One popular cabaret, later dance hall and discothèque, installed in an old windmill at Es Jonquet, even took its name from the film: ‘Jack el Negro’ in 1952.

‘Black Jack’ was directed by Frenchman Julien Duvivier, with Patricia Roc taking the female lead.

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)

Just as in Barcelona’s port a statue of Christopher Columbus looks out to sea, so from the heights of the Vila Vella castle with its 12th century walls at the Costa Brava’s Tossa de Mar, Girona, a statue of a scantily clad Ava Gardner has stared moodily out to sea since 2000.

In April 1950 that most beautiful of all animals was in Spain working on this film with James Mason.

Gardner may have been the best sexual beast for the job, or the studios may have wanted to put a few pants between her and her married lover Frank Sinatra.

Whatever the reason, Gardner spent most of her time filming the beach scenes at El Castell Tossa de Mar, while the interior scenes looked down upon the beach behind the emblematic towers of the castle; although this is in fact impossible, as there is nowhere in Tossa from where you could look down at that angle. It was in fact a studio fabrication.

Tossa Beach and Castle

The surrealist painter Man Ray contributed a painting, designed a chess set and did some of the still photography, which was after all shot in the town where Chagall had lived in the thirties; information not unknown to the art loving American director Albert Lewin.

Lewin chose Tossa over his original choices of Greece or Italy after a meeting with the Catalan businessman Albert Puig Palau in London in 1949. Palau, a film buff himself, convinced Lewin to visit the Costa Brava, and the die was cast.

The story does in fact take place in Spain, in the mythical seaport of Esperanza, which means ‘Hope,’ where the ghost of the Flying Dutchman, who has given up all hope (clever?), played spectrally by James Mason, becomes the object of Ava’s lust, when she’s not seducing her daily brace of bullfighters.

Mason plays the ghost with the passion of an old English butler, bringing a new dimension to the concept of stiffness, seemingly standing at eternal attention.

When Mason says “I love you Pandora,” he speaks like a true Englishman, making his declaration of love sound like a curt refusal to pay a library fine.

The love story contains a ‘ménage a cinq,’ with smouldering looks all around in what passes for passion among Anglo-Saxons. The five include a Spanish bullfighter, Mario Cabré, who, even if he plays it as rigidly as all the rest, does at least have the good taste and criteria to stab Mason in the back, only to be gored himself by a bull, which does not appear in the credits despite a welcome performance.

The bullfight took place in the ‘Plaza de Toros’ in Girona, now demolished, and the locals, unlike the citizens of Tossa, who were paid the princely sum of 25 pesetas a day to participate in the film, actually paid for the privilege of watching the ‘Corrida’.

It is never quite explained what a large group of obviously well-off, tuxedoed ex-pats are doing in Esperanza, a Catalan village (the fishermen are actually speaking the banned at the time Catalan language when they find the bodies at the beginning) or how their luxurious surroundings are integrated with an otherwise fairly poor fishing village, whose only bar looks and sounds suspiciously Andalusian, complete with gypsies dancing flamenco, one of which was a famous dancer of the time, La Pillina.

In real life the stars occupied suites at the Hotel Peninsular in Girona, an advertisement for which can be seen in the scenes shot in the town bullring. Ava Gardner had suite 103, although the press insinuated that she spent her nights in room 53 with the film’s bullfighter Mario Cabré, one of many Iberian machos who succumbed to her charms and liberal favours over the years. News of their passion reached Frank Sinatra in Hollywood, causing him to grab a plane to Spain, and arrive with a large emerald necklace (the colour of envy) and a vile temper.

Photos of Sinatra, accompanied by musician James Van Heusen, visiting the Villa Vella castle abound in Tossa, as do rumours and misinformation.

He finally caught up with Ava at La Gavina Hotel in S’Agaró, and whether this reunion resolved the problem caused by Ava’s ability to turn brave bullfighters into clinging children, is not known.

Gardner would later write in her auto-biography that she found Cabré presumptuous, proud and noisy, although she added that after a night full of stars, drinking and flamenco, she woke up the next morning in bed with him.

Tossa came off better in her book; she remembered it as having shady squares and bubbling fountains, with market stalls everywhere full of fish.

The Peninsular Hotel in Calle Sant Francesc, is run by Asunció Niccolazzi, whose grand-father had the dubious pleasure of serving Ava breakfast in her room. Her great grandfather had founded the hotel in 1853.

Asunció Niccolazzi

Surprisingly it was the presence of so many Americans that saw orange juice introduced onto the hotel breakfast menu, and Ava apparently ate nothing but strawberries, only using her room to change.

Asunció told me that she was present when Ava and Mario first met, in her hotel, and how he blushed when she kissed him on the cheek, maintaining that their romance was in reality an exercise in marketing.

Asunció, who spent two and a half years interned in an air force base during the civil war, is full of anecdotes about the events that introduced Girona and Tossa to the world at large, and about the uproar that the making of the film caused in a city where “nothing ever happened”.

Girona now has a Cinema Museum, which is probably not unconnected with the filming there during the spring of 1950.

Finding out where the stars stayed in Tossa isn’t easy, and many locals have their own version, but a chat with the town archivist David Morè clarified that James Mason stayed at a little town house called Casa Draper at number 3 Calle San Josep, whereas Ava was higher up the hill in a villa called Can Batista.

Can Draper

The technical staff stayed at the Hotel Ancora, now demolished and replaced by apartments and a car park, and at Hotel Rovira, which still stands along the seafront in Passeig de Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer, although much expanded. The original building is the part to the left of the main door as you enter.

It was in the Rovira that the team would have their lunches, and would be taught by the landlady, Antonieta how to eat a crab without losing dignity or clean trousers.

The datedness of the film gives us some thrilling moments, like when Stephen (Nigel Patrick) leans over his car in the garage smoking a cigarette as flammable liquids pour out of the damaged engine. No doubt contractual obligations to the tobacco industry had to be fulfilled.

Stephen too is in love with Pandora, and she persuades him to push his favourite sports car off a cliff to prove his love to her after a whirlwind drive along the coast road just north of Tossa. This scene takes place by the chapel of Sant Elmo, just above Sant Feliu de Guixols, and when Pandora points out that they have a long walk home she isn’t kidding; they were 20 kilometres from Tossa. The spot today has a small monument remembering that at this spot a journalist called Ferran Agulló i Vidal invented the term ‘Costa Brava’ in 1908.

Later she allows him to recover and repair the car, proving (to her) that he doesn’t really love her after all, and that women are really not so complicated.

Pandora was, in Greek myth, the first mortal woman, bestowed by Zeus upon humanity, whose curiosity in opening her box brought evil into the world, although at least she never asked anyone to give up their favourite car.

One place where Ava is remembered is the Hotel Tonet in the Plaça Església, where photos of her stay in Tossa are exhibited.

Penny Princess (1952)

Described by newcomer Dirk Bogarde as being as funny as a baby’s coffin, Penny Princess was filmed in and around the village of Montseny in the Natural Park of the same name on the border between Barcelona and Girona provinces, and in Mallorca, both of which represented a Kingdom called Lompidorra, located fortunately for us very precisely in the film at the second turn to the right after you pass Mont Blanc.

New York shop-girl, Yolande Donlan, inherits this small European principality in true Grace Kelly style but without the marriage, and meets a London department store cheese salesman, Dirk Bogarde. Between them they design a mixture of cheese and Schnapps, which they call Schneeze, designed to boost the local economy.

The plot doesn’t get much better, and the outcome is inevitable, but at least the scenery is nice.

Today Montseny has changed; only the church is recognisable from the film. However, the locals have not forgotten the film, and in the summer of 2022 they organised a 70th anniversary of the filming, and an exhibition of photos was still on show in the new town hall when we visited in October 2022.

Val Guest directed, and later married Yolande.

Babes in Bagdad (1952)

The star of this Arabian fantasy was Charlie Chaplin’s very own Paulette Godard, who unfortunately didn’t bring silence to a movie with appalling acting and degrading dialogue.

There is an early suggestion of feminism in a film that includes among its actors both Lees: Gypsy Rose and Christopher, who plays a slave dealer in a black silk dress, as he remembered it.

While in Spain, Gypsy Rose Lee lost a husband called Julio but gained a cat called Gaudí, named after the famous Catalan architect. Gaudí’s city, Barcelona, was one of the locations, where shooting took place for seven months at studios in Montjuïc.

Director Edgar Ulmer was forced to ‘adopt’ a Spanish co-director in order to gain a state subsidy for a film he didn’t even want to make.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)

Tortured Gregory Peck plays Hemingway surrogate Harry Street in the film version of the great man’s book.

Street recalls his life, including two episodes in Spain.

First of all we find him at Pamplona, Navarra, watching a bullfight and then losing his woman to a Flamenco dancer.

Later he is in Madrid, at the front, fighting half-heartedly for the Republic.

Come Die My Love (1952)

Bond girl Honor Blackman features as an early Eve in this film, whose action moves from Tangiers to Mallorca.

It is in the famous Artà cave there that Honor almost shoots Bill, but relents.

Decameron Nights (1953)

The film is an adaptation of Bocaccio’s ‘Decameron’ starring Joan Fontaine with studio work in England and locations for authentic Italian scenery filmed in the Moorish Alhambra palace of Granada, with the actors staying at the Hotel Alhambra Palace.

There is a ghost in the Alhambra, that of a Muslim soldier, who supposedly appears once every hundred years in the palace, supposedly to check and see if it has returned to its builders.

The walls of Ávila open the film as the inhabitants of Florence flee from a mercenary army and Boccaccio arrives to teach us about love.

When he rides from Ávila/Florence in search of Fiametta (Fontaine), the aqueduct of Segovia can be seen in the background as he approaches her house.

The aqueduct, another example of whatever the Romans did for us, is, according to one legend, the work of the Devil himself, or perhaps herself. The legend tells of a woman who worked carrying water to the city, and exhausted, offered her soul to the Devil if he would build an aqueduct, although she may not have used that exact word.

The story however, has a happy ending. The deal was that the Devil would finish the work before the cock crowed, and as the woman prayed all night to avoid her own offer, he was one stone short when dawn arrived.

Later, when Fontaine plays a female doctor who saves the king’s life, the locals celebrate his salvation dancing beneath the Alcázar castle of Segovia.

The Alcázar, built like any significant castle upon a rocky crag above the confluence of two rivers, is one of Spain’s most visited tourist locations; so much so that in summer it is probably not a great idea to go there unless you like to jostle.

Originally a defensive structure, it became a royal palace, a prison, the Royal Artillery school (founded in 1762) and a military academy, being used today as a museum and military archives.

Like many Spanish castles it began life as a Roman fort, then an Arab castle until the reconquest, when in the 12th and 13th centuries it became the court of King Alfonso VIII and his English Queen Eleanor.

One story about the castle, considered true, tells of a royal tragedy when on the 22 of July 1366, don Pedro, infant son of King Enrique II of Castilla, fell to his death from a window, followed immediately by his minder.

There were also some scenes in Sitges, just south of Barcelona. Local cinema expert Francesc Borderia, who used to run a cinema in the town and has presented a weekly radio programme about the cinema, told us that filming took place in the square in front of the emblematic church of Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla (where you can today see a cannon and a plaque claiming that it was used to see off a British fleet, damn them!) and on the steps leading up to it known as the Escalinata; both symbols of Sitges, as well as on the nearby Ribera Beach, where actress Joan Fontaine disembarks during the section of the film dedicated to the tale of Paganino the Pirate, who kidnaps Fontaine, and inevitably falls in love with her.

Sitges Escalinata

A beach scene was also used featuring the Sant Francesc beach at Blanes, Girona, just below the town’s Botanic Gardens. The beach portrays part of an island infested by pirates who make off with young girls that take their fancy.

Hugo Fregonese was the director, and collaborator John Cabrera, who sadly passed away in Denia in 2014, told us about how an electrician was stopped just in time as he was about to hammer a six inch nail into the priceless mosaic walls of the Alhambra Palace.

Our Girl Friday (1953)

Rich girl Sadie Patch, played by Joan Collins, is shipwrecked in the Pacific and ends up along with three companions on a desert island, which is in reality pacific, stressless Mallorca.

One companion is a drunken Kenneth More playing a ‘legless’ Irish sailor.

The comedy revolves around who will get the girl after all the men commit themselves to not try; as men do.

The main site for filming was Peguera, 20 kilometres west of the capital Palma.

‘Our Girl Friday’ was the first of many films that Dennis O’Dell worked on in Spain. His daughter Denise O’Dell would later follow in his footsteps and set up her own Spanish production company, collaborating in the making of many famous films made in Spain.

That Man from Tangiers (1953)

The man in question is an imposter, who persuades a young, bored American girl to marry him.

The girl originally planned to go to Sevilla, and she does indeed yo-yo between that city and Tangiers in her attempts to extricate herself from her plight.

The third angle of this love triangle is Spanish actress Sara Montiel, who would later charm the pants off many a Gary Cooper and marry Anthony Mann, director of Made in Spain classics such as ‘El Cid’ and ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’.

Very little filming was actually done in Tangier; in fact the Casbah in the film was built on land adjacent to the Chamartin studio in Madrid.

The Robe (1953)

Although filmed in California, USA, it is believed that some footage of the rocky landscape of La Pedriza, Madrid, was used to provide some seriously Judean scenery for this epic starring Richard Burton, about the shroud of Christ.

Burton would later make Alexander the Great near Madrid.

Malaga (Fire Over Africa) (1954)

Maureen O’Hara stars as Joanna Dane, a former O.S.S. operator sent to Tangier by the American authorities to investigate a powerful ring of smugglers.

Most of the action is set in Tangier, with a brief spell in Gibraltar, and the climax is a gun battle between the Tangier police and the smugglers on the North African shore of the Mediterranean; all of which was filmed in and around Málaga, the first Spanish city to have a British Cemetery, by Royal Decree in 1831, and where the grave of writer Gerald Brenan can be found.

During one chase scene there is a moment when we can observe at the entrance to the port, a cart, shaped like a boat, from which sweets are sold. This was not a prop, but a familiar sight to all the people of Málaga at the time.

When O’Hara’s accomplice is murdered through a door (not a mistake), she escapes to her car, helped by a passing train in the area of La Malagueta beach, and as she drives off we see La Gibralfaro castle looming over the town.

In another scene, after O’Hara is captured on a boat, we see an aerial view of Málaga, with its bullring prominent in the forefront, probably taken from the castle.

A few seconds later, Logan indicates the castle to a deckhand as a meeting place if they can’t find him. He is arrested, but escapes and climbs up to the castle to meet the deckhand, with another good view of the bullring.

As in ‘Casablanca’, a bar features considerably in the story. The bar is called ‘Frisco’ in the film, but in reality was  El Refugio, in Calle Alcazabilla.

One location was the Paseo Reding, named after the local Napoleonic War hero General Reding, victor of the Battle of Bailén. The Hotel Miramar, where the main members of the crew stayed, was situated in this street.

The Black Knight (1954)

“England’s gonna be invaded!” exclaims Alan Ladd without a “hither”, “thither”, “sire” or “sooth”, and we know we’re in trouble.

Fortunately, most of England’s key castles appear to be a mere five minutes gallop away from each other, and so the whole thing is sorted out and Alan gets the girl.

Ladd stars as a medieval blacksmith at the time of King Arthur, fulfilling the American dream of working his way from rags to riches by killing people (nobly of course). Many have linked the film’s ideology to the prevailing McCarthyism of the epoch, especially the treachery from within, which works in favour of foreign powers. The historic authenticity is challenging even to the average schoolboy as Saracens, Cornishmen and Vikings all compete to invade Arthurian England and impale themselves on Ladd’s sword.

The locations include Ávila, in which the medieval streets and the town gate (Puerta de Alcázar) feature, and the final battle also takes place beneath its walls.

Part of his duelling takes place in the castle of Manzanares el Real near Madrid, where Ladd in his gothic helmet cuts them down like so many daffodils on and off the battlements of this well conserved castle.

The ‘authentic’ ghost of this castle is called Maricantina, a poor shepherdess who attracted the love of a noble, the marqués de Santillana. Unable to fulfil her dream, she died of a broken heart and now wanders the castle in anguish.

Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

Going back to helmets, Arthur’s Knights, who don’t exactly come across as fast thinkers, wear an array of helmetry that would put Darth Vader to shame.

The castle of Guadamur, built in the province of Toledo in 1468, was also used, and appears at the very beginning, representing the home of the Earl of Yeovil before it is burnt down by Saracens dressed as Vikings.


In 1502 this castle was home to two of Spain’s most colourful royals, Felipe el Hermoso and Juana la Loca (Beautiful Phil and Crazy Jane-although it loses something in translation).

There is also a ghost; the Arab Princess Zaida made the typical mistake of Romeo and Juliet or Maria and Tony, of falling in love with the wrong partner, in Zaida’s case King Alfonso VI.

Her father reacted like any peeved parent, cutting off her head and tossing it in the moat.

Today, on the darkest nights, it is said her voice can be heard from below.

Pedro A Alonso, who runs the information office in Guadamur, informed me that local girls, including his own mother-in-law to be, were not allowed to participate in the film due to their excessive cleavage, considered outrageous at the time in puritan Spain.

Not content with showing some of Spain’s finest castles, the producers did what Hollywood would do forever more, fusioning the walls of Ávila with the frequently used Alcázar castle of Segovia to make one mega-castle, which is Camelot.

Mister Arkadin (1954)

Gregory Arkadin (Orson Welles) has a castle in Spain, and it turns out to be the famous Alcázar Castle of Segovia, under whose turrets the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and Fernando married before setting out on the reconquest of Spain.


Segovia’s other emblematic monument, the impressive Roman Aqueduct, also features prominently in the film, which is all about a whirlwind race around the world to obtain information about Arkadin’s past; a plot not too dissimilar from ‘Citizen Kane.’

Spain’s famous Easter penitent processions with Ku Klux Klan garbed sinners in bare-footed, torch-lit columns and Flamenco music passing as religious dirges portray a period perspective of Spain, as do the herds of goats huddling along the main street.

When Van Stratten and Raina first arrive at the castle, with an airplane flying overhead, Welles mixes exteriors of the Alcázar with shots of the much filmed nearby medieval village of Pedraza, especially its main square.

Once inside the castle, where Arkadin holds a masked ball, we are in fact inside the Colegio de San Gregorio in Valladolid, witnessing a Goyaesque performance, mostly by university students, among the spiralling columns of the cloister and the ornate staircase and first floor gallery.

Colegio de San Gregorio: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

Curiously, while the Alcázar is usually a background feature in most of the films where it appears, in Mister Arkadin we are allowed onto the terraces to see the expansive views of Castilla all around as Arkadin reveals his plan to Van Statten.

Mister Arkadin was also filmed in Madrid, including the façade of the famous El Prado Museum, and the port of Barcelona at the beginning, where the murder and killing of the assassin takes place, supposedly in the port of Naples.

Among the hotels where Welles did his planning, sleeping and generally bad behaving were The Palace, the Castellana Hilton and the Carlton.

Among the extras used in this scene was the later to be famous Spanish writer Miguel Delibes, a job for which he was happy to be paid 10 pesetas and a ham roll.

Filming began on the 25th of January 1954. The Senya Blanca gardens belonging to the Hotel Gavina on Girona’s Costa Brava at S’Agaró pretended to be a hotel in Mexico where Arkadin and Van Stratten argue.

The story has many elements of Harry Lime, although fewer sewers, and was in fact part of a broader project around that character.

King’s Rhapsody (1955)

A massive flop for a fading Errol Fynn, who does an ‘Edward VIII’; abdicating for love, although he later marries lovelessly out of a sense of duty (ironically he would later marry the actress he rejects in the film; Patrice Wymore). The parallels with the British royal family are uncanny; there’s even heavy drinking, although Flynn may have adlibbed a bit there.

‘Laurentia’ is the kingdom and the songs of Ivor Novello add a touch of class to some dull royals.

Errol Flynn’s presence caused a sensation during the week spent in Sitges, Barcelona, where many local people earned as much as 15 pesetas and a ham roll as extras, including a local man playing the Bishop who presided over Flynn’s wedding.

The red carpeted staircase known locally as ‘La Escalinata de la Punta’ plays a prominent part in the film’s opening scene, and will be used again for the coronation of Flynn’s son.

La Escalinata de la Punta

Laurentia, Flynn’s kingdom, is Montserrat, the weirdly shaped mountains over which the credits roll, a sacred place for the Catalan people.

The royal palace was seemingly situated in Barcelona’s Cuitadela Park, with the famous Cascada fountain in front of it playing a leading role for various scenes. In front of the fountain, supposedly, is the palace itself, although it turns out to be the Palau Reial de Pedralbes, quite a way away on the other side of Barcelona.

Flynn returns various times to the mountains of Montserrat, to go into exile, to fight a duel or ride his horse.

Montserrat is Catalonia’s very own magic mountain, supposedly possessing telluric energies, and congregating every 11th day of the month, hopeful UFO spotters.

Hitler believed he would find the Holy Grail there, and sent his very own Galahad, Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel Heinrich Himmler, to find it.

On our visit in October 2022, we were fortunate to stay at the Guilleume guest house, where our hosts Pere and Carme kindly showed us around Montserrat, indicating all the locations used in the film as well as giving us an insight into the area which we wouldn’t have had otherwise. From their guest house you have amazing views of the mountains.

Carme and Pere with lost traveller

Also used was the seaside promenade el Passeig de la Ribera, where one of Flynn’s passionate love scenes was filmed under a full moon with swaying palms and breaking waves in evidence.

The fascination of Americans for Sitges also affected Douglas Fairbanks; both Senior and Junior were in the town in the early 30s, staying at the Terramar Hotel at the southern end of the beach, where they were planning a project using exteriors in the area, a plan brought to an end by the advent of the Spanish Civil War.

It was in fact during the 1950s that Flynn chose Illetes, in Mallorca, as a good place to raise a family. He had a mansion in Cala Marina which was known by the locals as ‘Es Molí de’n Errol Flynn’ and a yacht named Zaca, which he moored in the Palma Royal Sailing Club. In his final days he established his permanent residence there with Patrice Wymore, his last wife.

In 1985 Calvià town council paid him homage by inviting his widow to visit the area and also unveil a plaque to him beside the Hotel Albatros, where she lodged.

All that remains now of Flynn’s old home is a mythological animal protruding from the wall of the windmill tower in a square in front of where the house used to be.

Flynn had first arrived in Mallorca in 1950 with Wymore, who he had just married in Montecarlo, and was on his way to Gibraltar when a storm forced them to take shelter on the northern shore of Mallorca. They then followed the coast to Palma and liked it so much that they promised to return.

Richard III (1955)

The film began shooting with the final battle scene, on the sun-baked fields at Torrelodones, Madrid; scenes that involved two and a half months of shooting.

Laurence Olivier proved his mettle by carrying on during one scene, despite having been authentically pierced by an arrow in the leg.

John Cabrera, who worked in the photography department during shooting in Spain, told us that the archer brought over from the UK to make the shot, was being wound up by the crew so much before firing, that the shot went wrong, right into Laurence’s leg.

John also mentioned that ‘Bosworth’ was in fact pasture land for bulls, and that they were chased off the battlefield on more than one occasion.

In her book about Olivier’s visits to Spain, Margarida Araya publishes a photo showing that Franco’s cross on top of the ‘Valley of the Fallen’ (Valle de los Caídos) actually appears in the distance in the film.

Central Spain with its olives and carobs doesn’t exactly capture the essence of the green fields of the merry English Midlands at Bosworth, but as this was no war of roses, it suffices.

That Lady (1955)

Filming took place at the royal palace built by King Felipe II, El Escorial Monastery, north west of Madrid and at the Roman Aqueduct and Alcázar castle of Segovia. 

The Alcázar purports to be the Palace of the Duke of Pastrana in Guadalajara, which, although still standing, was not used; probably the real thing was considered too unrealistic. The Escorial on the other hand was used for the scenes depicting King Felipe II.

The monastery is inevitably linked to Felipe, who had it built. Legend says it was built to cover the gates of Hell, and that Felipe installed his library in search of the philosopher’s stone. It is also believed that his four wives, María de Portugal, Mary Tudor, Isabel de Balois and Ana de Austria haunt the monastery today, along with a black dog, who Felipe had killed because its barking annoyed his builders.

El Escorial

When the Princess of Éboli is to be put into the Torre de Pinto, the tower seen from the distance is in fact that of the Torre de los Dones, a castle now perched over a motorway at Torrelodones, near Madrid.

Torre de los Dones

Paul Scofield made his film debut as Felipe II of Spain and won a BAFTA award as most promising young actor in this film. Olivia de Havilland stars in the title role as Ana de Mendoza, Princess of Éboli, and Christopher Lee appears too.

Contraband Spain (1955)

A robbery in a watch factory takes place on the Pyrenees border, and then we move to downtown Barcelona, where we see La Rambla in an introductory flurry of images, and later Richard Greene, (who took time off from playing Robin Hood on TV to make this film), follows the baddies, who like him are travelling in a taxi, until they get out in Plaza Real with its arcaded pavements.

The Paseo de Gracia features, as do the gardens of Reina Victoria. Greene’s brother’s apartment is located on Calle Muntaner.

In the valleys of Barcelona province, filming also took place in Sant Celoni and in Caldes de Monbui.

The seaside resort of Blanes also got a look in, and there is a lot of driving to and from the French town of Urdos across the border from Girona province. The iron bridge that appears when the police find the robbers’ car is in fact the Urdos Viaduct.

Thunderstorm (1955)

Although shot in English, the film was a Spanish production, directed by John Guillermin and Alfonso Acebal. The latter would later work on the David Niven version of ‘Around the World in 80 Days.’

‘Thunderstorm’ was shot around the village of Mundaka (Vizcaya), famous now as a surfing centre, and tells the story of a blonde woman arriving unconscious on a boat, who turns a few heads in the village.

Mundaka, with Santa Catalina at extreme right

Filmed between April and June 1955 with many locals as extras, Mundaka is San Lorenzo in the film, while nearby Bermeo is Mendoza, although the fish cannery supposedly in Bermeo/Mendoza is in fact the Town Hall of Mundaka/San Lorenzo.

Mundaka’s iconic chapel of Santa Catalina features, as does Cabo de Ogoño and the island of Ízaro, which would later lend its name to a Spanish film production company.

The beach of Bakio appears twice for scenes between the blonde (actually the wife of Tyrone Power, Linda Christian,) and both the villain and the hero.

The Spanish Gardener (1956)

Based on A.J. Cronin’s 1950 novel of the same name, The Spanish Gardener is a film about the up and down sides of relationships. Michael Hordern plays Harrington Brande, a diplomat who moves to Spain with his young son Nicholas (Jon Whiteley) following the break up of his marriage. When Brande hires local gardener José (Dirk Bogarde), Nicholas finds a sympathetic friend, unlike his rigid father, who then becomes jealous.

The Spanish Gardener was filmed in Girona on the Spanish Costa Brava at S’Agaro in spring 1956.

The scenes showing a game of fronton, a Spanish version of squash, were filmed at the Planassa (esplanade) of Palamós, by the port, although it has since been demolished to make way for a car park. Here we see Bogarde winning the match for his team, much to the chagrin of Hordern, miffed by his son’s enthusiasm for José.

The athletic Bogarde is seen jumping and falling in style, although always with his back to the camera when full strokes are observed, suggesting that a double may have been used.

The Consul’s mansion is Mas Juny at the Platja del Castell, Palamós, owned at the time by industrialist Puig Palau, the same man who convinced Albert Lewin to film ‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’ on the Costa Brava.

We also see the 18th century Arc de Sant Benet at Sant Feliu de Guixols, when José and Nicholas catch the bus to go fishing. The arch formed part of a fortified monastery, which now includes the tourist information office.

We also see the stone bridge of Girona, dating from 1311. The bridge crosses the river that divides the town, where its painted houses are a well known landmark lining the riverside. After the new Consul arrives in Girona by train we see him being driven across the bridge on his way to his residence at ‘San Jorge’.

Why such an isolated place should need a British Consul is never explained, but at least it allows us to enjoy the beautiful clifftop Costa Brava scenery and the beach of Es Castell, where José and the boy play.

Around the world in 80 Days (1956)

The Spanish bullfight scene was filmed in Chinchón, where Ava Gardner, who had a house near Madrid, made a cameo appearance. So, in other parts of the film, do Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, and Buster Keaton. In fact the film is believed to have originated the expression ‘cameo.’

10,000 extras were used in August 1955 to shoot the bullfight scene in the town’s emblematic oval ‘square’, with Mexican comedian Cantinflas (an acquired taste) as the bullfighter. 6,500 residents of Chinchón were employed as crowd extras, but producer Michael Todd decided that he wanted more, and so boosted the regional economy by contracting another 3,500 from nearby towns.

Chinchon’s Round Square

The town square would be used for many more films over the years, and bullfights continue to be held there every summer between July 15th and September 15th, and can be watched nowadays from the restaurants that surround the (round) square.

Zarak (1956)

Although filmed largely in Morocco, it is the Spanish Sierra Nevada near Almuñuécar, Granada that makes the most believable mountains of Afghanistan, give or take a few thousand metres.

Victor Mature took both of his whippings like a man (in fact he seems to have got a taste for it after the first one and volunteers for the second) and showed his personality by offering to pay for the funeral of stuntman Jack Keely, who was killed in a horse riding accident during shooting.

Zarak’s problems begin with the seduction of his father’s wife and continue through the ferocious attacks on his enemies and the betrayal of his allies and brothers.

The film raises questions; how many columns can be massacred before the British run out of troops, and is Zarak’s motivation too subtle to be understood or is he just trying to out-eccentricise the English?

Alexander the Great (1956)

In the film, Aristotle, played by mild-mannered Welshman Barry Jones, informs Richard Burton, well cast as the Macedonian/Welsh Alexander: “we Greeks are the chosen – the elect. Our culture is the best – our civilization, the best; our men, the best. All others are barbarians! And it is our moral duty to conquer them, enslave them, and if necessary destroy them!” reminding us of a few other unpleasant characters who have roamed the globe in search of an axe to grind on somebody else’s skull.

The village that Alexander’s men keep returning to, the centre of their operations in Macedonia, was in fact El Molar, and the hill with columns where they hold their meetings was Cerro de la Torreta, just above the town, which is also known as Las Cuevas.

The Macedonians can be seen more than once marching up the streets of their capital, turning the corner around a round building, which was in fact the outside of the oven of the local bakery on the corner of Calles Carniceria and Ramón Gabriel, and has hardly changed.

Bakery at El Molar

El Molar is a town with a long association with the cinema, and especially its hotel and restaurant, Casa Olivares, founded in 1915, where many famous actors, directors and producers have whiled away a break between shots, and where, during the shooting of Alexander, the crew and cast would order their favourite dish ‘judías de la Tía Evarista’ (beans in the style of Aunt Evarista).

Samuel Bronston regularly set up his HQ there, and Fernando Olivares (Evarista’s husband), one of the owners, would often be responsible for recruiting extras. The extras were delighted to exchange Bronston’s 50 pesetas daily for the 25 they could earn tilling the soil.

Among the many photos on display in the restaurant is one with the scene of Alexander’s men walking up the hill past the bakery.

The castle of Manzanares el Real gets a brief cameo when, from its walls, Alexander watches his fleet returning home as the rot begins to set in as regards his plans for world supremacy. The fleet sailed off not across the Mediterranean, but across the nearby Santillana reservoir, which provides Madrid with its drinking water.

Most of the riding and fighting took place at the area known as the Dehesa de Navalvillar, later to become everybody’s favourite multi-epoch battlefield.

It’s an amusing film, with false beards for all kinds of tastes and mini-skirted warriors who fall off horses unnecessarily; and where nobody ever appears to actually kill anyone else despite a large amount of frantic sword waving. Very politically correct.

Harry Andrews’ performance as Darius is so convincing, as is his curly beard, that it is a relief when he is finally deserted and stabbed by his followers and left to rot in a Spanish marsh; almost certainly by the costume and make up departments!

This was one of the first opportunities for many Spanish actors, crew and extras to participate in an international epic. Several hundred Spanish soldiers and policemen made up Alexander’s army, including the head of the Madrid mounted police, who played the high priest accompanying Alexander.

Moby Dick (1956)

Whales are in fact commonly seen around the Canary Islands, and the island of Lanzarote even has a whale museum. Although mostly filmed off the coasts of Wales, Ireland and Portugal, the final scenes were filmed in the Bahía (Bay) de La Isleta near Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria island, due to the fact that winter was setting in and the water was getting too cold further north.

The final scene with Richard Basehart floating symbolically and literally on the coffin was also shot there as Spanish coffins are notoriously more comfortable than those of other nations.

Las Canteras beach was the focal point of the filming and Moby Dick itself was built in the shipyard of Las Palmas in Calle Rosarito. It only took 2 months to build the 65 metre long white whale with the malicious eye out of latex, wood and metal.

Las Canteras is three miles long and the filming took place at the extreme eastern point known as La Puntilla during two weeks at Christmas in 1955.

Most of the crew was lodged in the Hotel Parque at the quayside, Calle Muelle de Las Palmas, 2, although Peck, Basehart and Huston, slept at the Santa Catalina, opened in 1890, in Calle León y Castillo, 227.

The Man Who Never Was (1956)

The film tells the story of ‘Operation Mincemeat,’ in which British Intelligence fooled the Nazis into believing that the invasion of southern Europe would take place further east, thus luring German troops away from the real destination: Sicily.

In this true story a body dressed in a military uniform is dropped into the sea and washed up in Huelva. The documents on the body were then passed on to the Gestapo and the trap was sprung.

During the burial and again at the end of the film, we can see Huelva cemetery, where the man, whose identity is still debated, is actually buried.

The grave identifies the body as Glyndwrm Martin, who ‘served as William Martin’ and also, incongruously, bears the epitaph ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,’ (it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country), although it is uncertain if this is intended to be ironic, as it was when Wilfred Owen quoted Horace in his famous World War One poem.

Surprisingly the body was not buried in next door’s British Cemetery, a relic of the British presence in the days when Huelva’s Rio Tinto mines were run by British companies.

Port Afrique (1956)

Although mostly shot in Algeria and Morroco, some port scenes also used the Spanish enclave on the African continent, Ceuta, and particularly the dock called El Muelle Alfau.

The plot consists of a soldier, returning home one leg short, trying to find out who killed his wife.

Ofelio A Martin from Ceuta informed me that although the film appeared to have many camels among its limited resources, in fact there were only three, paraded in shifts past the camera to give the impression of multitudes. If true, it’s a very clever deceit, observed after the French officer’s visit to the nightclub.

The actors, including Christopher Lee, Anthony Newly and Dennis Price, were lodged at the Hotel Atlante.

Chase a Crooked Shadow (1957)

Anne Baxter, Richard Todd and Herbert Lom starred in this film shot principally in the Costa Brava fishing village of Tamariu, Girona, (a fact that we don’t have to guess as Richard Todd tells us so at the beginning), and produced by Douglas Fairbanks Junior.

The film opens with some brief shots of Barcelona, the last of which is the Plaza Real.

The villa where Baxter stays is La Muscleta, situated between Cala Pedrosa and Sa Perica, and other scenes for this thriller were filmed at Sant Antoni de Calonge.

The police station was a transformed Casa Ribera at Palamós, which was demolished in 1974.

In one scene Anne Baxter drives a Bentley through the town centre. She passes along Carrer Major, Avinguda Onze de Setembre, before entering Casa Ribera.

Later she comes out of the building, going down an alleyway, Carrer Canó. Then we see from the balcony of Casa Ribera, the fishing port with a warehouse known as the Edifici del Tinglado, which is now the Fishing Museum.

Todd then drives her wildly on the long and winding coastal road between Sant Feliu and Tossa de Mar, and when they stop, the castle of Tossa is clearly visible behind them.

They stop at a beach bar for some wine and a chat about diamonds at Passeig del Mar, Tamariu.

The opening images, shown accompanied by some rather nice guitar music played by Julian Bream, are of Barcelona, and especially the Plaça Reial.

The Pride and the Passion  (1957)

The title sounds like the novel Jane Austen forgot to write, but was in fact a Hollywood epic that takes place during the Napoleonic Wars in French-occupied Spain.

The plot of the film is that a group of authentic Spanish ‘guerrillas’ are planning to move a big cannon across Spain in order to help the British defeat the French.

(‘Guerrilla’ is a word that came into English from the Spain of that epoch, although ‘guerrilla’ in fact means ‘little war’, whereas the English word ‘guerrilla’ would be ‘guerrillero’ in Spanish).

The surly Spanish leader is that famous Spaniard Frank Sinatra, whereas the suave, typical Englishman is Cary Grant (well, at least he was born in England), and, to give even more authenticity, the Spanish peasant girl is Italian Sophia Loren.

Frank’s surliness on film was kept up off the set, where among other escapades, he refused to use the car supplied him by the studio, insisting upon having his Ford Thunderbird flown all the way to Spain at the studio’s expense, and causing an international incident when he hung a sign from his hotel window, which said: ‘Franco is a fink’, which fortunately nobody in the Guardia Civil could understand. Sinatra later described the filming experience as “underwhelming.”

The idea is to use the cannon to attack the French garrison at Ávila, Spain’s best-preserved walled city, founded in the 11th century to protect the Spanish territories from the Moors. It is known as the ‘city of Saints and Stones,’ being the birthplace of Saint Teresa and the burial place of the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada.

These small details didn’t of course stop film director Stanley Kramer wanting to blow up the walls for authenticity’s sake. Although the Spanish authorities were tempted by the Yankee dollar (5 million of them spent on this film), in the end they declined. Instead, Kramer built a wall in front of the wall, which he then destroyed.


Other parts of Spain where filming took place, and which Kramer was not allowed to blow up either, include Hoyo de Manzanares (Madrid), where we see the Spanish forces retreating dejectedly at the beginning of the film, just before they dump the cannon.

Spanish taxi drivers are not as picaresque as they once were; for, just after landing on the Spanish coast at Cambados in the province of Pontevedra Grant’s coach can be seen passing in front of the famous Alcázar castle of Segovia, and seconds later it  arrives in Compostela de Santiago in Galicia, La Coruña, passing the cathedral in the Plaza de Obradoiro, where he enters the guerrilla headquarters, which is in fact the Parador Hotel of Santiago, where Sinatra, Loren and Grant were also guests during filming.

Parador, Santiago

When the guerrillas try to cross a river and lose the cannon on the rapids, they are in fact crossing the River Miño at Arbo.

The next scene was shot in the central square at the impressive castle, which is now the Oropesa Parador in Toledo province, and which revolutionised (in the non-uprising-against-the-French sense of the word) the town, where practically nobody wasn’t an extra for the film. It was here that Frank asks the spectators at a bullfight to help pull the cannon out of the river. They approve of his reasoning and put the French soldiers to the knife before following Sinatra out to rescue the cannon and their own self respect.

Location of Bullfight Scene. Now the Car Park

Of the stars, only Sinatra was involved in these scenes, and his presence at the Parador, which had functioned as a hotel since 1930, is remembered today, both by local people and by photographs in the Parador.

Parador employee and chronicler José Manuel Gutiérrez Rodríguez has compiled an enormous amount of information and documentation about this and other events in the history of the castle, including the stay there of the Duke of Wellington at the time of the Battle of Talavera.

The Parador has a curious attraction for feminists, as its first director, from 1930 to 1965, Adela Paramo, was a woman, unusual in those days; and also, as an information panel testifies, the Parador was the scene of the first bullfight involving a female Matador, Conchita Citrón.

Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham are among the illustrious British travellers to rest their heads there.

Later, after attacking a French camp and killing every man, man and man, the guerrillas pass briefly among the weird mushroom-shaped rocks of the Ciudad Encantada in Cuenca, before stopping at some windmills. A photograph of the filming in Cuenca can be seen today in the bar of the Ciudad Encantada Hotel, just across the road from the entrance to the park.

The real star of the film is undoubtedly the cannon, one of five copies used in filming, which the guerrillas hide in the Patio de los Reyes of El Escorial palace just outside Madrid (Manéteras in the film). The Holy Week Procession taking place as they steal away however, was filmed under the famous Roman aqueduct at Segovia some distance away.

Before filming, Kramer had had a personal interview with Franco to convince him that the film would emphasise Spanish heroism. The little man was thrilled and offered full collaboration, including a Spanish army advisor, Lieutenant Colonel Luis Cano, despite the hero’s role being given to the perfidious English in the person of Cary Grant.

Among the extras contracted to assault the walls of Ávila, shot on the 10th June 1956, was none other than the later to be first democratic president of post-dictatorship Spain, local man, and ex-Mayor Adolfo Suarez.

Thousands of extras stormed the north wall, easily recognisable from the church steeple of the demolished Carmen Convent looming above the wall.

The Sun Also Rises (1957)

In 1957, after divorcing Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner was one of Hemingway’s entourage in Spain, where she became a big fan of bullfighting, which she once described as a kind of madness.

It is appropriate therefore that Gardner should have been selected to play a Hemingway character, Brett Ashley, in the film version of the book that Hemingway started writing in Valencia about Pamplona.

After a dull spell in Paris, where the characters complain how modernisation is ruining the world, the film relocates to Spain for an idyllic fishing scene with hardy peasants immersed in a rustic life shared with equally sleepy donkeys, sheep and goats.

Hemingway himself was a keen fisherman, and on his frequent visits to Navarra in northern Spain, could often be found on the Irati River at a place known as ‘Los Baños’, surrounded by beer bottles and conquered trout.

The main action revolves around Pamplona’s San Fermín bull running festival of Franco’s time, and there are lots of uniforms and religious parades, and charming policemen in British bobby helmets who come running the moment an irate barman gets fed up with the drunken antics of the Americans, and particularly Errol Flynn.

The filming in Pamplona, Navarra, took place during the festival of 1955, using the ruse that they were making a documentary about San Fermín. Hemingway’s work was banned in Spain at the time, particularly because of his pro-Republican novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, set in the Spanish Civil War.

The character based on Hemingway (Jake), is played by Tyrone Power, who also played a bullfighter in the film ‘Blood and Sand’ based on Valencian writer Blasco Ibañez’s book. Power would in fact eventually die in Spain while making the film ‘Solomon and Sheba’.

We also see Gardner’s character (Brett Ashley) having an affair with a bullfighter, called Pedro Romero in the film. Gardner had a dramatic effect on Spanish bullfighters wherever she went; not for nothing was she known as ‘the most beautiful animal in the world.’

Audrey Hepburn’s real life husband Mel Ferrer plays one of Gardner’s victims in the film and follows her around for the sole purpose of lighting her cigarettes before anybody else can. This annoys Errol Flynn, who is supposed to be her fiancé on the few occasions that he isn’t incapacitated by booze.

At one point Ferrer beats up four people, including the bullfighter, and then in true Hollywood style looks around him and enquires: “what have I done?” a question that only a madman or actor would ask, or at least one who lived in a time before closed circuit TV cameras captured everything.

The fact that the bullfighter speaks better English than most of the Americans is clarified by his admitting to having worked as a waiter in Gibraltar.

Cape-twirling Romero actually speaks good English because he was played by American Robert Evans, who later became a top Hollywood producer.

In another classic scene, where Power is recovering from his war wound, we are reminded that the tobacco industry had a very intimate relationship with Hollywood. Power asks his doctor if it’s alright to smoke. The doctor replies that it won’t do him any harm, and then reveals that his wounds will result in impotence; something he might have already noticed if he was well enough to smoke.

The film captures the atmosphere of San Fermín as it must have been before the tourists took over, and although director Henry King did use a lot of original footage of San Fermín that he had previously filmed, the city was rebuilt accurately in Morelia, Mexico, the sets being easy to confuse with the original, as anyone visiting Pamplona and comparing them with the film can see.

In 2009 Pamplona celebrated the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s last visit to the city in 1959. They published a pamphlet and put up plaques showing the places he used to frequent, mostly around Plaza del Castillo.

The very same Mexican square, with its arches, trees and bandstand, appears throughout the film as the focal point for the fiesta and for the recurrent meetings of the characters, for better or worse.

Most emblematic is the Bar Iruña, whose décor remains as it was during Hemingway’s time, and which has a separate bar filled with Hemingway photos and a 2006 bronze statue of the man himself leaning appropriately against the bar. Another statue of Hemingway can be found next to his beloved bullring, where a street also bears his name.

The Hotel Perla, where Hemingway used to stay, keeps his old room, 217, as it was then.

Sail into Danger (1957)

This film, starring Dennis O’Keefe and Kathleen Ryan, in which a boat owner is forced by smugglers to sail from Barcelona to Tangiers, sank without the glory of the sunsets on the island of Cabrera, where it was made.

Situated south of Mallorca, Cabrera consists of a main island and 18 smaller islands, with over 450 species of plants and over 150 species of birds.

Action of the Tiger (1957)

The film was shot during the autumn and winter of 1956 and the spring of 1957 in Guadix, Granada.

Guadix, being a flexible kind of place, was Albania this time, in a story about a mercenary rescuing the imprisoned, blind brother of an inevitably attractive girl.

Various locations around the Sierra Nevada mountain range were used, such as Almuñécar (Punta de la Mona) for the yacht scenes, and the famous house caves of Guadix, with strange conical shapes as a result of erosion.

Juan José Carrasco Soto, author of ‘Granada y el Cine’ adds the locations of the caves of Sacromonte the Abogado gulley and Llano de la Perdiz, which portrays the border with Albania.

But of course the most recognisable landmark was the castle of La Calahorra, perched on its barren hill, it has beckoned film-makers for decades.

La Calahorra

The castle belongs to Countess Valone, a typical English-speaking Albanian aristocrat who helps the brother and sister to escape at the price of being slapped around by Communist policemen.

The Catholic Monarchs gave the castle to Cardinal Mendoza, their advisor, who played an important role in the Christian conquest of Granada. He in turn willed it to his illegitimate son, Rodrigo de Vivar y Mendoza, the first Marquis of Cenete. Rodrigo was the protagonist of a typically medieval love versus duty intrigue.

When his wife Leonor de la Cerda died, he visited Italy and then returned with a bunch of Italian architects, sculptors and artists, and a few wagons loaded with Carrara marble to embellish his abode.

While in Italy, all was not art and culture; he also captivated a 15-year-old beauty, María de Fonseca.

Her father wasn’t too keen on the match and so Rodrigo married her in secret, which greatly annoyed Isabel la Católica, who threw a fit and had Rodrigo imprisoned. When Isabel died, Rodrigo was released and immediately liberated María from the convent where she’d been incarcerated.

They moved into the castle with their marble, had two kids and lived happily ever after.

Sean Connery’s love affair with Spain began long before he became James Bond, or anyone else we’ve heard of. This story of smugglers and political prisoners didn’t exactly promise a brilliant future for our Sean, who plays a drunken sailor.

Spanish Affair (1957)

The story of an American architect discovering the ‘real’ Spain, especially Flamenco. There is a very interesting story behind this film, which you won’t find in your video club.

It was produced by Bruce Odlum, and his son Brian single-handedly keeps the film alive as it’s not on sale.

The opening scene was filmed in El Prado Museum, Madrid, where a businessman tells his secretary, Mari Arrubia (played by Carmen Sevilla): “We must practise our English because, like most Americans, he speaks no Spanish”. Although to be fair, the American protagonist, Merrit Blake (played by Richard Kiley) does pick up a few words before the final credits.

The couple drive around Spain to convince several Spanish businessmen to accept the construction of a modern hotel, and to convince would-be tourists that Spanish roads were built for livestock not cars.

First stop is Segovia, where Merrit gives us a lecture on architectural principles while fondling the famous Roman aqueduct…..fondly.

They stop for a quick look at the Alcázar Castle, which Merrit describes astutely as “better than Walt Disney”, losing most of the credit that he’d racked up until that moment.

Next they drive to Catalonia, to the seaside village of Tossa de Mar in Girona province, where ‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’ had been made six years previously.

The beach and castle are seen in all their splendour as Merrit meets Carmen’s jealous knife-wielding boyfriend among the ruins.

During their brief stay in Barcelona we don’t see much of the city, but are introduced to the languid ‘Sardana’, a traditional Catalan dance involving groups of people holding hands in a circle.

The final stop is Toledo, with its fusion of Islamic and Christian architecture. As Carmen speaks to her father, we can see the Alcázar Castle in the background, scene of a famous siege in the Spanish Civil War.

In the final scene we can see the majestic Tajo River, which winds its way across the Peninsula before reaching its mouth in Lisbon.

I walked along what used to be called the Safont Beach, on the banks of the Tajo, and the house in which Carmen Sevilla’s ‘father’ philosophises seemed to be an old factory or mill still standing by the riverside.

Across the Bridge (1957)

Rod Steiger stars as a corrupt businessman in a film based on a Graham Greene novel, about a bridge that connects Mexico and the USA, even though the film was made around Sevilla, at Lora del Rio (‘Catrina’ in the film) where the distinctive iron bridge is to be found.

Much of the action takes place around Plaza de España, and the Hotel Turista is located there at number 4.

The Santa Ana church, at the end of calle Roda Arriba, appears in some scenes, such as Scarff’s funeral.

The Post Office in the film was played discreetly by the Town Hall.

Director Ken Annakin reveals in the documentary accompanying the DVD that it was John Cabrera who told him that he could find all the scenery he wanted in Spain, after Annakin had travelled by train from New York to Mexico, filming trains as he went for the movie, and taking over 600 photos for locations.

Most of the extras were gypsies, who captured the ‘Mexican’ look the director sought, while among the stars were Bernard Lee, who would later become M for the early 007 films, and Shakespearian actor Noel Williams as the laconic Mexican Police Chief.

The big star however is Dolores the dog (or bitch to be honest), who is a pain at first but finally melts Steiger’s heart. They found her in a dogs’ home in Liverpool.

Tip on a Dead Jockey (1957)

Robert Taylor plays an unhappy ex-pilot from the Korean War living in Madrid. When his horse doesn’t win in a race held at the Hipódromo de la Zarzuela, he agrees to do a bit of harmless smuggling; only it’s not so harmless.

Before all that, his jilted wife (Dorothy Malone) flies to Madrid to see why he’s left her, and we get an aerial view of the city’s bullring, Las Ventas; just so we know that it’s really Spain!

Stowaway Girl (1957)

Trevor Howard stars in a film by James Bond director Guy Hamilton, shot in British studios but with locations in and around the city of Alicante.

A barely recognisable bearded Warren Mitchell, and an erudite Donald Pleasance row Howard to shore, where the looming castle of Alicante’s Santa Bárbara dominates the port.

Once there, although it is supposedly somewhere in South America, Manuela makes contact with Mario and a curious poster announces a football match between Levante (misspelt as Levate) and Hercules, the local team of Alicante.

In most countries the film goes by the title ‘Manuela,’ who is the stowaway, and among the locations are the historic centre (calles Santa Cruz and calle Tarifa), and plaza de Santa María, where after supper, Mario continues his attempts to seduce Manuela in front of the basílica de Santa María

Later the action moves to the nearby island of Tabarca, looking a lot shabbier than it does today.

Sea Fury (1958)

Victor MacLagen’s last film showcased two promising young actors; Robert Shaw and Stanley Baker.

Authentic local fishermen mend their nets and do other authentic things on the beach at L’Estartit, Girona on the Costa Brava in a film about a petrol tanker grounded on the Spanish coast in a storm. The village however, claims to be on the coast of the Basque Country.

Rosita, who is being pimped to the Captain of the ship by her father, entices Baker, a sailor in port, up the hill to take some photos at ‘el Castillo’, where she fakes a twisted ankle to seduce him.

Later he follows her there again and they agree to run away together so that she doesn’t have to marry Baker’s over the hill Captain to satisfy her father’s financial greed.

The hilltop chapel is the Ermita de Sant Ramón, next to the castle above Begur, where Elizabeth Taylor later filmed ‘Suddenly Last Summer.’

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

In Girona province, Sa Conca Beach at Sant Feliu, S’Agaró and Castell-Paltja d’Aro in Girona were among the locations employed for an early scene when we first see the Cyclops and observe the powers of the magic lamp, and also for where the dragon finally dies towards the end of the film.

Sa Conca Beach

Filming commenced in the beautiful Palace of Alhambra in Granada, representing Baghdad in the film, which offers a complete guided tour of the Alhambra, beginning when Sinbad and Parisa arrive at the palace after their voyage, carried by bearers, when we can see the Alhambra’s Puerta de Vino, which also appears when Sokurah the magician abandons the city.

The Alhambra. Photo Courtesy James Yareham

The production team wasn’t permitted to use the palace grounds in the daylight hours and the volume of tourists meant all interior shots had to be filmed at night.

The pool, entrance porch and noble hall of the house-palace called ‘The Tower of Prince Ismail’ (or ‘Tower of the Ladies’) first appear in the romantic scene between Sinbad and Parisa, soon joined by Sokurah, who presents his plans for the giant crossbow.

This location was used at night for the crowded palace scenes in which Parisa and her father arrive to join the Caliph. The prison scene was filmed in the ‘Patio de los Aljibes’, behind which we can see the ‘Torre de las Armas’ and the ‘Torre del Homenaje’. The courtyard, backed by the ‘Torres de Alcázaba’, became the prison yard where Sinbad recruits his crew.

The night time party with the courtesans, during which a woman and a snake are merged, takes place in the ‘Patio de los Arrayanes’.

When Sinbad and Parisa sit next to a pool with a stone lion spouting water, and she leans against a statue, they are in front of the entrance to the ‘Palacio del Partal’ (also known as the ‘Torre de las Damas’). This is also where the Caliph is informed that his daughter has been shrunk, and in the background we can see the Oratorio.

Princess Parisa is shrunk with the help of a rather smoky candle by Sokurah in the ‘Sala de las Dos Hermanas’. Sinbad crosses the ‘Patio de los Leones’ when he runs to her aid, and when he speaks to her we can see the ‘Mirador de Lindajara’.

The discussion between Sinbad, Sokurah and the Caliph about Sinbad’s journey also takes place in the ‘Palcio del Partal’ entrance.

The Alhambra is one of Spain’s most visited monuments. It was originally built as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar.

In 1333 Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada continued the construction, which stood until it was surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs Fernando and Isabel in 1492, the last Muslim foothold in Spain.

It was here, in the same year, that Christopher Columbus received a royal endorsement for his westward expedition.

After many years of neglect and squatters, and after Napoleon’s army had wreaked destruction in pursuit of revenge for their defeat in Spain, restoration began. A wood of English elms was brought to Granada and planted by the Duke of Wellington in 1812.

An earthquake caused further damage in 1821 to the Alhambra, which means ‘the red one’,

The American writer and traveller, Washington Irving, lived in the Alhambra while writing ‘Tales of the Alhambra,’ recounting all the legends associated with the royal palace.

Among the locations used on Sinbad’s travels were the caves of Artá and the spectacular rocky canyon of Torrente de Pareis (the Valley of the Cyclops), both in Mallorca. The cave, with its steps, down which Sinbad and his men walk to enter the valley, was the home of the dragon. Dragon and Cyclops begin their fight in there and continue slugging it out in the Torrent.

Among the boulders at La Pedriza near Madrid, the fight between Sinbad and his men and the double-headed vulture was filmed and mixed in among the scenes from Mallorca and the Costa Brava. Not only did these scenes take place in three completely separate locations, but the actors also had to pretend to fight against imaginary creatures, who were inserted during the editing process.

It is also in La Pedriza where they find the giant egg; and when Sindad is dropped into the giant bird’s nest, the water we see behind him is not the sea, but the Santillana Reservoir north east of Madrid.

La Pedriza is an impressive geological feature of great scenic interest, located on the southern slopes of the Guadarrama mountain range. It is one of the largest granite ranges of Europe, with a remarkable boulder field of strangely eroded rocks.

La Pedriza

Some scenes were shot on board the replica of Columbus’s ship, The Santa María, which at the time was anchored in Barcelona port. Unfortunately, when they tried to set sail, the ship almost capsized, and the remaining scenes were filmed with the ship tied up in the dock. The local fire brigade collaborated by making waves and Barcelona dockers were recruited as extras.

South Pacific (1958)

Unforgettable words and music from a film with unforgettable bare chests, nice scenery and…… unforgettable songs. Even though it was made as long ago as 1958, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Bridget Jones washing Daniel Cleaver right out of her hair, or Daniel leading a chorus of lounge lizards claiming that there is nothing like a dame, before Mark and Bridge relax some enchanted evening.

It’s a film that begins with sunsets rather than ends with people riding off into them, and the screen repeatedly suffers from an attack of condensation every time somebody gets passionate.

The tropical splendour of the film owes its authenticity to the ocean and beaches of Malaysia, Hawaii and Ibiza and…..hang on…..Ibiza?

Yes, that’s right, the magical, mysterious Bali Hai is just off Ibiza. Its real name (though nothing is real) is ‘Es Vedra’, an island associated with UFO sightings, believed to be the island of the Sirens described by Homer.

The only life-forms today are the goats left by a crazed monk, who used to live alone on the island in the days when a man could do so with goats and be seen as a seer rather than helping police with their enquiries.

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958)

The Spanish Western begins here, and not a plate of spaghetti in sight. In what is almost but not quite the cast of a ‘Carry On’ film, and a musical to boot, Kenneth More stumbles in the best bumbling British toff style across the Far West near Madrid, at a specially constructed Western set at Dehesa de Navalvillar near Colmenar Viejo, where Western makers of many nationalities would follow, including Sergio Leone in ‘A Fistful of Dollars.’

Ken is an English gun salesman who becomes Sheriff by accident, and is looked after by blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield, who manages to keep her head during the film despite being pregnant in real life.

Raoul Walsh directed a large cast of cowboys and Indians riding around some rocky terrain at La Pedriza.

La Pedriza: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

Additional exteriors shots were taken in Guadalajara province, specifically at the gulley known as ‘Barranco de la Virgen de la Hoz’ by the River Gallo at a place known as ‘El Rodenal.’

The Man Inside (1958)

Jack Palance plays an insurance investigator on the tail of a mild-mannered jewel thief. They play cat and mouse across Europe, including Madrid, where Palance hires Spanish taxi driver Anthony Newley, and is inspired by a statue of Don Quixote.

All totally believable.

Wonderful Things (1958)

Frankie Vaughn stars as a humble fisherman with ambition in Gibraltar; and although most of the action takes place at Catalan Bay, on the eastern side of the rock, there are plenty of panning shots of the Spanish countryside around La Línea (Cádiz), and some strolling across the border along Winston Churchill Avenue.

The Naked Maja (1958)

Originally meant to be filmed in Spain, Franco refused permission at the behest of the Alba family and it was shot in Italy.

Nevertheless, according to Miguel Losada and Victor Matellano, the paintings were filmed in Madrid and Toledo, with the pretence that they were making a documentary about Goya.

Soloman and Sheba (1959)

Many people come to sunny Spain to lengthen their lives; Tyrone Power came to Spain to shorten his, although that probably wasn’t his intention at the time.

Power was the co-producer and star of the Hollywood blockbuster, directed by King Vidor, set in Egypt and therefore, logically, filmed near Zaragoza, bearing in mind that you can’t find a decent bit of wasteland in Israel with all the pesky irrigation, and even in 1959 it was a difficult task, and holding full scale battles were not especially conducive to keeping in well with the neighbours.

Power had completed shooting more than half of the film when he collapsed after a gruelling duelling scene with George Sanders, and died of a heart attack a few minutes later. He was replaced by wig-toting Yul Brynner, who redid all of Power’s scenes. Power, however, is still visible in the film in long shots.

Filming near Zaragoza had its advantages. The military academy there was only too happy to lend expendable soldiers to the film company to die in droves.

The area where the film was made at the suggestion of a Spanish military advisor was the Spanish army’s summer training camp at Valdespartera, which was later to become absorbed by Zaragoza’s expansion and, curiously, or not, a lot of the streets in the neighbourhood have been given the names of famous films. So, as you wander the streets, you come across names (in Spanish of course) like ‘The Birds’, ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘An American in Paris’ or ‘Casablanca’ Street.

During the battle scenes a castle can be seen on a distant hill. This castle is the 13th century ‘Santa Bárbara.’

George Sanders, who shared Power’s last scene, would return to Spain in 1972 in order to commit suicide in a hotel in Castelldefells near Barcelona. The British actor, born in Saint Petersburg, left a note saying that he’d done it: “because I am bored” (with life, not Barcelona, which is certainly a racy little town). Sanders was married to two of the Gabor sisters, Zsa Zsa and Magda, although at different times.

Power’s own demise took place at the Sevilla Film Studios in Madrid’s Avenida Pio XII, number 3. The studios, created in 1943 were used in such epics as ‘Alexander the Great,’ ‘El Cid,’ ‘Patton’ and ‘King of Kings.’ Unfortunately, in 1973 the complex was redeveloped as an area of villas and a shopping centre.

In the great battle scene with the dazzling shields, the producers point out that no toy horses were injured.

Suddenly Last Summer (1959)

Elizabeth Taylor rehearses for ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe’ by acting out her manic fantasies with stoic Montgomery Clift, whose each movement resembles somebody suffering from a recent punch in the stomach, and whose pockets, to which his hands seem to have a fatal attraction, are his deepest attribute.

The film demonstrates an incredible lack of knowledge about Spain, with the traumatic events taking place in a small coastal village called ‘Cabeza de Lobo’, supposedly in the summer of 1937, when Spain was in the middle of a civil war and foreign travellers, like Taylor’s brother Sebastian, closely scrutinised.

Sebastian, played by the Spanish actor Julián Ugarte, is mobbed and very possibly eaten alive by a group of young boys and youths, rehearsing, for parts in ‘Lord of the Flies’.

In fact, judging from the photos taken at the time, they were a jolly, friendly bunch of local lads, their faces blackened with boot polish to make them look sinister.

The village chosen for Taylor’s nightmare climb to the medieval castle at the top, where Sebastian finally succumbs, is Girona’s Begur, an old fishing village.

Ten days were spent in August 1959 shooting in Begur and around about for a film released the same year, but not seen in Spain until 1979. It is debatable whether this is due to the portrayal of Spanish youth as ignoble savages or Liz Taylor’s display of too much of her generous body for the slavering cinema goers of Franco’s dictatorship.

During filming Taylor and her then husband Eddie Fisher would often take their meals at the Bar Frigola in Begur’s main square those summer days

Other scenes were filmed at the beach at Pals, Sant Antoni de Calonge, and at S’Agorá, in front of the well known Taverna del Mar, all on the Costa Brava.

It is on the Santa Pol beach in front of the Taverna that Sebastian meets up with the youths who will later chase him up to the castle though the streets of Begur (quite a chase given that Begur is 20 kilometres up the coast).

Begur Castle

Some of the technical staff stayed near the beach of Llafranc at Calella de Palafrugell, while the stars stayed at the famous Gavina hotel in S’Agaró.

50 years had passed since the film was made when in 2009 the filming was celebrated with an exhibition in Begur, organised by local expert Pere Carreras Luque.

John Paul Jones (1959)

Mia Farrow was the Queen of Denia’s fiestas long before she became a Princess of Hollywood.

Her father John directed this film, in which her brother John Charles Farrow also had a brief part as John Paul Jones the young Scottish boy who throws an egg at a British officer who is trying to bring the locals to their senses by banning the use of bagpipes and kilts.

This scene supposedly takes place at a small square in a Scottish village, although it was actually filmed in the Plaça Sant Antoni in Denia in Alicante province.

The stairs on which John Paul was hiding when he threw the eggs was a prop, but was copied from a real staircase that can still be found nearby in ‘Plaza El Raset’.

When John returned to Denia for the 50th anniversary of the making of the film, he was moved to see the staircase still there.

Plaça Sant Antoni is still recognisable, although it has grown a few bars since the film was made, and winding through some atmospheric streets of the old fishing port, we can find in Carreró del Macriat a statue of questionable taste that commemorates the making of the film.

The port of Denia played the role of both a Scottish fishing port (where Jones was born) and Portsmouth (the American one in New Hampshire).

Robert Stack, who later played Elliot Ness in ‘The Untouchables’ TV series, and who played John Paul Jones as an adult, was often to be seen running up and down the sandy Arenal beach at Jávea with his wife Rosemary and his daughter Elizabeth during their stay, and the same beach was used for the scene in which Jones attacks a British base at Tobago.

When John Paul returns to attack the port of Whitehaven, where ironically he began his naval career, the castle his men capture was in fact Denia castle, originally built in the 11th century and located in the city centre behind the port. The point where we see them climbing upwards with the castle wall to their right is the ‘Punta del Diamant’.

The decision to use Denia was largely due to the enthusiasm of one of the film crew, John Cabrera, whose family originally came from there. John worked on many of the great films made in Spain and elsewhere in an illustrious career spanning several decades.

Lunch with the late, great John Cabrera in Denia

Saint Petersburg also features in the film, although the scenes in the Palace there were actually shot in the Palacio Real of Madrid using the authentic thrones of the Spanish monarchy, which were temporarily available for forty years due to the brief interlude of Franco’s dictatorship. The scenes with Queen Catherine of Russia, played by Bette Davis, were filmed there, as were some of the scenes of the French court at Versailles.

This was the first film produced in Spain by the legendary Samuel Bronston, flush with money from various international companies that could not take their money out of Spain and so ‘invested’ it in making films, which could then make them dollars back home.

Bronston, actually a nephew of Leon Trotsky, had two important supporters to help him make the film; American war hero Admiral Nimitz and the Spanish Prime Minister, later assassinated by ETA, Carrero Blanco, also an Admiral. Both of them were keen to see a film about a heroic Admiral for reasons that defy the imagination!

For the making of ‘John Paul Jones’ two boats were brought from Italy and one from Barcelona and turned into 18th century frigates. Their presence in Denia would bring many more film makers with naval themes on their minds to the town.

The whole crew of the film stayed at hotels in Benidorm; and in fact the distinctive ‘Peacock Island’ in Benidorm’s bay can clearly be seen when a group of marines storm a beach as they capture Providence Island in the Bahamas from the evil British.

The film totally transformed the lifestyle of sleepy Denia, and cultural icons such as sunglasses, Coca Cola and Whisky found their way into the everyday life of the local people, many of whom shared in the 27 million pesetas spent in the town during filming in 1958.

Our thanks to Toni Reig, Miquel Crespo and Romu Soler from Denia for taking us around the locations.

North West Frontier (1959)

The story is set in India and concerns the attempts of Kenneth More and Lauren Bacall to save an Indian prince by escaping on a train.

Although the first part is largely filmed in India, the countryside of the province of Granada provided the ‘authenticity’, and the stations at Iznalloz and Guadix (where Spielberg would later film part of the third Indiana Jones film) provided most of the ‘authentic’ Indian train station material.

The station at Guadix is Bhivandi Pura, where More and Bacall find the massacred refugees and a surviving baby.

The scenes at a bridge took place at the River Anchurón on the Linares- Baeza line in Jaén province. The bridge, which our heroes have to cross as it falls apart, crosses the river on the road between Fonelas and Belerda de Guadix.

The group finally reach safety at Kalapur, whose station is provided by Iznalloz.

Speaking of lines; the film contains the classic “half the world is only civilised because we made it so” from Lady Wyndham.

The film is worth watching if only to enjoy the theme music, the stunningly appropriate ‘Henley Boating Song’.

Honeymoon (1959)

Although largely a Spanish film, the director was Englishman Michael Powell and the lead actor Anthony Steele, who among other great roles, performed seven times in the British soap opera ‘Crossroads’.

Steele plays Australian farmer Kit Kelly, travelling through Europe on his honeymoon.

The port of Vigo in Pontevedra, Galicia, the Alhambra Palace of Granada, where Antonio and Anna dance together, and the famous mosque at Córdoba, are all used as backdrops to this feast of music and dancing, which centres around Manuel de Fallas’ evocative ‘Amor Brujo’.

Director Powell has a cameo in his own film, as the tourist guide explaining the story of the Lovers of Teruel, Spain’s own version of Romeo and Juliet.

The tomb of these 13th century unconsummated lovers can be visited today in the Mausoleum of the church of San Pedro; the two romantics lie side by side their hands stretched out to each other but (as they weren’t married) not touching.

In the 38th minute of the film as Kit and his wife leave Madrid and head south, for the briefest of moments the castle of Maqueda in the province of Toledo rises majestically behind them.


Like so many castles, the origin was Roman, although the serious building only began around 981.

In 1083 it was taken by Alfonso VI of Castilla after which it passed through many hands.

Between 1196 and 1198 it resisted sieges of the Almoravids.

Pedro I the Cruel tried hard to live up to his name. In 1354 he ordered the imprisonment and execution of the Master of the Order of Calatrava don Juan Núñez de Prado.

This may have been because of his friendship with Pedro’s brief Queen Doña Blanca or in order to hand the job of Master over to his protégé Diego García de Padilla, his lover’s brother.

Strange lights sometimes appear in the castle, announcing the presence of Núñez, whose throat was unceremoniously slit.

 Isabel la Católica lived there for some years and later on so did the Guardia Civil.​

It started With a Kiss (1959)

A little bit of romance between Glen Ford and Debbie Reynolds in which the couple move to Madrid and treat us to some backdrops of the city, which include the Rastro and the Cibeles Fountain, where Real Madrid supporters generally celebrate their team’s triumphs.

The ‘Plaza de España’ and the ‘Palacio Real’, in the shadow of ‘Torre de Madrid’ and ‘Edificio España’ also featured in this film, which temporarily brought a little bit of glamour to a city where not much else happened; except when Real Madrid won.

Edificio España. Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

During filming they ran into the cast of ‘Spartacus’, who were also staying at the Castellana Hilton (now Intercontinental) Hotel.

Filming also took place in Granada, at the Alhambra palace and in the Albaicín district of the city. Our couple also witness a wedding in the San Nicolás church. The gate of the park known as ‘Carmen de los Mártires,’ situated next to the Alhambra, also features.

During their Granada stay the stars lodged at the Hotel Nevada.

Once again American film makers show their amusing attitude towards Spanish geography. After Granada, the next morning Ford and Reynolds pass through Segovia, where they inspire the envy of Antonio the bullfighter (envy for Ford’s car that is) as they drive through the town, past the magnificent castle perched above, and under the Roman aqueduct. Quite a detour considering their destination is Madrid.

Our thanks to Granada cinema expert Juan José Carrasco for the information about Granada.

Tommy the Toreador (1959)

The film is really a vehicle for British singer Tommy Steele to exploit his hit song ‘Little White Bull.’

Tommy the sailor gets mistaken for a bullfighter when he arrives in Spain and everybody falls over a lot.

An excellent supporting cast includes Sid James, Bernard Cribbins, Kenneth Williams, Eric Sykes and Warren Mitchell (all except Williams playing Spaniards), as well as experienced Spanish actors such as José Nieto.

The film begins with images of the Seville Fair (Feria de Sevilla) an annual event held usually in April when the people of Sevilla dress up in traditional costumes and flamenco music, horses and sherry are the attractions.

The hotel where Tommy ends up after escaping with the girl on the back of a truck, is the Hotel Oromana, situated in Avenida de Portugal, Alcalá de Guadaira, in whose streets a lot of the action takes place. The hotel was built in 1929 for the Latin-American Exhibition in Sevilla in the regional style.

As they are riding along, the town’s castle is clearly seen.

A castle of some description has stood on this site since the Iberians dominated the peninsula.

With 11 towers it has loomed over the town over the centuries, being built upon and developed especially by the Moors.

The castle is rich in legend. When the Christians reconquered it, they observed from the walls an eagle that always landed in the same place. On digging there they discovered the image of a Virgin, buried apparently by Christians during the Arab conquest of the city.

Another story tells of blind fish that adapted to and lived in the underground waterworks built by the ever-busy Romans.

The town and castle take their names from a Moorish Princess Aira, whose ghost it is claimed still haunts the castle and whose voice can still be heard there.

She had been promised to a Moorish prince, but in true West Side Story tradition, fell in love with a Christian prisoner instead. Helping him escape across the river, they were surprised and killed by her jilted would-be husband.

Having betrayed her father in this way, the gate she escaped through was thereafter called the Gate of Treason.

Prisoners there have been, and although none were particularly famous, they could tell a good story today.

Diego García de Padilla was kept prisoner in the well, lowered there by his brother in law King Pedro I of Castilla after the Battle of Nájera in 1367. There he monitored the water levels when the rain fell to see if he would drown, while in an underground wheat store, Bishop Juan de Cardellac also paid the price for opposing Pedro (aka Pedro the Cruel), and was not released until he was already insane.

The castle also has a dragon legend, a creature hatched from an egg under the castle, where it lived with its friend/master Yacub until it saved the Sultan’s life by burning to cinders a group of renegade warriors who attacked him.

The big bull fight scene at the end takes place in the Real Maestranza de Caballería, Sevilla.

SOS Pacific (1959)

Richard Attenborough stars and Guy Green directs.

The Pacific is of course the Atlantic, and the Canary Islands, named so because of their canine inhabitants rather than birds, are the destination of the passengers whose plane crashes where an atom bomb is to be tested.

Filming took place on the island of Gran Canaria in the Vegueta district of the city and on the docks of Las Palmas, especially on the dock of Santa Catalina, where a young, spry Attenborough skulks and stutters mischievously.

Puerto de La luz, Triana (Alameda de Colón and Hotel Cairasco) as well as San Nicolás also appear, as does the village of San Bartolomé de Tirajana.

The beaches of Maspalomas and the Playa de los Burros represent the desert island where the hydroplane ends up.

Action Stations (1959)

A gang of counterfeiters chase an engraver and his daughter to Spain. The girl is kidnapped and released by two smugglers.

Among the Spanish locations is the famous Tibidabo Amusement Park of Barcelona, perched above the city, as well as the neighbourhood of Vallvidriera, where there is a funicular railway to the park.

Gibraltar also features, although, is that on the Spanish coast? Either way you offend somebody.