Here’s a little something I did earlier….

In 1936 Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich made the film ‘Desire’, a musical comedy with Spanish scenery as a backdrop.

Although the actors never set foot on Spanish soil, some images shot by a crew that visited San Sebastian and Toledo were recorded as backdrops, and for this reason, for the first time, not only one but two Spanish castles made it into a Hollywood film.

San Sevrando Toledo
San Sevrando Castle, Toledo

Many years have passed, and many Spanish movie castles have appeared on silver screens all over the world, four of them alone in Samuel Bronston’s epic El Cid.

Belmonte Cuenca
Belmonte Castle, Cuenca. Site of the Jousting Scene

One initiative designed to increase awareness of the value of Spain’s castles, especially in the cinema and tourism sectors is www.spanishcastlemoviemagic.com

Bob Yareham, an English and history teacher from London, based in Valencia since 1981, has been writing about English-language films shot in Spain for many years. Cas Eggermont, a Dutch entrepreneur, created the website.

I researched the films, watching some pretty awful ones and visiting the castles in order to create the website, whose title is a reference to Jimi Hendrix’s song ‘Spanish Castle Magic’.

The site, in English and Spanish, tells the stories of some 80 cinema castles, explaining the part of the films shot there as well as a bit of history and the current use of each one. It’s not a technical site, and doesn’t go into architectural details, but looks for legends and especially ghosts because, at least in the United Kingdom, a castle isn’t worth a pile of rubble if it doesn’t come with a ghost. In fact, Charlton Heston claimed to have seen a ghost at Belmonte castle while filming there.

The importance of castles is that they are a direct connection between generations through the ages and teach us much about our past. As well as being visually spectacular, they hover over all of us, of each generation.

For this reason, the project has so far included four visits to schools and universities to share the research with students and teachers in an interactive audio-visual activity.

There are about 2,500 castles in Spain and their location always tells us something about what was happening when they were built; and especially, who needed protection from whom.

Curiously, the province with the most castles, Jaén, has seen no English-language film made in any of its castles, for the moment.

There are also doubts about what a castle is. Some city walls, such as those of Artajona, Navarre, which depicts Nottingham in the film ‘Robin and Marian’, resemble castles, while the frequently filmed walls of Ávila don’t.

Artejona Navarra
Artajona, Navarra

The Arabs distinguished an Alcazaba (walled city) from an Alcázar (castle), although the difference is often minimal.

In the end, in any project, you have to establish some kind of limit, to hedge your bets. In this project I included castles that appear in English-language feature films, but not in short films or series (although some, especially the unbearably successful Game of Thrones, get a mention when there was also a feature film shot in the same place, as in the case of the castle of Almodóvar del Río in the province of Córdoba; High Garden in the series), where Omar Sharif made his last film in Spain and Ava Gardner her last ever. It was called ‘Harem’ and the castle represented nothing less than Constantinople.

Almodovar Del Rio Cordoba
Almodóvar del Rio, Córdoba

The project Spanish Castle Movie Magic was not only about the past; another objective was to encourage visitors to explore Spain’s rich heritage and to encourage people to visit off the beaten track locations throughout the year, not just in summer.

Most of the photos, nearly all originals, were taken by the young, up and coming Valencian-British photographer Mark Sicon, with a little additional help from his friends.

www.spanishcastlemoviemagic.com

For more information contact bobyareham@gmail.com Also, if you would like the text, all 630 pages of my Movies Made in Spain project, just contact me. No charge; flattery accepted.

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