Spain is truly the European Hollywood, with over 900 English language films shot here over the years, many of them epics such as Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, to name but a few.
In the latter film there is a famous scene of Denholm Elliott being kidnapped by Nazis in what purports to be Iskenderun, but in reality was the railway station at Guadix, Granada.
Elliott was one of many actors captivated by Spain’s beauty and, in his case, especially Ibiza, where he would die of tuberculosis at his home in Santa Eulària des Riu on 6 October 1992 aged 70.
Long before Indiana, Elliott participated in a film called Holiday in Spain, also known as Scent of Mystery (1960).
This film was shown as a ‘Smell-o-Vision’ movie, as the theatre was equipped with a system that gave off various odours in synch with the film.
Elliott also appeared in Richard Lester’s Robin and Marian (1976) alongside Audrey Hepburn and Sean Connery in a film largely shot in Navarra.
Lester made many films in Spain, but the most tragic was The Return of the Musketeers (1989).
The film is dedicated to Roy Kinnear, who on 19th September 1988, fell from a horse on the Alcantara bridge in Toledo, sustaining a broken pelvis. He was taken to hospital in Madrid, but died from a heart attack the following day. Richard Lester was greatly affected and gave up his own film career, largely as a direct result of Kinnear’s death.
Kinnear had been a regular feature in Lester’s movies, including The Beatles’ Hard Days Night.
Stanley Baker is another actor with a long Spanish history, starting with Sea Fury (1958), filmed in Girona province, Sands of the Kalahari (1965) shot in Almería, The Last Grenade (1970) filmed in Málaga, as was Innocent Bystanders (1972).
Baker would also die in Málaga on June 28, 1976 (age 48), but not before making Zorro (1975), with Alain Delon near Madrid.
Curiously, in his last film, Pepita Jiménez (1975), Baker plays a Spanish landowner, alongside Sarah Miles, in a Spanish language film.
Although he never made a film in Spain, the man who recorded the definitive ‘White Christmas’, Bing Crosby, died of a heart attack at Madrid’s La Moraleja golf club playing his favourite sport.
George Sanders was an unusual actor and an unusual man. Born in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1906, his unstable personal life included a marriage to not one, but two Gabor sisters, Zsa Zsa and Magda.
His first film in Spain, Black Jack (1950), was shot in Mallorca and was the world’s first significant introduction to the iconic beach at Torrent de Pareis, later made even more famous by the presence of Tom Hanks in Cloud Atlas.
Another Spanish icon in the film was flamenco star Lola Flores.
Sanders lived for some time in his house in Mallorca, but eventually committed suicide in a hotel in Castelldefells, Barcelona, leaving a note that read ‘Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.’
Sanders was indirectly involved in the death of Tyrone Power in 1958. During the shooting of Soloman and Sheba, Power collapsed and died of a heart attack in a Madrid studio after a gruelling sword duel rehearsal with Sanders. Yul Brynner would take over the role.
The famous battle scene, with the polished shields blinding the horsemen, was shot at a Spanish army training camp near Zaragoza. The area has since been absorbed by the city and all the streets in the new urban area now have the names of famous films such as The Wizard of Oz.
Power had starred in Hemingway’s famous film about the San Fermín bull running festival, The Sun Also Rises (1957), although only some additional footage of this version was actually shot in Pamplona.
Power’s daughter Taryn also made films in Spain, including Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), alongside John Wayne’s son Patrick.