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Fernando Rey
Born Fernando Casado Arambillet
September 20, 1917(1917-09-20)
A Coruña, Spain
Died March 9, 1994 (aged 76)
Madrid, Spain
Occupation Actor
Years active 1935—1994

Fernando Casado Arambillet (September 20, 1917 – March 9, 1994), better known as Fernando Rey, was a Spanish film, theatre, and TV actor, who worked in both Europe and the United States.



The beginnings

Rey was born in A Coruña, Spain, the son of Captain Casado Veiga. He studied architecture, but the Spanish Civil War interrupted his university studies.

Fernando Rey with Silvia Pinal in Viridiana, in the cover of the film script book.
Fernando Rey with Gloria Grahame in Tarot (The Magician, 1973).
Fernando Rey, as Don Quixote, with Alfredo Landa, as Sancho Panza, in El Quijote de Miguel de Cervantes (1991).

In 1936, Rey began his career in movies as an extra, sometimes even getting credited. It was then that he chose his stage name, Fernando Rey. He kept his first name, but took his mother's second surname, Rey, a short surname with a clear meaning ("Rey" is Spanish for "King").

In 1944, his first speaking role was the Duke of Alba in José López Rubio's Eugenia de Montijo. Four years later, he acted the part of Felipe I el Hermoso, King of Spain, in the Spanish cinema blockbuster Locura de amor.

This was the start of a prolific career in movies (he played in around two hundred films), radio, theater, and television. Rey was also a great dubbing actor in Spanish television. His voice was considered intense and personal, and he became the narrator of important Spanish movies like Luis García Berlanga's Bienvenido Mr. Marshall (1953), Ladislao Vajda's Marcelino Pan y Vino (1955), and even the 1992 re-dubbed version of Orson Welles' Don Quixote. In fact, Rey acted in four different film versions of Don Quixote in different roles, if one counts the Welles version (for which Rey supplied offscreen narration in the final scene).

His brilliant performance in the role of a demotivated and doubtful actor in Juan Antonio Bardem's Cómicos (1954), while showing him for the first time in a successful lead part, paradoxically, as he saw himself as the real incarnation of the role, plunged him in a professional depression, of which he did not emerge until his collaboration with Luis Buñuel several years later. However, in the short term, Buñuel's disconcerting public remark on Rey's performance in other Bardem's film, Sonatas (1959), "I love how this actor plays a corpse", could only increase Rey's apprehensions; but anyway Rey became eventually Buñuel's preferred actor and closest friend.

International career

Rey's first international performance was in The Night Heaven Fell (Les bijoutiers du clair de lune) a 1958 French-Italian film directed by Roger Vadim, where he shared cast with Stephen Boyd, Marina Vlady and the French sex symbol Brigitte Bardot.

In 1961 Rey played in the very first Spaghetti Western, The Savage Guns, and along that decade appeared in some other movies of this genre, including the political The Price of Power (1969) and two sequels of The Magnificent Seven, namely Return of the Seven (1966) and Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969).

It was his work with Orson Welles and Luis Buñuel during the 1960s and 1970s that made Rey internationally prominent; becoming indeed the first 'international Spanish actor'. Rey starred in Buñuel's Viridiana (1961), Tristana (1970), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie) (1972) (a surreal movie which received the 1972 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film) and That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). For Welles, Rey performed in two completed films, Chimes at Midnight (1966) and The Immortal Story (1968).

Rey played the French villain Alain Charnier in William Friedkin's The French Connection (1971). Initially, Friedkin intended to cast Francisco Rabal as Charnier, but could not remember his name: he only knew it was a Spanish actor. Rey was hired before Friedkin could see him. Rey's English and French were not perfect, but Friedkin discovered that Rabal spoke neither of them, and opted to keep Rey, who reprised the role in the less successful sequel, French Connection II (1975).

Along 70s and 80s Rey played in many international co-productions of the most heterogeneous film genres, some of his appearances being almost just cameos. Among them, to name only a few, Lewis Gilbert's The Adventurers (1970), Mauro Bolognini's Fatti di gente per bene/Drama of the Rich (1974), Vincente Minelli's A Matter of Time (1976), Valerio Zurlini's The Desert of the Tartars (1976), Robert Altman's Quintet (1979), J. Lee Thompson's Cabo Blanco (1980) and Frank Perry's Monsignor (1982). But Rey's great success in that years indisputably was Elisa, vida mía, a 1977 Spanish drama film written and directed by Carlos Saura.

On his work in Stuart Rosenberg's Voyage of the Damned (1976), Rey once said: "I played [Cuban] president Prío Socarrás; a cameo. They paid me a lot of money for less than six hours of shooting, in the Barcelona Stock Exchange building, with James Mason. I got more money than Orson Welles, who played a great role ..." [1].

Back in Spain

In later years Rey preferred to work in Spain, with successes as Francisco Regueiro's Padre Nuestro (1984), José Luis Cuerda's El bosque animado (1987) or Jaime de Armiñán's Al otro lado del túnel (1992), and above all his incarnation of Don Quixote, alongside Alfredo Landa as Sancho Panza, in the memorable Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón`s El Quijote de Miguel de Cervantes (1991) for the Spanish National TV.

His last appearance in the screens was in a supporting role in the Spanish black comedy El cianuro ... ¿sólo o con leche? (Cyanide ... pure or with milk?) (1994).

Recognition and awards

In 1971 Fernando Rey won the best actor award in the San Sebastián International Film Festival, for his performance in Rafael Gil's La duda, based, like Viridiana and Tristana, in a novel by Benito Pérez Galdós.

Another of the successes of Rey-Buñuel's tandem was That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), nominated for another Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe in the same category, though the movie failed to win either. Rey's voice had to be dubbed by Michel Piccoli.

In Lina Wertmüller’s Academy Award-nominated film, Seven Beauties (1975), Rey played the role of Pedro the anarchist who, as a friend of the protagonist and fellow prisoner, Pasqualino Settebellezze, chooses a gruesome suicide rather than spend another day in a Nazi concentration camp.

Rey won Best Actor award at 1977 Cannes Film Festival by his performance in Elisa, vida mía.

In 1988 he won again the best actor award in the San Sebastián International Film Festival, this time for his performance in two films: Francisco Regueiro's Diario de invierno and Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi's El Aire de un Crimen (The Hint of a Crime).

Fernando Rey was awarded too with the gold medal of the Spanish Movie Arts and Sciences Academy.

Personal life and death

In 1960, Rey married the Argentine actress Mabel Karr. In 1992 he became chairman of the Spanish Movie Arts and Sciences Academy. He died from cancer in Madrid in 1994.


  1. ^ Cebollada, Pascual, Fernando Rey, Madrid 1992 p. 299.


  • Cebollada, Pascual (1992). Fernando Rey. Madrid: C.I.L.E.H. ISBN 84-87411-12-6.  
  • Torres, Augusto M. (1994). Diccionario del cine español. Madrid: Espasa Calpe. ISBN 84-239-9203-9.  

See also

External links

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