By Jean-Benoît Nadeau
The Oscars, an annual award ceremony that rewards merits of distinctive achievement, is mostly all about American cinema. However, the infamous Oscar statuette is directly connected to something, or rather “someone” Hispanic: Emilio Fernández.
The Mexican actor Emilio Fernández was the model for the award trophy. A political exile of the Mexican revolution, the man people called “El Indio” began working in Hollywood as an extra in the 1920s. In 1928, at the request of his friend, Hollywood actress Dolores del Rio, he accepted to pose as a nude model while Cedric Gibbons created the original statuette.
In the 1930s, “El Indio” returned to Mexico, where he was instrumental in the blossoming Mexican film industry. The Golden Age of Mexican cinema, started in 1935 with the success of ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! (Let’s Go with Pancho Villa!) and lasted until 1969.
As a director, he played a major role in this Golden Age, directing 41 films and playing in more than a hundred. María Candeleria, directed by Emilio “El Indio” Fernández and starring Mexican born actress Dolores del Rio, won the Palme d’Or in 1946.
More about Spanish culture can be found in our new book, The Story of Spanish, to be released May 2013 (St. Martin’s Press).