However, from that hell arose one of the historical films of Spanish cinema, an unexpected friendship with Isbert -who would once again be the protagonist of three other Berlanga films (‘El verdugo’, ‘Los Thursdays, Miracle’ and, to a lesser extent , ‘Calabuch’) – and the habit of having in his films a series of «gut comedians» (the definition is by José Luis García Sánchez), which are used to support on screen the bitter and humorous vision of life that the filmmaker had .
Bitter, humorous and deep down tender. And if there is a face in the history of Spanish cinema capable of transmitting tenderness, bitterness, perplexity, mischief and the necessary touch of histrionics to take weight off the matter, that is that of José Luis López Vázquez, the actor who appeared on most occasions in the cinema of Berlanga. “Since That Happy Couple Luis has always called me for all his films, the ones that I have not been able to do is due to incompatibility with the theater or because the character did not leave me,” said López Vázquez in an interview conducted shortly after the filmmaker’s death .
Indeed, López Vázquez has in the film of the Berlanga-Bardem tandem a small role as a shop assistant in a jewelry store. They worked together again in Novio a la vista, where the Madrid actor plays a nineteenth-century beach flirt, and in Los Thursdays, Miracle, where he plays the skeptical priest Don Fidel. For the same theatrical commitments mentioned above, the priest’s voice was dubbed in the final montage. «You have done a lot of work for me» Berlanga said to his great fetish actor, «there is no one who can bend you».
Later, López Vázquez would arrive as Don Gabino Quintanilla de Plácido, the great masterpiece of a Berlanga in a state of grace continued with El verdugo. Apparently, and according to the actor commented, the protagonist of the film was going to be him, but the entry of an Italian production company in the project imposed Nino Manfredi in the main role and he had to settle for a small but unforgettable role of brother of the protagonist.
In total, there are 12 Berlanga films in which López Vázquez worked, including Vivan los novios’ distressed boyfriend and, of course, the lavish and decadent Luis José from the National Shotgun trilogy. They say that Berlanga had planned the reappearance of the last of the Leguineche saga in Paris-Timbuktu, his final work, but the producers knocked down the character.
Perhaps there Luis José would have coincided with his faithful servant Segundo, a character played by another unforgettable Berlanguian fetish: Luis Cigés. The Alicante actor (he was Azorín’s nephew) took part in 11 Berlanga films, the first as a scammer in A tram is sold and the second as a poor man in Plácido. «For Plácido he told me that he did not give the kind of poor thing. I said, ‘I’ll give it. I went to the illustrious Iranzo, a hairdresser in Barcelona, and asked him to make me a good cut for a walk, but that with a blow he would stiffen. I bought a raincoat, I wore it for a month, I put chorizo and tortilla sandwiches in my pockets so they would drip well, and I introduced myself to him ».
Ciges was one of those so-called secondary characters capable of stealing the shot with his mere presence from the main actor. That talent also had another canonical “gut actor” named Manuel Alexandre who, from his first and small role as secretary to the civil governor in Welcome Mr. Marshall, went on to act in 11 Berlanga films, including the crepuscular Todos a la prison and París. -Tombuctú and the series Blasco Ibáñez that the Valencian director shot for television. But how can we forget Alexandre believing at face value that Isbert was Saint Dimás or accompanying his brother to pay the bills of the motorcar or even discreetly acting as the one sentenced to death that the executioner is unable to hold.
Another unforgettable supporting actor was Agustín González, who appeared in a dozen Berlanga films. The first of these was Plácido, in which this flamenco-loving anarchist and “Hispano-skeptic” (that’s how he defined himself) was more than just the perfect son-in-law and property registrar.
But the great character from Berlanguiano Agustín González was undoubtedly the ultramontane priest and brawler of the “national” trilogy, releasing phrases as lapidary as that of “what I have united on earth is not separated by God in heaven.”
Who was not separated by God in that film was Luis José from his one-eyed wife Chus, played by Amparo Soler Leal, the woman most faithful to Berlanga since she appeared in eight of his feature films. Wife of the also Berlanguiano producer Alfredo Matas, Soler Leal appeared for the first time in a film by the Valencian director playing the lover of an adulterous husband in Plácido (the adulterer, by the way, was Antonio Ferrandis) and we could also see her in Life size, La heifer, All to jail and Paris Timbuktu. It is not surprising that the actress always boasted of her status as a «Berlanga girl» just as Chus Lampreave claimed to be an «Almodóvar girl» despite having also participated in seven productions by the Valencian filmmaker (one more than another «Berlanga girl» with all the of the law that was María Luisa Ponte).
There are other actors that perhaps we associate less with Berlanga despite being like amulets in his productions, such as Félix Fernández (who appears in seven of the filmmaker’s first films) or Pedro Beltrán from Cartagena, a bohemian from before. He appeared in one way or another in up to eight works of his friend Luis.
Other performers came out on fewer occasions but it is inevitable to link them to the Berlanguian universe either because of how unforgettable their interventions were -Luis Escobar, Manolo Morán, Sazatornil, Emma Penella, Cassen or the “happy couple” formed by Elvira Quintilla and Fernando Fernán Gómez- or for having incarnated the closest thing to an “alter ego” of the director. In this case we are talking, of course, about that Michel Piccoli who wasted in Natural Size and Paris-Timbuktu disbelief, disenchantment, bad grapes and erotic nostalgia. Berlanga made man.