Saturday, October 1

The day the El Retiro Car Tour was the Champs Elysees




It was not a hallucination: some people from Madrid will still remember, because they saw it, how the El Retiro Car Walk became an imitation of the Champs Elysees. And the pond, previously dried out, housed a replica of the Prater, the Vienna Amusement Park. And through its trees John Wayne or Rita Hayworth in the middle of filming a movie, ‘The fabulous world of the circus’, which was set in the great lung of Madrid.

The internationally famous cadre of actors – those already mentioned were also joined by Claudia Cardinale – strolled their palm through the Royal Palace, the old Circus Price –Of which only a memorial plaque remains–, or the El Retiro park. «Gilda in

Madrid! ”, Some newspapers announced, referring to the most famous of the interpretations of the actress of Spanish origin Rita Hayworth. Others pointed out that during her stay in Madrid she was “withdrawn and lonely”, leaving the hotel where she was staying “In a Cadillac that the production company made available to him” to walk through “the old neighborhoods of Madrid.” It was almost Christmas and in Madrid, it is known, winters are harsh. Hence, the great figures helped each other to cope with the cold with shots of brandy or some other drink capable of warming the heart.

Desiccated from the El Retiro pond to mount the sets of the movie ‘The fabulous world of the circus’ – TEODORO NARANJO DOMÍNGUEZ

The filming –which forced El Retiro to close for several months– was quite an odyssey. Not only because of the whims of the ‘stars’, but because of the difficult character of the film director, Henry Hathaway, and the added difficulties of one scene in particular, that of the great fire in the circus tent, which ended with Wayne slightly burned and suffering from mild smoke poisoning.

John Wayne, playing chess on a break from filming
John Wayne, playing chess on a break from filming – ÁLVARO GARCÍA PELAYO

The people of Madrid lived together, almost without knowing it, for several months with some of the brightest stars in Hollywood. Sometimes they even mixed with the common people: it happened when Wayne, with the two female protagonists by the hand, went to the Palafox cinema to attend the premiere of ’55 days in Beijing‘. He met there with the then Prince Juan Carlos and Princess Irene of Greece, and in some photo of the time they are seen chatting with the Cardinale.

He must have liked the experience of listening to himself in Spanish, because he returned by himself to another cinema on Gran Vía. And the chronicles tell that he was so funny that he burst into laughter in the middle of the room, causing complaints from the rest of the audience. Only when the lights came on and people could identify him did the anger turn to applause.

And when the filming was finished in Madrid, the cast of actors made one last gift to the city: on January 5, Three Kings’ Eve, and as part of the promotion of the film, the entire circus – except for the stars, who they were already filming in other parts of the world– they participated in the Cavalcade. This is how ABC related it on January 7, 1964, recounting in detail how beasts and tightrope walkers jumped from the cinema to reality, touring the streets from the vicinity of the pond, where the march started, to the Plaza de la Villa.

A million people, according to the chroniclers, saw that Royal Cavalcade in which more than 2,000 people, a hundred horses, several elephants, 15 camels and the entire circus, expressly provided by the film’s producer, Samuel Bronston.

Other capital stories

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  • Colegio de San Ildefonso: 250 years of children glued to the seurte
  • The anger of the Golden Age that ended the assault on a convent

See them

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