El cementerio de las águilas (Luis Lezama, 1938).


“…yo os exhorto para que si más tarde os encontráís en situación

semejante á aquella en que nos encontramos los defensores de

1847, recordéis que aquellos mártires espontáneamente sacrifi-

caron su vida por nuestra Patria; que debéis ser dignos suceso-

res, y por último, que sois hijos del Colegio Militar, que siem-

pre tuvo y tendrá como lema ¡¡Todo por la Patria!!

Dije.

Chapultepec, 8 de septiembre de 1906.”

Ing. Ignacio Molina.




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The images we feature in this occasion are two production stills of El cementerio de las águilas, a film produced by Aztla in 1938.


Production stills are invaluable first-hand sources for film historians, as they tell the story of the making of films. In many cases, they reveal information not found in the film itself or in extant written documents related to it, such as: uncredited crew members, technical details, and visitors to the set or location; the normal and the unlikely incidents during the shooting of films, and so forth.


The pictures shown in this page disclose some interesting facts about El cementerio de las águilas, and also show the faces of some cinema people one rarely has the opportunity of seeing.





The first thing one learns from these stills is that the movie was financially backed by Azteca Films[1]. One can say that because don Rafael and don José Calderón, partners in the company, appear in one of the pictures. They used to attend to the shooting of the films they backed, and had their picture taken during their visits. Azteca Films supported the production of countless films, mainly giving cash advances to producers. The Calderón brothers went further, extending producers credit lines for the use of their studios and laboratories (Estudios Azteca).[2]


Then, we notice the presence of Domingo Carrillo Castro and Armando Carrillo Ruiz in both stills. Domingo Carrillo was first a cameraman, and later a feature film cinematographer. Armando followed the same professional path, but his work as cinematographer was mainly done for documentaries. Though they were not credited in El cementerio de las águilas, it is evident they assisted Ezequiel Carrasco, the cinematographer, in the capacities of cameraman (Armando) and lighting technician (Domingo).


Another crew member that was not given credit, but appears in one of the stills is Carlos ‘Chale’ Cabello, already a veteran assistant director. It is possible he was the script clerk in this film, since Mario de Lara was the assistant director.


Several members of the ‘Querétaro’ production unit appear in one of the pictures.


One of the stills features Íñigo de Martino, screenplay writer, who is seldom seen in photographs.


The still taken on location gives us a glimpse of the arresting scene in which families bid farewell to the Mexican soldiers departing to fight the U.S. invasion.


Leonor Gómez[3] is there too. It is almost impossible to identify her among the extras in the film, so the photograph serves as proof of her participation.


El cementerio de las águilas was made by very talented people. In the pictures, one sees cinematographer Ezequiel Carrasco[4], who photographed the first feature film made in Mexico. Carrasco was hailed as the Rembrandt of contrasts and nuances in film[5] after his work in Tabaré, a silent movie made in 1918 –his first collaboration with Lezama.


Luis Lezama, the director, had a short but significant cinematic career. He directed only 6 feature films; among them, the first version of Tabaré was the most celebrated. El cementerio de las águilas is a classic; moreover, it is the only movie approaching the subject of the Niños Héroes de Chapultepec (the Cadet Heroes from the National Military Academy that defended the Chapultepec Castle from U.S. invading troops in 1847)


The movie has not historical pretense, as a legend at the beginning of the film reads; it is rather a romantic story involving some of the real life characters of the Niños Héroes’ history. The story stresses the human aspect of that era of conflict, and the patriotism of the cadets.

In spite of that disclaimer, every effort was made to preserve authenticity in the historical reenactment. Noted artist Roberto Montenegro was there to oversee art design and costumes. An actual military officer, Lt. Col. Pedro Mercado, was in charge of supervising the historical accuracy of uniforms, weapons, and military movements. Also, battle scenes were taken at the actual locations: the ex-convent of Churubusco for the namesake combat, and the Chapultepec Castle for the Niños Héroes’ epic defense of the site, and hundreds of extras –including actual military forces- took part in them. The producers acknowledged the support of the President, Gral. Lázaro Cárdenas, and that of the Mexican Army.

 

El cementerio de las águilas is a nationalistic film that succeeds in conveying the sense of pride and dignity of Mexicans, shown even in defeat. For learning more about the movie and its social significance, see “Remembering the Forgotten War: The Enduring Legacies of the U.S.-Mexican War”, written By Michael Van Wagenen.[6]


Production still taken in the studios:




  1. Unidentified man
  2. Cinematographer Ezequiel Carrasco
  3. Lighting technician Armando Carrillo Ruiz
  4. Camera operator Domingo Carrillo Castro
  5. Leading actor José Macip (Agustín Melgar)
  6. Actor Alfonso Ruiz Gómez (Rafael Alfaro)
  7. Composer Alfonso Esparza Oteo
  8. Leading actress Celia D’Alarcón (credited as Silvia Cardell, in the role of Ana María de Zúñiga y Miranda)
  9. Director Luis Lezama
  10. Leading actress Margarita Mora (Mercedes de Zúñiga y Miranda)
  11. Actor José Martínez (poet Luis Manuel Martínez de Castro)
  12. Leading actor Jorge Negrete (Miguel de la Peña)
  13. Screenplay writer Íñigo de Martino

Production still taken on location, left section:




  1. Lorenzo Beltrán (‘Querétaro’ production unit)
  2. Juan Ramírez (‘Querétaro’ production unit)
  3. Francisco Ruiz (‘Querétaro’ production unit)
  4. Actor José Martínez
  5. Carlos ‘Chale’ Cabello

Production still taken on location, middle section:



  1. Actor José Ortiz de Zárate
  2. Actress Loló Trillo
  3. Actor Alfonso Ruiz Gómez
  4. Actress Leonor Gómez
  5. Actor Manuel Dondé
  6. Don Rafael Calderón (Azteca Films)
  7. Actress Celia D’Alarcón (credited in this movie as Silvia Cardell)
  8. Director Luis Lezama
  9. Actress Margarita Mor
  10. Actor Jorge Negrete
  11. Don José Calderón (Azteca Films)


Production still taken on location, right section:



  1. Camera operator Armando Carrillo Ruiz
  2. Cinematographer Ezequiel Carrasco
  3. Lighting technician Domingo Carrillo Castro
  4. Francisco Suaste (‘Querétaro’ production unit)

           



[1] Major Spanish-language film distribution company in the United States, in operation since 1932. Its owners were brothers José and Rafael Calderón Urrutia, and Juan Salas Porras, all from Chihuahua, México.

[2] Mexican film industry’s mode of production was different from Hollywood’s: studios in Mexico were just the facilities, usually including laboratories, which gave service to producers. Producers were not employees at the studios, but entrepreneurs that owned the films they made.

[3] The Mexican film player believed to have the most extensive filmography.

[4] To learn more about Ezequiel Carrasco, read Elisa Lozano’s article, published at: http://cuartoscuro.com.mx/2010/09/ezequiel-carrasco-del-cine-silente-al-sonoro/

[5] Entry for Ezequiel Carrasco in multimedia CD: Manuel González Casanova, Virgina Medina Ávila, coordinators, Escritores del Cine Mexicano Sonoro, México, D.F.: UNAM, 2003.

[6] Published by the University of Massachusetts Press, 2012.