In 1936 Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich made the film ‘Desire’, a musical comedy with Spanish scenery as a backdrop.
Although the actors never set foot on Spanish soil, some images shot by a crew that visited San Sebastian and Toledo were recorded, and for this reason, for the first time, not only one but two Spanish film castles made it into a Hollywood film.
Many years have passed, and many Spanish movie castles have appeared on silver screens all over the world, four of them alone in Samuel Bronston’s epic El Cid.
Now, two north Europeans have got together, united in their love of Spain (and of their respective Spanish wives) to create a new project designed to increase awareness of the value of Spain’s castles, especially in the cinema and tourism sectors.
Bob Yareham, an English and history teacher from London, based in Valencia since 1981, has been writing about English-language films shot in Spain for many years.
Cas Eggermont is a Dutch entrepreneur who comes from Tilberg, where Vincent Van Gogh studied as a child. He has always worked in commercial healthcare.
As well as their wives, they both love Spain, history and the cinema. The result is www.spanishcastlemoviemagic.com
They researched the films where Spanish castles appear to create the website, whose title is a reference to Jimi Hendrix’s song ‘Spanish Castle Magic’.
The site, in English and Spanish at the moment, tells the stories of some 80 cinema castles, explaining the part of the films shot there as well as a bit of history and the current use of each one. It’s not a technical site, and doesn’t go into architectural details, but looks for legends and especially ghosts because, at least in the United Kingdom, a castle isn’t worth a pile of rubble if it doesn’t come with a ghost.
They emphasise the importance of castles as they are a direct connection between generations through the ages and teach us much about our past. As well as being visually spectacular, they hover over all of us as each generation fades into the mists of time.
For this reason, the project includes visits to schools to share their research with students and teachers in an interactive audio-visual activity.
The first visit will be at IES Les Alfàbegues, Bétera; a town near Valencia, with its own castle of course.
There are about 2,500 castles in Spain and their location always tells us something about what was happening when they were built; and especially, who needed protection from whom.
Curiously, the province with the most castles, Jaén, doesn’t appear in this work, as no English-language film has been made in any of its castles, for the moment.
There are also doubts about what a castle is. Some walls, such as those of Artajona, Navarre, which depicts Nottingham in the film ‘Robin and Marian’, resemble a castle, while the frequently filmed walls of Ávila are not included.
The Arabs distinguished an Alcazaba (walled city) from an Alcázar (castle), although the difference is often minimal.
In the end, in any project, you have to establish some kind of limit, to hedge your bets. In this project the authors have included castles that appear in English-language feature films, but not in short films or series (although some, especially the unbearably successful Game of Thrones, get a mention when there was also a feature film shot in the same place, as in the case of the castle of Almodóvar del Río in the province of Córdoba).
The project Spanish Castle Movie Magic is not only about the past; another objective is to encourage visitors to explore Spain’s rich heritage and to visit locations that don’t suffer from tourist massification.
As well as showcasing castles that have served film makers in the past, they will be offering a service to castles that haven’t yet been used, producing footage and photos using drone technology in order to encourage film makers to take a look at possible future sites for shooting.
There will also be a special section for sponsors who want to use the site to promote their own castle-related activities, or simply to lend a hand to a project which has received no other help with costs apart from the creators’ own contributions.
The project has only just begun; in the near future they will be adding more castles and developing the information about the existing ones.
Most of the photos, nearly all originals, were taken by the young, up and coming Valencian-British photographer Mark Sicon, with a little additional help from their friends.
For more information and/or photos contact email@example.com