Rotten Tomatoes is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: First with The 100 Essential Spanish-Language Films, and now a spotlight on the luminous cinema magazine once dedicated to the Golden Age of Hollywood.
In the early days of the movie business, dozens of trade and fan magazines sprouted up in an attempt to cater to the near insatiable thirst for information that the cinema inspired. For Spanish-speaking fans, Cine-Mundial was a godsend. Founded in 1916 as an offshoot of the trade magazine Moving Picture World, the New York-based Cine-Mundial quickly established an identity of its own, and in doing so, “positioned Spanish-speaking readers as an integral rather than peripheral audience for films,” wrote Rielle Navitski in the book Cosmopolitan Film Cultures in Latin America, 1896-1960.
Cine-Mundial began as an attempt to capitalize on the growing Spanish-speaking audience in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. Within a few years, the magazine shifted its focus from a trade paper to a fan magazine, with celebrity interviews, glossy photo spreads, witty columnists, and eye-popping front covers. In particular, Jose M. Recoder’s striking pastel celebrity portraits graced the front of the magazine frequently in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Cine-Mundial’s rise coincided with the Hollywood celebrity of Mexican stars like Dolores del Río, Ramón Novarro, and Lupe Vélez, and came at a moment when notable directors like Sergei Eisenstein (Que Viva Mexico!) and Fred Zinneman (Redes) shot films in Mexico. (In addition, some studios concurrently made English and Spanish versions of certain films, the best example being the well-regarded Spanish version of Dracula.) With correspondents in Mexico City, Havana, Buenos Aires, and Madrid, Cine-Mundial featured detailed chronicles of local filmmaking scenes and popular movie theaters.
One of Cine-Mundial’s most venerable contributors was Elena de la Torre. Originally from Spain, she wrote a syndicated movie column in which she was an outspoken advocate for women both in front of and behind the camera. Eventually settling in Los Angeles with her husband Miguel de Zárraga (himself a contributor to Cine-Mundial), she was arguably the magazine’s most prominent critical voice. In addition to her work with Cine-Mindial, De la Torre also contracted with Fox to evaluate Spanish-language books for potential movie projects.
While Moving Picture World ceased publication in 1927, Cine-Mundial held on for two more decades before closing its doors in 1948. By that point, homegrown film industries in Mexico and Argentina were peaking creatively and commercially, holding firm on their own turf against Hollywood fare. But over the course of its three decade run, Cine-Mundial demonstrated the strength and passion of the Spanish-speaking audience while documenting the rise of regional Latin-American cinema.
Here’s what Cine-Mundial had to say about classic movies (the full reviews are in Spanish):
You can find more of Cine-Mundial’s reviews on its Rotten Tomatoes source page.
And for a further treat, here are more gorgeous hand-painted covers of the magazine. Click on an image for gallery.