A STAR IS BORN! An old Hollywood film starring the great JUDY GARLAND! But alas! Is a star really born? Or made? That is a question yet to be answered with finality.
Philippine cinema started roughly in the early 30′s. I learned that the late Mary Walter was one of those who made films without sound. My father, a musician told me he used to provide music for the films using his old violin. He insisted I must learn to play the violin…or even just a guitar. I got pinched in the ears for every wrong note I made until he gave up the idea of making a musician out of me.
The 1936 film Zamboanga, produced by Fillipine films and recently retrieved and repatriated with the help of the US Library of Congress, is the possibly the oldest Pilipino feature film in existence. It starred Fernando Poe Sr. and Rosa del Rosareio and was the first movie equipped with sound and music. It featured the first underwater kiss in films. Presumably, theirs was the first loveteam in Philippine cinema.
Carmen Rosales and Rogelio De La Rosa, considered to be “the ultimate loveteam”, were paired in many films during the pre-war days such as Takip-Silim, Senorita, Colegiala, Lambingan, Tampuhan and Panambitan. After the war, they made a comeback at LVN Studios with Camelia and Kampanang Ginto. Then Sampaguita Pictures paired them once again in the memorable Maalaala Mo Kaya and Ang Tangi Kong Pag-ibig. The last two films were my mother’s favorite.
Sampaguita Pictures suffered a great loss in the early 50′s when the studio was burned to ashes. Out of the meager savings, Sampaguita Pictures rose from the ashes. It was Tessie Agana’s Roberta which helped Sampaguita Pictures regain its glory. From there, the studio became alive again and cameras rolled and more films were produced.
Dr. Jose R. Perez, the amiable producer of Sampaguita Pictures, initiated making films using the home grown talents as loveteams in stellar roles. He discovered new talents for his stable with Gloria Romero, Lolita Rodriguez, Rita Gomez, Ric Rodrigo, Ramong Revilla, Cesar Ramirez, Alicia Vergel, Juancho Gutierrez, Romeo Vasquez, Amalia Fuentes, Susan Roces, Jose Mari, Luis Gonzales, Dindo Fernando, Tita Duran, Pancho Magalona and a horde of good looking actors and stunning actresses.
The mainstays at the LVN lot were headed by Charito Solis, Leroy Salvador, Mario Montenegro, Delia Razon, Carmencita Abad, Robert Campos, Luz Valdez, Lita Gutierrez, Nida Blanca, Nestor de Villa, Tessie Quintana, Lou Salvador Jr., Chona Sandoval, Marita Zobel, Guy Donato, Nenita Vidal, Manding Claro and Ike Jarlego Jr.
Premiere Productions completed the Big 3 film studios at that time. Efren Reyes Sr., Leila Morena, Jose Padilla Jr., Arsenia Francisco, Fernando Poe Jr., Shirley Gorospe and Zaldy Zshornack were the big moneymakers during that period.
Movie stars were then discovered in big social events in the cities or in far flung provinces. Some stars were discovered while watching a location shooting, like the incomparable Nida Blanca. Other stars were picked out from among background extras or bit players. Others were discovered in chance meetings in almost always ‘proper’ places or events. Then, places where you can stumble on a prospective actor or actress did not include steamy bath houses or striptease joints. The contract stars then seemed to exude class and dignity with an air of mystery as they were seldom seen in public and were never involved in embarassing or scandalous situations. And the movie fans became more interested to see them in films.
I cannot reemember an instance of court intervention between the studios and their stars as there seemed to be no problem at all. If ever there were, the same were settled amicably and without the press making a carnival out of them. The movie stars seemed to be well disciplined, dedicated and responsible for their actions. The stars, likewise, were well taken cared of and there were no bad publicity to tarnish their reputation and public image. They were well protected and considered as members of the producer’s family. Movie stars were not allowed to loiter in public places unless there were important ocassions to attend. That way, fans maintained the eagerness to see them in films if they cannot see them in person.
But filmmaking became a commercial endeavour and movie stars, it appeared, were soon considered commercial items and commodities. Their films should make money or else, goodbye to stardom and hello, again, obscurity. Acting as a profession seemed to be the most ungrateful profession, if I may say.
Then came Regal Films, Seiko Films, Star Cinema and other independent productions. Regal films even started the “pito-pito” films where movies were filmed in barely seven days and with a shoestring budget at that.
Scandals and controversies began to mar the film industry with contract stars filing law suits against their producers and vice versa. Bold movies and bold stars became the talk of the town. It became a fad among female stars to become pregnant and announce it publicly, going to court to demand financial support from the would-be fathers of their babies. The more scandalous the affair became, the more there was publicity. The reason: good or bad publicity is still publicity.
Perhaps it is in the Filipino’s cultural make-up to lap gossips and revel in talking about the ills and misfortunes of a person, especially a showbiz person. In this case, people in showbiz are similarly subjected to this propensity. Once articles about a star become few and scarce, his/her days in showbiz are numbered. The more scandals one gets, the more publicity one earns and the more film assignments he/she gets. That seems to be the order of the day.
Today, stars hit the limelight through controversial publicity if they make a scene in public, if they get drunk in a night spot, if they are involved in brawls and fights outside the rings. They are controversial and that means publicity. That is, if they intend to stay long in the business. Carlos Maceda and Aleck Bovick are rumored to be living together without the benefit of marriage. Diether Ocampo and Kristine Hermosa were reported to have married in Bulacan but after a month, rumors have it that Kristine filed for.
But what about the loveteams of the moment?
The loveteam of Judy Ann Santos and Piolo Pascual seems to be the most enduring though times also seems to have caught up with them as Judy Ann is now reportedly in an MU moment with Ryan Agoncillo though many TV aficionados are still clamoring to see teamed up again in a new TV series. The loveteams of Jericho Rosales and Kristine Hermosa, Joross Gamboa and Roxanne Guinoo, Oyo Boy Sotto and Nadine Samonte, Rainier Castillo and Yasmin Kurdi, Richard Gutierrez and Angel Locsin and Mark Herras and Jennylyn Mercado are now engaged in stiff competition. Some of these teams are products of star searches and singing contests. But it seems they lack the needed staying power or none at all. How long will they stay in the business? The latest addition the loveteam growing of John Wayne Sace and Maya Salvador. Will these love teams stay for long? Or will these stars survive the ever growing challenges and stay as actors on their own? Can they duplicate the feat of the senior actors who survived and are still active after three or more decades in their acting careers?
Unless and until they take their profession seriously and continue to learn more and new techniques, unless they learn to respect themselves and their reputations, a few years may be good enough for them. Then they become has beens and nobody will remember them if they would sadly leave nothing of note about their careers and accomplishments.