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Una Grande Attrice Italiana dalla Spagna

A Look at Nieves Navarro

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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The 1960’s saw many Spanish actors and actresses coming to Italy for the creative freedom they couldn’t get in Franco run Spain. The Western genre was the most prolific for these performers, and once this genre played out and lessened in popularity, many of these actors and actresses went back to their native land. One actress who managed to survive the burnout of the Western and leap to the Giallos, Horror, and Sex Comedies was Nieves Navarro.

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Though born in the Southern part of Spain, Navarro’s look was different to her heritage, which allowed her to be cast in various non-Hispanic roles, along with playing traditional Spaniards and Mexicans. Unlike most Spanish actresses, Navarro somehow managed to get offers from Italian producers and made the decision to relocate to Italy. Starting out in a comedy with Italian comic Toto, Navarro initially started out playing the seductive foreigner who was on the side of the hero. This was unusual even for European films as most actors/actresses in these roles were often depicted as having wavering allegiances, usually playing both sides for their own benefit. Even in these early stages, Navarro showed herself as a capable actress, holding her own with top-notch talent. While leading lady roles were few and far between for her, Navarro would get to show romantic interest in her male co-stars, though rarely did it go into anything substantial, but when it did, it was really beautiful.

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Her real break through in films was when the Italian or “Spaghetti” Westerns were beginning to become popular in Europe. Usually set in towns that were on the border between the US and Mexico, many Spanish actors and actresses were sought for the roles of Mexican peons, bandits, and well-to-do’s. Navarro’s debut in Una Pistola per Ringo (A Pistol for Ringo) had her playing a role that was unconventional even for Italian Westerns: a gun-packing female bandit. While a supporting role, Navarro did get the opportunity to enjoy a romantic attachment to fellow Spanish actor Antonio Casas’s character Major Clyde. Her performance was so good she was asked to come aboard for the in-name only sequel Il Ritorno di Ringo (The Return of Ringo) a year later. In spite of playing a more traditional, non-interesting saloon girl part, Navarro’s beauty and talent is still on great display. Her only other major parts in the Westerns were in La Resi Dei Conti (The Settling of Accounts/The Big Gundown) and Una Nuvola di Polvere… un Grido di Morte… Arivva Sartana (Cloud of Dust.. Cry of Death… Sartana is Coming/Light the Fuse, Sartana is Coming) as The Widow and Sra. Belle Manassas respectively. The majority of her roles in these films were usually just as eye candy for the hero, but in the four films just mentioned she got to play characters with depth and substance that went beyond the norm of most Italian Westerns. Not used as much as many other Spanish actresses of the time, Navarro with her sultry and exotic looks were able to leave a valuable and lasting impression that still resonates today.

Image result for Nieves Navarro

Image result for Nieves Navarro

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It was during the shooting of the Ringo films that Navarro would meet and fall in love with Italian screenwriter/producer/director Luciano Ercoli, and later marry him. He catapulted her to fame with an important supporting role in his first Giallo Le Foto Proibite di una Signora per Bene (Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion). By this period she’d become a naturalized Italian citizen from her marriage to Ercoli and was fluent in the Italian language, but her strong Spanish accent required voice dubbing for her roles. With the advent of Crime Dramas, Crime Action, and Giallo films Navarro found herself having to adopt the American pseudonym Susan Scott, sometimes spelled Susanne (or Suzanne) Scott, but audiences still knew who she was from the Westerns. Looking more like a native Italian than Hispanic, Navarro was able to transition with ease to the new trends of cinema in Italy. Her center roles in her husband’s most famous Giallos La Morte Cammina con i Tacchi Alti (Death Walks on High Heels) and La Morte Accarezza a Mezzanotte (Death Walks at Midnight) cemented her status as a powerhouse player in the genre and well showcased her acting talents. Another great, though more of a supporting role in the genre was in Sergio Martino’s Horror mood effort Tutti i Colori del Buio (All the Colors of the Dark), playing fellow sex symbol Edwige Fenech’s sister.

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Sadly, by the mid to late seventies, Navarro soon saw her talents being wasted in exploitative horror films and comedies. Realizing tastes were changing in cinema and that she was getting older, Navarro decided to head back to her native Spain and try to re-ignite her career there. While she made a couple of films, her being away from Spanish cinema (even though many of the Westerns were filmed in her native Almeria) for the majority of her career and not being immediately recognizable to audiences past and present, had Navarro realizing her time as an actress had passed, though she was totally willing to play matriarch type characters. With the support and love of her husband, they both relocated permanently to Spain as Ercoli had long retired from filmmaking at this time after receiving a considerable inheritance from a late distant relative. They remained together until Ercoli’s death a few years earlier.

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While many of her roles had her playing the damsel in distress or the object of a killer’s obsession, Navarro always played her characters with a sense of independence and intelligence, very often strong-willed and fiery. Navarro may not have gotten the same acclaim as some of her contemporaries or the more internationally recognized actresses of the time, but its clear fans always enjoyed seeing her were captivated in one way or another by her. Having no regrets of where her career took her and still enjoying the admiration it brought her, Navarro still talks about her career in films today and has happily offered to do recorded interviews for various DVD and Blu Ray releases of the films she appeared in. Not an immediately recognizable name when asked of, her face is one fans, new or old, will never forget and will always be happy to see. A character actress all the way, she had that rare mixture of talent and beauty that took her far and wide. She could’ve easily made it as an important film actress and leading lady, but clearly loved the Western, Giallo, and Comedy roles she was being offered to her. An actress that certainly deserves and needs more recognition, but the Italian Subgenre category has a very loyal and devoted fan base.

(I highly recommend most of Senora Navarro’s pre-1976 films as those are her best work. She’s one of my favorite actresses and I’m thankful to companies like Arrow Video and Shameless Films for bringing her back to the public in the form of Blu Rays)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Nieves Navarro

Wikipedia/Nieves Navarro

Spaghetti-Western.net/Nieves Navarro

 

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

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