After the reign

STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco -

(First of two parts)

Like I’ve told you many times over, the entertainment profession is very tricky. Climbing up and getting there is difficult to achieve. But staying on top and hanging on to the position is even harder.

Let’s go review how some of the Philippine movie queens managed to maintain their luster through the decades and why they are still respected by the public:

Carmen Rosales — She quit toward the mid-’60s because she wasn’t getting any younger and had to throw in the towel (she had been on top since the pre-war). However, she kept the public interested in her by being a recluse — a la Greta Garbo — and

Carmen Rosales: First bona fide local movie queen

everyone kept speculating about her (did she age gracefully or was she in dire straits?). She refused interviews for both print and television and that all the more added to her mystique.

For about a quarter of a century, she kept everyone guessing how she looked by hiding (no photographs, please!) from public view. Oh, she would be seen in Uni-Mart from time to time, but it was only people of her generation who recognized her — or maybe they didn’t anymore. The last image moviegoers had of her was when she was still a glamorous movie queen — and she kept it that way. She agreed to a VTR shoot for the FAMAS in 1983, but on the condition that it was just going to be a silhouette shot.

But before she passed away in December 1991, she allowed herself to be interviewed by German Moreno and Inday Badiday in 1987 and the curious finally saw how age had caught up with her (she looked like a glamorous grandmother). But the mystery that she allowed to envelop her lustrous Carmen Rosales: First bona fide local movie queenname worked to her favor for more than 25 years and to this day, she is still regarded as the first bona fide movie queen of the local big screen.

Gloria Romero — She will always be regarded as one of the biggest movie queens of all time. But she nearly lost that because she became practical and allowed herself to play support to the newer big stars. Why, she even played an aswang at one point. And since she was never the whiner, everyone took advantage of her good-natured ways when she allowed producers to trample on her name, particularly in her billing. As she once told me: “Sometimes my name would be above the title, sometimes it was below. At times, it wasn’t even there.”

Ms. Romero obviously had a realistic overview of the profession and realized that her days as movie queen were over. But she needed to work and acting had always been the only job she knew — plus the fact that she loved it — so she agreed to play second or even third fiddle to the younger generation once she stepped out of the gates of Sampaguita Pictures, her mother studio that carefully built her up starting in the early ’50s.

But truly, you cannot put a good person down. In the ’80s, Viva started making those glossy films and cast veteran stars at their glamorous best. But it was Regal Films that gave Gloria and former rival Nida Blanca the opportunity to get top billing once again — thanks to Lily Monteverde, a great movie fan who wanted to accord the movie queens of the ’50s the importance they deserved. Other producers followed suit — until Gloria finally won a whole slew of Best Actress trophies via Tanging Yaman in 2000, 46 years after she was adjudged the Best Female Lead Performer at the FAMAS for Dalagang Ilocana. Indie films also gave her another chance to play lead roles — in Kamoteng Kahoy and Fuchsia that gave her another Best Actress statuette. Turning 77 on Dec. 16, Ms. Romero may be slowing down, but she surely managed to regain her crown as a movie queen — the most beloved ever.

Nida Blanca — Like Gloria Romero, Ms. Blanca didn’t mind playing support later to younger stars even if she was also a movie queen in her time. Her decision to relegate herself to secondary parts, at least, always kept her employed and even in those supporting parts, she always managed to shine — winning several Best Supporting Awards in the process: in Bato-Bato sa Langit in 1975 where she was support to Nora Aunor and a grand-slam victory when she played Dina Bonnevie’s mother in Magdusa Ka in 1986. The year before, she won a string of Best Actress trophies for Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (Aga Muhlach’s movie actually) and 12 years later in Sana Pag-ibig Na.

When she was killed tragically in late 2001, the entire country mourned. She left this world a movie queen and will always be remembered with utmost respect by an adoring movie-going public.

(To be concluded)










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