April 15th 1954: Rab Butler and Orson Welles

The big news in La Vanguardia today is crucifixion, sacrifice, and the indomitable Spanish spirit, with the merest nod to Indochina. However, there are a couple of short reports on foreign visitors that may conceivably be of interest.

Interesting coincidence: Mallorca was the home base of Franco’s Mr Fixit, Juan March, who may have been an intermediary in alleged attempts by Churchill to the value of $30M to bribe Spanish generals to stay out of WWII. Butler is apparently staying with his son-in-law, a British general called Reyner.

umber one is our very own Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister to you), RA (Rab) Butler, who is interviewed when he arrives with BEA in Barcelona and then when the Iberia connecting flight deposits him in La Palma de Mallorca. Mr Butler is obviously a canny operator: not only does he get two pieces in the paper, but by the time he arrives in the Balearics the children who accompanied him in Barcelona have vanished – presumably been sold into slavery down La Rambla – and he is travelling with his wife Elizabeth (née Courtaulds; cf Mrs Kerry) and some friends.

Butler is very tired – is wife is fatally ill, he’s just delivered his third budget, and Churchill’s third cabinet is limping along, handicapped (although probably not as much as Macmillan’s diary suggests) by the continuing effects of the stroke Churchill had suffered in June 1953. So, although a workaholic, he is probably being honest when he says he’s over for a couple of weeks rest – apparently Mallorca is well-liked by British ministers and particularly so by the Walter Monckton (Ministry of Labour), who strongly recommended it – and that, oh yes, Mr Eden is Churchill’s natural successor, not he.

– And Hispano-British relations? asks the local hack.
– We want to intensify commerce between the two countries, he replies.

And that’s a very good point, because there’s scarcely an advert for British goods to be found anywhere in the paper. American products, on the other hand…

On December 25 an airplane was sighted off the coast of Barcelona. It was flying empty

See Jonathan Rosenbaum, Movies As Politics (1997) for an interesting analysis of the making and – some would say – breaking of Arkadin.

narration that accompanies the opening sequence of some of the seven versions of Orson Welles’ Mr Arkadin/Confidential Report/Dossier Secret/Mister Arkadin/Raíces en el Fango (NY Times/IMDB/WellesNet) [insert metaphor here re Butler and British failure to reconnect with Spain post-WWII].

Welles has arrived in Barcelona on the 15th from Cannes, accompanied by his daughter of 16, Christopher, and he gives a standard f*ck-off interview at l’Estació de França to La Vanguardia’s about-the-town columnist, Manuel del Arco. Mr del Arco is clearly excited – much more so than his colleague at the airport – but Mr Welles is evidently less so. However, amid the banalities Welles does let slip that he’s going to be shooting that same evening and the following day in the harbour, only having three weeks to finish the film he’s making in Spain before he goes to London to appear in Lear.

There’s always been controversy about the list of alleged locations for the film, with it being suggested that the film was probably shot almost completely in studios in Madrid. What Welles is saying lends some support to the latter thesis, but I do wonder whether the famous yacht scene (dirty old men will remember Patricia Medina’s nipples) wasn’t shot in Barcelona rather than in Tangier (or even Naples), as conventional accounts would have it.

Be that as it may, I thought the following back page advert for a popular brand of cognac sums up quite well the contemporary world view of the Spanish establishment: once there were Greeks, we can’t remember the Brits, and now there are Americans, but Spain! Spain will endure:

centenario terry

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