Sunday, August 24, 2008

Juano Hernandez, Actor

“This is an article adapted from one that I wrote for my personal website. I have seen the article on other websites without any credit. I thought Mr. Hernandez is one of those talents that deserve recognition for their contributions and accomplishments to the arts.”

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico (anywhere from 1896 to 1901 according to several sources) he achieved success playing African Americans or Africans on the screen.
Orphaned at an early age he ended up in Brazil where he joined a circus as an acrobat. Never having any formal education he taught himself to read and write in several languages. Besides the circus he worked in vaudeville and minstrel shows. Studying Shakespeare he developed perfect diction enabling him to become a radio voice actor. His first Broadway show was Showboat in 1927.

After making a few all black films with Oscar Micheaux he received recognition for his first mainstream film in 1949, Intruder in the Dust based on a Faulkner story. His performance as Lucas Beauchamp, the poor southern sharecropper unjustly accused of murder. The performance received great praise and most thought he deserved an Oscar nomination if not the award itself.

What made him stand out is that he never took any roles that he felt were demeaning or stereotyped. Among his other roles were the jazz musician in Young Man with a Horn, They Call Me Mr. Tibbs, The Pawnbroker and Trial in which he played a judge. For an African-American to be given a role as a judge in 1955 was no small event.
In later years, he retired to Puerto Rico and formed Puerto Rico Films, Inc. to stimulate film production on the island.
Mr. Hernandez died on July 17, 1970 and is buried at Cementerio Buxeda Memorial Park in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jacobo Morales

The Film Society of Lincoln Center is presenting Latin Beat 2008, their annual survey of Latin American Cinema. In this series, they are presenting a tribute to Puerto Rican auteur, Jacobo Morales, three of his films will be shown with an introduction by the director.
The three films to be screened are “Angel” (his most recent film), “What Happened to Santiago” (1990 nominee for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film) and “Linda Sara” (starring popular Puerto Rican singer Chayanne and former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres).
Jacobo Morales was born in Lajas, Puerto Rico in 1934. He began his career as an actor in theater and radio when he was fourteen years old. In 1954 he began working in television as an actor, writer and director. He worked in Hollywood, as an actor in the 1970’s then became a film director in 1979. He has written and directed six films.
If anyone is in the New York City area the Latin Beat 2008 is running from September 5-September 25. In addition to the tribute to Jacobo Morales, there will other panels and film series. For more information click here.