Philippine Cinema's Answer to Garbo: Gilda Gales,
6/20/2003 9:59:33 AM
Gilda Gales, 88, a
Philippine movie star in the 1930s, died in Monrovia, California, June 16,
from complications resulting in a stroke.
was, according to the newspaper of the day, gifted with that languorous
look and peculiar drooping of eyebrows, Gilda was dubbed the Greta Garbo
of the Philippines. It was noted that one had only to look at her picture
to note the striking resemblance to the Swedish star.
As a young
girl studying at St. Anthony' Institute in Iriga, Camarines Sur, Gilda
was called upon, from time to time, to participate in stage
presentations during school programs and fiesta celebrations. She was so
obsessed with acting that she vowed to go to Manila, at the earliest
opportunity, and apply for work in the movie studios there.
her father, who was a traveling agent for Smith, Bell & Co., was
transferred to Manila from the provinces, Gilda immediately approached
Jose Nepomuceno for a job in the movies. She was given a screen test,
successfully passed it, eliciting from Nepomuceno this tribute: I knew
right away that I was looking at a girl destined to be a great actress.
Gilda's first assignment was as supporting player in Malayan
movies' Makata at Paraluman. This was followed by Liberty Cadet's Love and six other pictures. The crowning point of
career as a movie star came in 1937 when she starred opposite Eduardo de
Castro in Brides of Sulu, a picture produced in the Philippines
(actually filmed in Jolo, Sulu) with an all-Filipino cast, but which was
directed by Hollywood's Jack Nelson. Released by Universal Pictures,
Brides of Sulu featured, for the first time in local movie history,
difficult underwater scenes. Gilda's performance in the picture was so
remarkably impressive she was offered an important role in MGM's Mutiny on
the Bounty. Unfortunately, she was ill at the time and could not stand the
rigors of travel.
Gilda's next big picture was Manila Talkatone's
Andres Bonifacio, with de Castro again. Not long after, Gilda made her
last picture, Susing Kalangitan. Then she retired from the movies for
Gilda married Miguel Blanco, bar and restaurant proprietor
in Manila (deceased in 1995), and they are survived by four children:
Miguel and Jose in Australia and Marie Cruz and Tina in the United States.
The family believes that all of Gales' movies were destroyed during World