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Cine-Mundial: The Magazine that Brought Hollywood Into the Hands of Spanish Speakers

Learn about the history of the game-changing publication, read some of its Spanish-language reviews of the history's biggest movies, and see some of its most striking covers!

by and | September 20, 2019 | Comments

(Photo by The Library of Congress via Internet Archive)

Rotten Tomatoes is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: First with The 100 Essential Spanish-Language Films, and now a spotlight on the luminous cinema magazine once dedicated to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

In the early days of the movie business, dozens of trade and fan magazines sprouted up in an attempt to cater to the near insatiable thirst for information that the cinema inspired. For Spanish-speaking fans, Cine-Mundial was a godsend. Founded in 1916 as an offshoot of the trade magazine Moving Picture World, the New York-based Cine-Mundial quickly established an identity of its own, and in doing so, “positioned Spanish-speaking readers as an integral rather than peripheral audience for films,” wrote Rielle Navitski in the book Cosmopolitan Film Cultures in Latin America, 1896-1960.

Cine-Mundial began as an attempt to capitalize on the growing Spanish-speaking audience in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. Within a few years, the magazine shifted its focus from a trade paper to a fan magazine, with celebrity interviews, glossy photo spreads, witty columnists, and eye-popping front covers. In particular, Jose M. Recoder’s striking pastel celebrity portraits graced the front of the magazine frequently in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Cine-Mundial’s rise coincided with the Hollywood celebrity of Mexican stars like Dolores del Río, Ramón Novarro, and Lupe Vélez, and came at a moment when notable directors like Sergei Eisenstein (Que Viva Mexico!) and Fred Zinneman (Redes) shot films in Mexico. (In addition, some studios concurrently made English and Spanish versions of certain films, the best example being the well-regarded Spanish version of Dracula.) With correspondents in Mexico City, Havana, Buenos Aires, and Madrid, Cine-Mundial featured detailed chronicles of local filmmaking scenes and popular movie theaters.

One of Cine-Mundial’s most venerable contributors was Elena de la Torre. Originally from Spain, she wrote a syndicated movie column in which she was an outspoken advocate for women both in front of and behind the camera. Eventually settling in Los Angeles with her husband Miguel de Zárraga (himself a contributor to Cine-Mundial), she was arguably the magazine’s most prominent critical voice. In addition to her work with Cine-Mindial, De la Torre also contracted with Fox to evaluate Spanish-language books for potential movie projects.

While Moving Picture World ceased publication in 1927, Cine-Mundial held on for two more decades before closing its doors in 1948. By that point, homegrown film industries in Mexico and Argentina were peaking creatively and commercially, holding firm on their own turf against Hollywood fare. But over the course of its three decade run, Cine-Mundial demonstrated the strength and passion of the Spanish-speaking audience while documenting the rise of regional Latin-American cinema.

(Photo by The Library of Congress via Internet Archive)

Read Cine-Mundial on Some of the 20th Century’s Most Seminal Films

Here’s what Cine-Mundial had to say about classic movies (the full reviews are in Spanish):

  • City Lights (1931): “However bad a Charlie Chaplin movie may be, it will always be better than a hundred [other films] entrusted to others… A very likable movie, but it’s not extraordinary.” – Francisco J. Ariza, January 1931
  • Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959): “Superior to the precedents of the same character, embodies all possible technical perfections… and all photography refinements and handling of large masses  that made the great famous biblical photodramas…Other films will come later, perhaps, to touch upon identical issues and offer them to new audiences; but they won’t be better for the simple reason that Ben-Hur exhausted the elements of the cinema and, has upon reaching the summit, put up a barrier to whatever comes later.” – Francisco J. Ariza, February 1944
  • Gaslight (1944): “The adjective ‘monumental’ will seem inappropriate for a movie, but we don’t have another one at hand that satisfies us… We doubt that any artist can beat Ingrid Bergman as a candidate for this year’s Academy Award.” – Elena de la Torre, February 1944
  • Citizen Kane (1944): “The realism, the development of the scenes, and the connection that is established so that the public doesn’t lose the thread of the narrative is something truly extraordinary that we have not seen before.” – Alfredo Córdoba, February 1944

You can find more of Cine-Mundial’s reviews on its Rotten Tomatoes source page.

See Some of the Most Striking Cine-Mundial Covers

And for a further treat, here are more gorgeous hand-painted covers of the magazine. Click on an image for gallery.

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