Francisco Rabal Valera
8 March 1926
Águilas, Murcia, Spain
|Died||29 August 2001 (aged 75)|
|Other names||Paco Rabal|
Francisco Rabal Valera (8 March 1926 – 29 August 2001), better known as Paco Rabal, was a Spanish actor, director, and screenwriter born in Águilas, a town in the south-western part of the province of Murcia, Spain. Throughout his career, Rabal appeared in around 200 films working with directors including Francesc Rovira-Beleta, Luis Buñuel, José Luis Sáenz de Heredia, Carlos Saura, Pedro Almodóvar, William Friedkin, Michelangelo Antonioni, Claude Chabrol, Luchino Visconti, and Gillo Pontecorvo. Paco Rabal was recognized both in his native Spain and internationally, winning the Award for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for Los Santos Inocentes and a Goya Award for Best Actor for playing Francisco de Goya in Carlos Saura's Goya en Burdeos. One of Spain's most loved actors, Rabal also was known for his commitment to human rights and other social causes.
In 1936, after the Spanish Civil War broke out, Rabal and his family left Murcia and moved to Madrid. Young Francisco had to work as a street salesboy and in a chocolate factory. When he was 13 years old, he left school to work as an electrician at film studios Estudios Chamartín.
Rabal got some sporadic jobs as an extra. Dámaso Alonso and other people advised him to try his luck with a career in theater.
During the following years, he got some roles in theater companies such as Lope de Vega or María Guerrero. It was there that he met actress Asunción Balaguer; they married in 1951 and remained together for the rest of Rabal's life. Their daughter, Teresa Rabal, is also an actress.
In 1947, Rabal got some regular jobs in theater. He used his full name, Francisco Rabal, as his stage name. However, the people who knew him always called him Paco Rabal (Paco is the familiar form for Francisco.) "Paco Rabal" became his unofficial stage name.
During the 1940s, Rabal began acting in movies as an extra, but it was not until 1950 that he was first cast in speaking roles, and played romantic leads and rogues. He starred in three films directed by Luis Buñuel - Nazarín (1959), Viridiana (1961) and Belle de jour (1967) - with whom he would develop a lifelong friendship.
He was named best actor by the Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos for El hombre de la isla in 1962.
William Friedkin thought of Rabal for the French villain of his 1971 movie The French Connection. However, he could not remember the name of "that Spanish actor". Mistakenly, his staff hired another Spanish actor, Fernando Rey. Friedkin discovered that Rabal did not speak English or French, so he decided to keep Rey. Rabal had previously worked with Rey in Viridiana. Rabal did, however, work with Friedkin in the much less successful but Academy Award-nominated cult classic Sorcerer (1977), a remake of The Wages of Fear (1953).
Throughout his career, Rabal worked in France, Italy and Mexico with directors such as Gillo Pontecorvo, Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti, Valerio Zurlini, Jacques Rivette, Alberto Lattuada and Silvano Agosti.
It is widely considered that Rabal's best performances came after Francisco Franco's death in 1975. In the 1980s, Rabal starred in Los Santos Inocentes - winning the Award for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival - in El Disputado Voto del Señor Cayo and also in the TV series Juncal. In 1989, he was a member of the jury at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival. In 1999 he played the part of Francisco Goya in Carlos Saura's Goya en Burdeos, winning a Goya Award for Best Actor.
Rabal's final movie was Dagon, directed by Stuart Gordon. The film, which was released after Rabal's death in 2001, was dedicated to him. The dedication, which appears before the end credits, reads: "Dedicated to Francisco Rabal, a wonderful actor and even better human being."
Rabal died in 2001 from compensatory dilating emphysema while on an airplane travelling to Bordeaux, returning from having received an Award at the Montreal World Film Festival. His death happened only a few weeks before he was due to collect the lifetime Donostia Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival. The award was accepted by his grandson, Liberto Rabal, also an actor.
Francisco Rabal is the only Spanish actor to have received an honoris causa doctoral degree from the University of Murcia. Murcia's Film Library and Cinematheque, Filmoteca Regional Francisco Rabal, created in 2004 as a meeting point for movie lovers, was named after him.