Sonntag, 11. Februar 2024

Gardel in New York - Note by the author


Note by the author
by Terig Tucci with annotations by Camilo Gatica and José Manuel Araque

It had been less than three months since Carlos Gardel and his troupe had left New York on an artistic tour through Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia. In those summer days, while we were waiting for our artists to return, my wife Lola and I were enjoying a vacation in Long Beach, just outside New York. In the hotel room, music from a radio receiver lent its somnolence to the summer afternoon.

On that day, June 24, 1935, there was no foreshadowing of the tragedy into which we would be plunged in a few moments.

Happy, we reviewed the great work plans we had prepared with Gardel. Four movies and a dramatic-musical sketch had been made for Paramount and everything was already organized for the shooting of two other movies of the same format, one of which, provisionally entitled "El camino de nuestra casa", was based on a posthumous poem of the same name by Evaristo Carriego; the other, a feature film that we would make in Hollywood and which was to follow his sketch "Apure delantero buey" from the film "The Big Broadcast of 1936", with which Paramount introduced our artist to the American public.

We had also agreed with Gardel that, on his return to New York, we would make the trip to Hollywood by car -so we would be able to visit some of the great National Parks of the "Far West" and, particularly, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, about which we had had long conversations.

How many things we dreamed of that day, June 24, 1935....

Suddenly the music stops. And the catastrophe, the merciless blow that was to truncate the course of his life, of our lives, appears terrifyingly. And we hear a voice reading a special bulletin...

"In a plane crash in Medellin, Colombia, the Argentine singer Carlos Gardel has perished in the flames".

Incredulous, stunned by the terrible news I had just heard, I turned off the receiver and called the "New York Times" The news was confirmed. They added that upon impact of the crash, when the plane burst into flames, one of its doors opened and some passengers were able to escape the holocaust. They had been taken to the hospital.

With the faint hope that our artists were among the survivors, I sent a telegram to Carlos Gardel and another one to Alfredo Le Pera, while we waited anxiously.

An hour later, a call from the telegraph office, terse, terrifying, confirmed our fears.

It was all over.

In a day, an instant, the dream so lovingly nurtured, turned into a nightmare by a cruel blow of fate. The compass of our earthly trajectory was diverted in the ashes of the absurd tragedy, in the despair of the Dantesque inferno.

How much time has passed since then... In spite of the years that have passed, the figure of Carlos Gardel, far from diminishing, grows larger every day, propelled by the noble legacy of his art - the sturdy prop of his well-deserved fame.

Having had the privilege of collaborating with him and having been a participant in his emotions and concerns, I wish with this book to pay a modest tribute to the memory of the great artist, reliving in my heart the now distant days of his stay in the United States.

And the memories begin to retrospectively unravel the events of this stage of his life.

I remember the arrival of the zorzal criollo to American lands, eighteen months before the tragedy, when he almost tried to escape from the rigors of the New York winter... I remember his debut at the National Broadcasting Company, the great American radio station, through whose airwaves Gardel achieved his first great triumph in the United States; his film work with Paramount... his recordings with the Victor... the apotheosis premiere of "Cuesta abajo" at the Teatro Campoamor; the endless walks along Broadway... the long strolls along Central Park... the excursion to the Statue of Liberty. ... the long walks through Central Park ... the trip to the Statue of Liberty. I remember his passion for children and animals... his cordiality towards his new American friends. Gardel's immense and unexpected interest in symphonic music, Arturo Toscanini, the Philharmonic Orchestra... his fondness for opera, theater, cinema... the visits to the cabarets El Chico, Don Julio, Cotton Club... and, above all, I remember his insatiable intellectual curiosity, his sparkling good humor... and also his hours of weariness.

In the following pages I shall talk about Carlos Gardel, the artist and the man, as I knew him, as I admired him, projected on the artistic and social background of the environment in which he lived for fifteen months. The purpose of this book is not to review the incidents of his daily life in New York; but, rather, to recall and value his work, his hours of feverish creation, his hours of triumph - which he knew how to share nobly with his collaborators. And also his hours of uncertainty, in which the excellent artist, weighing his last creative efforts, felt oppressed by doubt.

Nor could I, in fairness, omit the incidents that illuminated his New York days without undermining the irrefutable displays of wit and good humor that distinguished him.

I will take from my gallery of memories the impressions I retain of him; of his enormous curiosity, which made him eternally ask a thousand questions; of this, of that... of everything. Of when his inquisitive mind, in constant search for explanation, interpretation, justification, put my limited exegesis to a hard test.

I will try to present it faithfully and without touch-ups. With the perception of the photographic lens, in the brief instant that the impassive objectivity of the camera imprisons in a portrait. A portrait captured in a moment of innocent inadvertence, capable of revealing unknown facets of the man and the artist.

Not always flattering, perhaps; but affectionately, always.

The intention that encourages me, then, is to relate a chapter of his history, to thread an account of the rosary of his life... And if the objective that I set out to achieve - discounting an inevitable percentage of enthusiasm - could be realized even in part, I will feel satisfied and proud to have contributed a grain of sand to the pedestal of this authentic Argentine glory, and of America as a whole.

I cannot end this preamble without expressing my gratitude to two good friends, Dr. Iván Restrepo Fernández and Mr. Omar Bravo, two Colombian gentlemen, who, with their cordiality and encouragement, stimulated me to write this book during one of the most anguishing periods of my life. Without that encouragement, this modest work would not have been possible. To them, all my gratitude.

I also wish to acknowledge the valuable assistance kindly provided by Arturo Sestan, Carlos Spaventa, Arturo Yepes Pottier, Remo Bolognini, Clara Román, Rafael Humberto Gaviria; Paramount Pictures Corporation, R.C.A. Victor, National Broadcasting Company, New York Public Library, Lincoln Center Museum, Music Corporation of America-TV, Waldorf Astoria Hotel and the Santa Lucía restaurant. To all of them, thank you very much.