Young Rebel: The Exploits Of Soledad Miranda

Soledad Rendón Bueno was born in Seville, the capital of Andalusia, a region on the southern coast of Spain, on 9th July 1943. The eldest of six children, her Portuguese father and Spanish mother of Triana gypsy ancestry, struggled to support their family, but her maternal aunt, in whose footsteps she longed to follow, was the well-known singer and flamenco dancer Paquita Rico. Encouraged by her parents, Soledad joined a flamenco troupe in 1951 and performed at the Seville Fair and at the city’s famous San Fernando Theatre, before touring the country.

Though she loved to dance, Soledad’s real ambition was to become an actress, and she moved to Madrid at the age of 16, where she adopted the stage name Soledad Miranda in homage to her idol Carmen Miranda. At 17, she was offered a role as a dancer in the musical comedy La Bella Mimí. Set in Madrid upon the outbreak of the First World War, thanks to the film’s elaborate period costumes and high-profile it was a success, despite Soledad later dismissing her own performance as, ‘very bad.’

Above: Soledad Miranda in La Bella Mimí (1960)

Minor roles ensued in the 1961 fantasy epic Ursus, directed by the Italian Carlo Campogalliani, and the nineteenth-century drama Canción de Cuna (1961), for which Soledad received second billing and was also required to put her considerable vocal talents to use. She would do so again when she released two EPs in 1964 and 1965, singing popular Spanish hits such as Amor PerdónameLo Que Hace A Las Chicas LlorarEl Color Del Amor and La Verdad.

Above: Soledad Miranda – La Verdad (1965)

In 1964, after moving to Lisbon to work with the director Henrique Campos on A Canção da Saudade, Soledad met José Manuel da Conceiçao Simões a retired Portuguese racecar driver, who was hoping to break into the film industry as an actor and producer. They quickly fell in love, and real life was mirrored in Un Día en Lisboa (1964) a mock-documentary following two young lovers, played by Soledad and José Manuel da Conceiçao Simões, on their journey from the Portuguese capital to the beach resort of Estoril. By 1966, they were married and a year later welcomed a son, Antonio. After making Cervantes, a.k.a., Young Rebel in 1967, a dramatisation of the life of Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes, in order to focus on motherhood Soledad put her career on hold for almost two years.

However, the pinnacle of her accomplishment and acclaim as an actress was still to be realised. Accepting a part as in the 1969 western 100 Rifles, by the American director Tom Gries and starring Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch, Soledad reasoned that the movie, which was shot in Spain, would be her last chance to achieve international recognition. As the uninspiringly titled ‘girl in the hotel,’ who gets into a skirmish with her lover, Yaqui Joe Herrera, a native American bank robber played by Reynolds, her scene, in which she cavorted topless, was brief but memorable. Significantly, the Spanish director Jess Franco, known for his exploitation pictures, then casting Count Dracula (1970), was reminded of his experience of working with Soledad when she had made an uncredited appearance in La Reina del Tabarín (1960). Franco thought she would make the perfect Lucy Westenra.

Reinventing herself as a sultry siren, Soledad took the pseudonym, Susann Korda and Franco cast her in three more films, Sex Charade, Nightmares Come at Night and Juliette, all released in 1970. Franco’s erotically charged, gothic productions seemed to embody the unabashed sexuality of the new decade and combine it with simmering Victorian repression.

The result was a spectacular and sumptuous feast for the senses, a feat that would have been impossible were it not for Soledad’s ethereal and haunting presence. As Franco observed, ‘She came out of her little world. Not of her internal world, because she had an intense internal life, but of her external world. She discovered Europe, she went to Paris, to London, to Berlin, to Rome. She began to discover cinema, because it’’s difficult to know it if you stay in Spain. She was completely dazzled, changed, and for the first time in her life, she felt complete, ready to become someone, something else.’

Despite her previous fears that her career was over, 1970 proved to be her busiest and most creative so far. Whilst filming El diablo que vino de Akasawa in August 1970, Soledad and her husband decided to take a well-deserved break after she received the news from Franco that she had been offered a contract that would make her a global star. As the couple drove along the Costa do Sol highway from Estoril to Lisbon on 18th August 1970, out of nowhere, a truck collided with their car, leaving the vehicle badly damaged. Although he was driving, José Manuel da Conceiçao Simões escaped relatively unscathed; Soledad was not so fortunate and both her skull and spine had been fractured. She was taken to the Hospital of São José in Lisbon, where she died hours later.

Soledad Miranda was buried in Lisbon’s Cemitério do Lumiar. The loss of his muse left Franco inconsolable, but he insisted on completing the films she had been working on before the fatal accident. El diablo que vino de Akasawa was released in 1971, as were Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed in Ecstasy. Soledad’s last film Eugénie was finally released in 1974. None of them set the box office alight, yet all have since become cult classics. Until his own death in 2013, Jess Franco continued as a director with a host of other starlets standing in front of his camera, always seeking, but never recapturing, the ‘inner light,’ and ‘inner intensity,’ of the spellbinding Soledad.

Above: Soledad Miranda in Vampyros Lesbos (1971)

Selected Sources:

The Pleasure and Pain of Cult Horror Films: An Historical Survey – Bartłomiej Paszylk (2009)

Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France, 1960-1980 – Danny Shipka (2011)

Spanish Horror Film – Antonio Lazaro-Reboll (2012)