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Elena Jordi

By Barbara Zecchi, 2012

 

Elena Jordi is the pseudonym of Montserrat Casals i Baqué (Cercs 1882 – Barcelona 1945), a vaudeville actress and the presumed director of the short film Thaïs (1918), who, in spite of her success, disappeared suddenly from the scene.

Miquel Porter states that Jordi, “one of the queens of cabaret and a vaudeville specialist... in addition to acting, she directed herself in Thaïs (1918), a very free adaptation of the libretto of the opera of the same title, which served to showcase her innate grace and featured impressive costuming, as well” (“una de les reines del Paral.lel i especialista en vodevil que . . . a més d’actuar s’autoproduí i dirigí Thais (1918), adaptació molt lliure del llibret de l’òpera del mateix titol, que li serví per a exhibir la seva gràcia innata però també un vestuari impressionant”) (1996: 216).

Josep Cunill’s invaluable work, Elena Jordi: una reina berguedana a la cort del Paral.lel (1999), offers a detailed reconstruction of the life of this multifaceted Catalonian artist and of her work on both the stage and screen. She achieved success as an actress, as director of her own theater company, and as a businesswoman. In an article from La Vanguardia, Lluis Permanyer writes that Elena Jordi was noteworthy for having been “one of the first female film directors from Spain. She made a version of an operetta... and she built the Palau del Cinema ([a film theater, trans.) on Via Laietana” (8-VIII-1999).

Elena Jordi began her acting career in 1909. Her success in the Xirgu and Santpere companies was so immediate and so great that she soon started her own vaudeville company at the Teatro Español in Barcelona. In 1916, she made the leap to the world of film. She was probably encouraged, according to Cunill (1999), by one of her actors at the Teatro Español, Domènec Ceret, who since the previous year had been running the production company Studio Films.

In a short span of time, all of the actors from the “Elena’s vaudeville company”(“Companyia de vodevil de l’Elena al complet”) (Cunill, 1999: 111) had acted for Studio Films, including Elena Jordi herself and her sister Tina. Jordi’s first role as a cinema actress was in the film La loca del monasterio (Domènec Ceret, Joan Solá and Alfred Fontanals, 1916), which starred Lola París and also featured Consuelo Hidalgo and Domenéc Ceret.

                 Teaser de "Buscando a Thäis" (dir. David Casals-Roma)                           

Elena Jordi’s collaboration with Studio Films was not limited to actors from her company working with Solá and Fontanals’ production company, nor to her appearance in supporting roles in their films; it appears that in 1918 she took on the role of directing the film Thaïs for the company, with herself in the starring role. Unfortunately, no copies of Jordi’s Thaïs are known to exist. It is difficult to determine the extent of the film’s distribution, given that other film adaptations of Massenet’s opera, all titled Thaïs, were made around the same time.

Another project of great importance to the actress is worth noting, although it ended in failure: the construction of the Teatro Elena Jordi. Supposedly, after 1930, the actress left the stage and public life altogether. She died in Barcelona in 1945.

Bibliography on Elena Jordi:

-CUNILL, Josep (1999), Elena Jordi. Una reina berguedana a la cort del paral.lel., Àmbit de Recerques del Berguedà, Berga.

-MELÉ-BALLESTEROS, Irene (2013)  Elena Jordi y el Mito de Thais, Master Thesis, University of Massachusetts

-PORTER I MOIX (1996), «Cinema: De la crisi productora a la introducció del Parlant», Història de la cultura catalana: Volum VIII. Primeres Avantguardes 1918-1930, Pere Gabriel (ed.), Edicions 62, Barcelona.ZECCHI, Barbara (2014)  Desenfocadas. Cineastas españolas y discursos de género. Barcelona: Icaria

-ZECCHI, Barbara (2013) «Dos pioneras entre el teatro y el cine: Elena Jordi y Helena Cortesina» De los orígenes a la revolución tecnológica eds. Emma Camarero y María Marcos Ramos, Salamanca: Ediciones Antemas, pp. 377-388

 

      To quote, please use the reference:  Zecchi, Barbara (2012): «Bio-filmography of Elena Jordi»,

      Gynocine Project, Barbara Zecchi, ed, www.gynocine.com