Here's an interesting article about China's desire to make internationally appealing pictures that has some interesting info about the Franco regime's relationship with Hollywood producer Samuel Bronston. Orson Welles did the uncredited narration for Bronston's KING OF KINGS in 1961.http://www.the-american-interest.com/ar ... ?piece=558
Here are the Franco excerpts:
In the early 1950s, the Franco regime sought an exit from a period of international political isolation. A key part of its effort involved trying to use movies at home and abroad to tout the glories of Spanish culture and justify the regime’s tenure. The Spanish Ministry of Information and Tourism (MIT) was put in charge of motion picture production and domestic distribution. It approved scripts, doled out funds and sometimes commissioned projects. Things did not go so well. With few exceptions, MIT’s films were unpopular at home and box office duds overseas. Spain in the early postwar years was provincial and more than a little xenophobic; the Franco regime was intolerant of cultural or political assertiveness by ethnic minorities like the Basques and Catalans. This was not a promising environment for producing exportable movies.
But still the Franco regime tried. Perhaps the greatest cinematic disappointment for the dictatorship was the failure of Alba de America (1951), a big-budget epic made under government sponsorship that lionized Columbus’s New World exploits. The movie was handsomely mounted, but the script was full of heavy-handed references to the grandeur of Spain and its inspired leadership. Despite the MIT’s high hopes for success in America, Hollywood distributors viewed Alba de America as box-office poison and refused to release it.
Starting in the mid-1950s, however, independent American producers started coming to Spain, looking to make grand-scale movies while keeping their production costs down. The Franco regime was initially suspicious. (Hollywood was full of Jews and communists, of course.) Conservative elements were greatly concerned about the cultural pollution that outsiders would bring to Spain. Still, the regime was desperate to improve its international image, as well as desperate for dollars, so it decided it was worth the risk.
The gamble immediately began to pay off in terms of influence, and literally as well. American movie producers were spending millions of dollars in Spain, while American and European tourists began to visit in droves the Spanish sites they had seen on the silver screen. And Spain’s image was gradually being refurbished from a sleepy backwater and fascist police state into a modern, even glamorous country of solid Hollywood fare.
The key figure in establishing “Hollywood in Madrid” was Samuel Bronston. A relatively minor figure on the Hollywood scene when he arrived in Spain in 1958 to film John Paul Jones (1959), Bronston had used his preternatural selling skills to gain the financial backing of a deep-pocketed partner, Pierre du Pont III. Like the U.S. producers who preceded him, Bronston initially assumed that he would make one film in Spain and then move on. But he soon recognized that the Franco regime, if handled correctly, could be a very congenial host for a permanent Hollywood studio, and his partnership with du Pont gave him the means to keep a constant pipeline of films in production.
Between 1958 and 1964, the Estudios Samuel Bronston in Madrid turned out a series of ultra-lavish, highly publicized motion pictures featuring top international movie stars like Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, David Niven and John Wayne. Bronston’s studio trained a generation of highly skilled Spanish film technicians and became the driving force in turning Spain into one of the top international movie production venues of the 1960s. The Franco regime loved Bronston, showering him with medals, citations and lots of financial support, most of it covert. The greatest of Bronston’s epics, in both critical and box office terms, was El Cid (1961). The film starred Charlton Heston, then the world’s most popular male actor, as the knight who began the Christian re-conquest of Spain from the Moors in the 11th century. El Cid was one of 1962’s top-earning movies, and it made Time Magazine’s “10 Best Films” list for the year.
An American producer had accomplished what Spanish producers couldn’t: He took a quintessentially Spanish subject that would have seemed arcane to non-Spaniards and made it attractive to American and international audiences. And he did it under the regime’s perpetual scrutiny. Bronston, like every other American producer who worked in Franco’s Spain, made all of his movies under the supervision of the Franco dictatorship, whose officials vetted scripts before allowing filming to begin. Spanish government ministers and censors not only flagged objectionable material; they often made non-negotiable demands for script changes. American producers in Spain generally complied without protest, because the alternative was to shut down production. Even left-wing lions like Stanley Kramer, best known for liberal “message” films like On the Beach and Judgment at Nuremberg, toed the dictatorship’s line, reshaping the script for The Pride and the Passion, for example, when the Franco regime objected to some passages. Such Hollywood classics as Lawrence of Arabia, Patton and Doctor Zhivago ran this gauntlet. (The producers of Doctor Zhivago had to get a special dispensation from the fervently anti-communist government to film actors singing the Socialist Internationale.)
The ruthlessly instrumental Samuel Bronston characteristically outdid his industry colleagues by hiring a Spanish government propaganda official to help with script-writing on several of his films, including El Cid, where he helped fine-tune the script elements that subtly equated Francisco Franco and Rodrigo de Bivar. But while Bronston always sought to please the Franco regime, his first concern was international profitability. He wanted a hit film as big as Ben Hur, and he and his studio, unlike his Spanish hosts, had the tools and experience to try to make one.
As it became obvious to the Franco regime that Hollywood-produced films about Spain, or films simply made in Spain, had a cachet and credibility with overseas audiences that domestically made movies didn’t, the dictatorship eventually codified its policy of welcoming international film producers as “Operación Propaganda Exterior.” The top-secret plan demanded that films
"a foreigner produces in Spain, about any facet of the national life, present to the foreign public a character of objectivity and dispassion that is not always conceded to nationals. . . . Co-production means . . . for the most part the guarantee of a world-wide distribution of the film, leaving the public unaware of the actual origin, obviating all possible suspicion of propaganda."