Misc 24/11/2020

Montserrat Carulla, dean of Catalan actresses, dies at 90

With a long career in theatre and television, she was one of the most popular faces on the scene

Laura Serra
3 min
L'actriu Montserrat Carulla, en una imatge d'arxiu

BarcelonaCatalan theatre has lost Montserrat Carulla (Barcelona, 1930), known as the "great dame of Catalan theatre", a title that she resented and had been awarded to her by the critics, other actors and the audience. She was a great actress, with a 50-year career on the stage, although she made her debut very late, in her thirties, after daring to leave a marriage that did not make her happy. She was the official grandmother of Catalonia, thanks to TV3 series, Where she often appeared and helped her conquer the popularity she enjoyed: she played Remei in La Granja, and other parts in Secrets de família, Laberint d'ombres, El cor de la ciutat and even La Riera. Carulla was also the matriarch of a family clan dedicated to the performing arts: her daughter is actress Vicky Peña; her son is playwright Roger Peña, who gave her the role she would retire with, Iaia!, where she played opposite her grandson. She had started her career in 1959 in the Teatre Romea in Soparem a casa by Josep Maria.

She had promised herself that she would never leave the stage, that oath that all great actresses take, unable to see themselves far from the spotlight, but she loved the profession too much to fail. She was 84 years old. She lived in an era where great personalities and egos were cultivated, where actors had their own style. Yet she tried to disappear to make way for her characters. Her sweet looks could be either lovable or lethal. Carulla was an animal of the scene but she was also an earthly woman, who got her hands dirty. That's why she was so loved by her professional colleagues: there was no diva in her gesture, but devotion.

It is likely that her life and late entry into the acting world had a lot to do with it. Montserrat Carulla lived many adventures through her characters, but personally she had two lives, with one key break: when she separated from her first husband and, above all, she found herself back in the theatre, which she had abandoned as a young girl in the third year of the Institut del Teatre after the tuition fees were raised. Returning to the stage "was like opening a window, it brought fresh air into my life", she recalled.

Like so many women of her generation, she had had a complicated childhood. She was 9 years old when the war ended and she suffered from real hunger. She talks about it in her memoirs: she didn't eat meat until she got married. She started a family and forgot her acting vocation until she was thirty, in the sixties. From then on, however, he did not stop working.

The cinema resisted her for most of her career, "the best years of my life," she recalled, and she only had small appearances in films like The Orphanage. She said it was a punishment: "A film impresario who was a cretin put a note in [Franco's fascist] vertical union so I couldn't work in film anymore," she said, and considered Pilar Miró her rescuer with Your Name Poisons My Dreams, from 1996. Her first two films had been mythical: Surcos (1951), the great Spanish neo-realist film, and Vida de familia (1963), by Josep Lluís Font, another cult film. After that, nothing at all until Sex Change, by Vicente Aranda (1977), where she is the mother of Victoria Abril.

The declaration "I am Montserrat Carulla, actress, Catalan and pro-independence", which she proclaimed when she received the Gaudí d'Honor Award in 2013, she endeared herself to the nationalist cause. She was convinced that she would see the independence of Catalonia: "I am a hopeful Catalan", she said. This will be one of the few goals she will not have achieved, however, like everything she believed in, she also worked hard to achieve it.

She was a wise, generous, understanding and grateful woman, who had made peace with herself and with her fate: "Life has given me more than I have given it".