Antonio Ferrandis would have turned 100 this Sunday. Or what is the same, Chanquete would have become a centennial elder on February 28 if the scriptwriters of ‘Verano azul’ had not ‘killed’ him. Few times has there been such a conclusive identification between character and actor as that of the Valencian interpreter with that old fisherman turned into a teenage guru. The only one who could overshadow him is Imanol Arias with his ‘alter ego’ Antonio Alcántara, but the endearing character created by Ferrandis wins by a landslide in the hearts of the Spaniards against the sullen family father of ‘Cuéntame’.
Chanquete is already part of the sentimental intrahistory of Spain thanks to this good man born on February 28, 1921 in Paterna (Valencia). The son of a bricklayer (Miguel Ferrandis) and a fishmonger (Vicenta Monrabal), he left his town to pursue a career, although he returned to put an epilogue to his days on October 16, 2000.
With such modest family origins, Ferrandis had a complicated childhood without any luxury, although he did not lack his education at school. He always proudly carried the name of Paterna , which earned him several recognitions from his hometown, including the name of the city’s theater and the title of adopted son of Valencia. Although he studied high school and graduated in Teaching, the poison of the theater ran through his veins and he directed his steps towards dramatic art.
The young Ferrandis made his debut on stage in Burgos in July 1950 at the age of 29, and from there he chained some thirty plays that made him popular, but in modest doses. What really introduced him to the altar reserved for the greats was his participation in film and television. In his extensive biography there are more than 50 films and television series, with titles such as ‘Sister Citröen’, ‘How is the service’, ‘Come to Germany, Pepe’ and ‘My dear young lady’ .
But the apotheosis came when he picked up the Oscar in 1983 for ‘Starting Over’, the first Spanish film to achieve the famous statuette thanks to director José Luis Garci. A year earlier, he had immersed himself forever in the hearts of Spaniards with his indelible character Chanquete in that ‘Blue Summer’ that Antonio Mercero gave to his compatriots.
His professional value and his “paternal character” made it easier for him to make great friends in the scenic world, as Juan Valverde , who was his trusted man in recent years, recalls . «Many of the actors who used to come to the theater in Valencia always came to see it: Concha Velasco , José Luis López Vázquez, Tony Leblanc, Alfredo Landa … They were mostly classmates, although younger actors like Imanol Arias also visited him . He would take them to eat a mauve-rose paella “, says Valverde, the actor’s assistant and driver .
Autographs at mass
The ‘right hand’ of Ferrandis speaks and does not stop his affable character. He had a smile on his lips for everyone who approached him, even for a saint who approached him in the middle of mass in search of an autograph. “Although he was not very religious , he did like to go to church to give thanks,” he reveals.
Of the trips they made together, Valverde especially remembers the one they made to the Peñíscola Festival with José Luis López Vázquez and Alfredo Landa , which almost ended in a speeding fine. However, the Civil Guard “when they saw who got out of the car, they chose to forget about the fine and take pictures,” he recalls with a laugh.
For his eternal companion, Ferrandis was a man of calm character who, “when his health allowed it”, had a “great sense of humor”. “He liked to play jokes posing as someone else, sometimes even to escape fame,” he recalls. In his spare time, he liked to read novels and “watch a television show,” but mostly to go for walks.
Valverde is clear that he was for his boss “the son he never had.” He gave himself one hundred percent to the people. He had a fatherly character and was a wonderful person, “he confesses excitedly.
Another of the plausible aspects of the personality of Ferrandis is the discretion with which he knew how to carry his homosexuality . He never hid it in his most intimate and professional environment, where his relationship with José Luis Dibildos’ production assistant was in the public domain . But outside the door, he was conditioned by the homophobic environment of the time and by that unwritten rule that the actors, even if they were not gallants as he was, were condemned to hide their homosexuality so as not to scare away their fans and preserve the image of the idol.