Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays

Issue 12 – 2023 (2)

A-Ten-Thousand-Legs Madrid

Asier Gil Vázquez (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

How to cite this article: Gil Vázquez, Asier (2023). A-Ten-Thousand-Legs Madrid. Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays, 12, 2023(2). ISSN: 2659-4269

On December 17, 1957, Las muchachas de azul (“Girls in blue uniforms”) premiered at the Pompeya and Palace cinemas in Madrid (“Informaciones Teatrales y Cinematográficas”, 1957). The opening credits are superimposed on a panoramic aerial view of the centre of Madrid that leads to a shot of thirty young girls walking together. These images give way to an introduction where the city is presented by an explanatory voice-over. This sequence has been chosen as the starting point for the video essay A-Ten-Thousand-Legs Madrid, as it sets chronologically the first steps of the Desarrollismo comedies (a period of economic growth). Equally, this segment introduces some recurring themes of the films and encompasses the issues that this video aims to cover: representations of women, their upsurge in the urban public space, the act of walking, the gaze, and fashion (especially skirts). 

José Luis Dibildos, producer and co-writer of Las muchachas de azul, pointed out in an interview for Blanco y Negro that the film was “kind, extraordinarily cheerful” with a romantic plot “not at all original” because it focused on the eternal “battle of the sexes” (Bolín, 1957). However, today we can appreciate the innovative character of titles such as this one, as they started leaving behind the proletarian tone of previous years to start focusing on “a newly born middle class” with plots “about the progressive incorporation of women to the labor market or about their greater presence in social life, which cased interesting changes in the prevailing gender roles” (Ibáñez Fernández, 2016). This cycle of “pink comedies” will find its greatest success in Las chicas de la Cruz Roja (Red Cross girls, Rafael J. Salvia, 1958) and their “hegemony begins in the late fifties and ends in the middle of the following decade” (Deltell, 2006).

In 1957, there were ministerial changes in which Opus Dei technocrats, such as Alberto Ullastres, Mariano Navarro Rubio, and Laureano López Rodó gained positions within the Regime. Measures like the implementation of the Stabilization Plan of 1959 paved the way for the Economic Development Plans of the sixties. In other words, the exhaustion of the autarkic model of the first half of the Franco regime gave way to a new context marked by the liberalization of the market, the promotion of the consumer society, and the adoption of a neo-capitalist model. This process goes hand in hand with the development of tourism or the opening to the outside world, which will lead to the increasingly palpable modernization in social reality and media images (Martínez, 2003). In this context, women became a battlefield where old and new discourses converged and confronted each other. Within a new consumer society, women acquired a new role as producers and consumers that gave them a greater projection in the public sphere and a gradual liberation from the gender roles promoted during the early Franco regime (Morcillo Gómez, 2015). These tensions between tradition and modernity would forge the patterns of female representation in media, such as cinema (see Palacio and Ciller Tenreiro, 2012) or television (see Galán Fajardo, 2013; Gil Vázquez, 2018).

These “pink comedies” evolved throughout the sixties focusing on the war of sexes, with a greater erotic tone (and a more visible objectification of female bodies) and with debates around the role of women at home and the workplace. These new images of young, modern, and urban women became ubiquitous in other genres, such as musicals or melodramas.  For this reason, the video essay collects images without making distinctions between genres or categorizations, like the dichotomy between popular and auteur cinema. 

The sampling of films was carried out following a 16-year periodization starting in 1957, with the release of the aforementioned Las muchachas de azul. Although it is the second romantic comedy of this style by Dibildos [1], it is the first one set in an urban environment. The choice of titles was based on the presence of Madrid as the stage of the incipient modernity and the appearance of women walking in the public sphere. The found and edited representations can be of all kinds: friendly, erotic, comic, critical, in colour, in black and white, etc. But all of them reflect the same feeling where women advance in a difficult balance between freedom and submission to the male gaze (made explicit by other characters or by the film device that zooms and frames specific body parts).

The selection of 55 films ends in 1973. This is the year when singer-songwriter Cecilia published the song “Andar” (“Wander”), which is used to close the essay. It is also a year of events that set the end of a historical and cinematographic period. First, in 1974 some films started presenting light nudity and more explicit eroticism, such as Ana Belén’s breast in El amor del Capitán Brando (The Love of Captain Brando, Jaime de Armiñán, 1974) or the beginning of the “destape” (“uncovering”) trend with Chicas de alquiler (Girls for rent, Ignacio F. Iquino, 1974) [2]. Also, 1973 can be interpreted as the end of the Desarrollismo period (Hofmann, 2023) and the beginning of the Transition to democracy, a new historical context that would begin with the terrorist attack on Luis Carrero Blanco on the 20th of December of 1973 (Ibáñez Fernández, 2016). In the cinematographic field, 1973 also brought a change in the direction of the Ministry of Information and Tourism, where Alfredo Sánchez Bella was replaced by Fernando Liñán Zofío.

Thus, the scene chosen to close the essay shows Teresa Gimpera walking the streets of downtown Madrid in Las colocadas (Pedro Masó, 1972). In contrast to those girls in blue uniforms, who moved happily to find a husband, this character wanders, knowing that she is pregnant by a married lover, which means delving into aspects like the illegality of divorce and abortion. The journey from 1957 to 1972 goes through, among other issues, a loss of the romantic ideal of marriage and a greater awareness of their bodies and social situation. 

The “ten thousand legs” in the title alludes to the “ten thousand beautiful girls” line from the song “Las chicas de la Cruz Roja” performed by Ana María Parra, with which the piece begins. Through brief segments, arranged in chronological order, the essay aims to analyze the ideological tensions behind these representations of modern women: the conquest of public space vs. women as an object for public enjoyment and scorn; the liberation of customs through shorter skirts vs. the leg as a fetish of an increasingly eroticized cinema with a clear hetero-masculine vision; women as a passive spectacle for this gaze vs. the active woman who uses her legs to advance on her way. Thus, it could be pointed out that the following visual motifs appear repeatedly:

  1. The free wandering of these women, either alone or accompanied, is usually conditioned to disciplinary scrutiny by other male characters. This objectifying gaze is sometimes intensified with close-ups of their legs or other parts of their anatomy, as well as unsubtle zooms. The epitome of this surveillance is evident through the men who scold, flatter, chase or grope these women. These catcalling acts are present throughout the entire period and intensify towards the last years with characters of “jealous husbands and boyfriends” or “repressed voyeurs”. This visual trope is linked to the social transformations that took place mainly in urban centers and coastal tourist areas (Doménech González and Rodríguez García de Herreros, 2023).

  2. The diachronic path highlights a remarkable decrease in the length of the skirts. At the end of the fifties, they end close to the ankles in a very demure way. Soon they begin to transform into midi skirts that rise from the shins to a few centimeters below the knees. Concha Velasco’s scene in Las que tienen que servir (José María Forqué, 1967) gives way to one last revolution: the miniskirt. During the last years of the decade, the cut of the skirt will go up until reaching the minimum expression, motivated by the fashion of the British designer Mary Quant, who presented her miniskirt in Spain in 1968 (García Ramos, 2020). It is worth remembering that a new generation of stars of this period will be linked to this outfit, such as Sonia Bruno who in 1969 married the footballer Pirri in a white suit finished in miniskirt.

The compilation of scenes is complemented by the use of music, with a selection of six songs. These are interspersed and repeated to underline the different visions present in the filmography of the period. The essay begins with the soundtrack of Las chicas de la Cruz Roja, which talks about love-struck girls walking the streets of Madrid. Intensively repeated fragments of Rocío Dúrcal’s “Me están mirando” (They are staring at me”) highlight the idea of being looked at while walking down the street. In turn, “Los piropos de mi barrio” (“Catcalling in my neighborhood”), also by Dúrcal, is used for scenes of (aggressive) catcalling. Similarly, the second half of the video essay establishes a dialogue between the two versions of “la minifalda” (“the miniskirt”), interpreted by Perlita de Huelva and Manolo Escobar. Mixing both versions helps confront the joy of wearing this garment and the boyfriend’s rejection. Towards the end, Cecilia’s “Andar” (“wandering”) bursts in briefly as the essay ends. This song was chosen because these images ultimately show women who “do not own their landscape” but are making their way through the city, still aimlessly, towards a future where they will find new times of freedom.



[1] The first pink comedy produced by Ágata Films was Viaje de novios (León Klimovsky, 1956).

[2] Although a breast could be seen in Agustina de Aragón, this was a scene where a mother breastfeeds a child, and it lacks erotic charge. Equally, before 1974 there were cases of nudity in coproductions -where nudity scenes were not present in the final cut premiered in Spain- as well as specific and veiled cases, such as the breast of Elisa Ramírez in La Celestina, which is glimpsed behind a semi-transparent curtain.



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This piece of research was supported by the R&D project “Cine y televisión en España en la era digital (2008-2022): nuevos agentes y espacios de intercambio en el panorama audiovisual”, funded by Agencia Estatal de Investigación (PID2022-140102NB-I00/AEI/10.13039/501100011033)

Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays
ISSN: 2659-4269
© Tecmerin Research Group
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid