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By Alessandra Dalevi
In a daring and treacherous cultural endeavor, Brazilian weekly newsmagazine Isto É
has decided to choose the century’s top Brazilians in the scenic arts. The ambitious
proposition includes creative minds working in movies, legitimate theatre, TV drama, and
The initial list containing 33 names was prepared by a panel of experts including
moviemakers, playwrights, dancers, writers, and media critics. The final choice will be
made by the magazine’s readers. Isto É has been promoting other categories of high
achievers including musicians and sports figures. In the latter category, while soccer
Pelé was unanimously chosen as the century’s top athlete by the experts, he lost to
Formula One race driver, Ayrton Senna, in the popular vote.
At least 246 names were listed by the panel of experts, giving an idea of the Brazilian
culture’s wealth in the scenic arts field. Even though there was no unanimity this time,
writer, journalist, playwright Nélson Rodrigues (1912-1980) came in first on the experts’
choice. Rodrigues, who used to call himself pornographic angel, would probably approve of
this choice. In one of his most cited sayings he wrote: "All unanimity is
Despite the abundance of names cited, some important figures didn’t make the
preliminary list. And they include people of weight like respected moviemaker Joaquim
Pedro de Andrade; stage, motion-picture and TV actor Lima Duarte; and theater diva Tônia
Carrero. Late Janete Clair, the mother of all soap opera scribes, has also been snubbed.
Some of the chosen are not Brazilian. For some people it might come as a surprise that
comedian Oscarito, for example, was born in Malaga, Spain or that theater innovator
Gianfrancesco Guarnieri came from Milan, Italy.
The A List
Nélson Rodrigues, 24 votes, 1912-1980
The playwright from Pernambuco was a right-wing reactionary immoral moralist. Bonitinha,
mas Ordinária (Quite Pretty, but a Harlot), Beijo no Asfalto (Asphalt Kiss)
and Vestido de Noiva (Wedding Gown) were some of his masterpieces. His tragedies
are populated by crooks, prostitutes and adulterous men and women.
Fernanda Montenegro, 23 votes, born 1930
This Carioca (from Rio) virtuoso actress has been in the world’s spotlight since
starring on Central do Brasil (Central Station), a film that gave Montenegro
a nomination for the Oscar this year. She is considered Brazil’s greatest living actress.
Other movies she acted in: Arnaldo Jabor’s Tudo Bem (Everything’s Fine) from 1978
and Leon Hirszman’s Eles Não Usam Black-tie (They Don’t Wear Black-Tie). Nobody
would know her by her real name: Arlete Pinheiro Esteves da Silva.
José Celso Martinez Corrêa, 22 votes, 1937
From Araraquara, in the interior of São Paulo. He revolutionized the Brazilian stage
starting in 1961 when he founded Grupo Oficina in São Paulo. Corrêa directed memorable
plays like Chico Buarque de Holanda’s Roda Viva and Oswald de Andrade’s Rei da
Cacilda Becker, 21 votes, 1921-1969
Legendary stage actress whose life parallels the story of the theater in Brazil. Died
on May 6, 1969 while performing on stage in Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot.
José Alves Antunes Filho, 20 votes, born 1929
Stage director from São Paulo, he has been a drive and inspiration to actors and
directors all across the country. He is the founder of Centro de Pesquisa Teatral where
hundreds of actors have learned about work on stage. Antunes has traveled the world with
his experimental Macunaíma group.
Gláuber Rocha, 19 votes, 1939-1981
Internationally acclaimed filmmaker, he was considered a genius by colleagues and
critics alike. Among his best movies, which where shown all over the world, are Terra
em Transe and Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol. Considered a cultural agitator he
was the main force behind Cinema Novo in the 1960’s and proposed a "hunger
aesthetic" to fight the commercial cinema.
Grande Otelo, 17 votes, 1915-1993
From Uberlândia, state of Minas Gerais, diminutive Sebastião Bernardes de Souza Prata
formed with Oscarito in the ’50s Brazil’s most genuine comedian duo. Worked on stage,
movies and TV.
Zibignew Ziembinski, 17 votes
This Russian stage director introduced in Brazil the Russian Konstantin Stanislavsky
method of interpretation. He was also an innovator in staging and lighting.
Nélson Pereira dos Santos, 16 votes, born 1928
This Paulistano (from São Paulo city) working in Rio started the Cinema Novo
movement of filmmaking at the end of the ’50s with Rio, 40 Graus (Rio, 104 Degrees
Fahrenheit). His 1964 Vidas Secas (Barren Lives) has become an international
Paulo Autran, 16 votes, born 1922
This Carioca is considered by many the best Brazilian actor ever. Graduated from
law school he never worked as an attorney.
Oduvaldo Vianna Filho, 14 votes
Playwright tuned with the times he portrayed with details the harsh era of the country
under the military dictatorship starting in early 1964 and throughout the ’70s.
Humberto Duarte Mauro, 13 votes, 1897-1983
From Volta Grande, state of Minas Gerais. Started the so-called Cataguases cycle in the
pioneer years of the Brazilian movie industry starting at the end of the 1920s. He made
more than 300 movies. Among the better known are Brasa Dormida (1928), Ganga
Bruta (1932), and Voz do Carnaval (1933) in which Carmen Miranda made her movie
Oscarito, 13 votes, 1906-1970
The most popular comedian in Brazil in the ’40s. Oscar Lourenço Jacinto da Imaculada
Conceição Tereza Dias was one of the original creators of the chanchada, a
burlesque theater transposed to the screen.
Marília Pêra, 12 votes
Stage, movie and TV actress from Rio. Internationally known for her role as a
prostitute in Hector Babenco’s Pixote, a Lei do Mais Fraco (1980).
Plínio Marcos, 11 votes,
Enfant terrible of Brazilian drama his favorite characters are from an underworld
populated by prostitutes, outlaws, and jailbirds. Infamous for a text laced with
four-letter words, his most important plays are from the ’60s, among them Navalha na
Carne (Razor in the Flesh) and Dois Perdidos numa Noite Suja (Two Lost Souls in
a Dirty Night).
Augusto Boal, 11 votes, 67 years old
From Rio, Boal is a playwright and theoretician. According to his theory of Theater of
the Oppressed, everyone is an actor.
Ariano Suassuna, 10 votes, 71 years old
From Paraíba in the Northeast he has fused Greek and classic literature with the
Northeast folklore producing such masterpieces as Auto da Compadecida (The
Compassionate Lady’s Play) and O Santo e a Porca (The Saint and the She-pig).
Creator of the Armorial movement
Procópio Ferreira, 10 votes, 1898-1979
In 60 years on the stage this Carioca played more than 500 characters all across
the country. During the ’30s, he performed 3,621 times his role in his biggest hit: Joracy
Camargo’s Deus lhe Pague (May God Pay You).
Mário Breves Peixoto, 10 votes, born 1910
Brazilian Orson Welles, he directed in 1931 at age 20 the masterpiece movie Limite
(Limit). He never made another movie, however.
Gianfrancesco Guarnieri, 10 votes, born in 1934
Born in Italy he moved to Brazil with his parents when he was two. Guarnieri wrote some
of the best Brazilian plays including Eles Não Usam Black-tie (They Don’t Wear
Black-tie) and Arena Canta Zumbi (Arena Sings Zumbi).
Alfredo de Freitas Dias Gomes, 9 votes, born in 1922, died in May 1999
Having started as a playwright, Dias Gomes became famous and popular by creating a new
language for the Brazilian novelas (soap operas) in the ’70s. Some of the
best-known feuilletons he penned were O Bem-Amado (The Beloved One) and Roque
Santeiro (Roque, the Saint Maker).
Dercy Gonçalves, 9 votes, 91 years old
Almost a centenary and still very active Dercy has made a career playing rude and
obscene characters on stage, screen and TV. This Carioca participated in 52 films.
Dulcina de Moraes, 9 votes, 1908-1996
Legendary stage actress from Rio de Janeiro became famous interpreting classic plays
like Cleopatra and Caesar.
Maria Clara Machado, 8 votes
She is renowned as an author of children’s plays, but she also is an actress and
director. Machado created in 1952, in Rio, the Tablado, a theater group that has formed
many generations of actors.
Sérgio Cardoso, 8 votes, 1925-1972
Virtuoso actor, Cardoso debuted in 1948 interpreting Hamlet. Among his biggest
hits: A Raposa e as Uvas (The Fox and the Grapes) by Guilherme Figueiredo and Arlequim,
Servidor de Dois Senhores (Harlequin, Servant of Two Masters).
Leon Hirszmann, 8 votes, 1937-1987
Director of São Bernardo (1972) and Eles Não Usam Black-tie (1981),
which won the Grand Prix at the Venice Film Festival. He founded in Rio the Museu de Arte
Bibi Ferreira, 8 votes
Actress Abigail Isquierdo Ferreira is the daughter of renowned Procópio Ferreira.
Having started in 1941 on stage she reached the top of her career in the ’70s with Chico
Buarque de Holanda’s play Gota d’água (The Last Straw).
Flávio Império, 7 votes
An innovator in scene painting, Império in the ’50s and ’60s worked with Oficina and
Arena, two avant-garde theatrical groups.
Décio de Almeida Prado, 7 votes
Theater critic and playwright, he authored several books including Teatro em
Progresso (Theater in Progress).
Luís Carlos Barreto, 7 votes
Legendary movie producer of such hit movies as Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos (Dona
Flor and Her Two Husbands) and O Quatrilho.
Paschoal Carlos Magno, 7 votes
A diplomat, theater critic and playwright, he invested in the stage and discovered and
developed theatrical talent starting in the 1930s.
Franco Zampari, 7 votes
An Italian businessman involved with the arts, who founded the Teatro Brasileiro de
Comédia, in São Paulo in the ’40s.
Paulo José, 7 votes
Working in movies for close to 40 years. He had his debut in the big screen with
Joaquim Pedro’s O Padre e a Moça (The Priest and the Young Woman) from 1965. He
has also been very active on stage and TV.
In charge of these nominations were filmmakers Tizuka Yamasaki, Carla Camurati, Carlos
Reichenbach, Sylvio Back, Ugo Giorgetti, Marcos Fayad, PX Silveira, and Aurélio Michiles;
first ballerina Ana Botafogo; actors Fernando Bicudo, Renato Borghi, Fernanda Torres,
José Wilker, Sérgio Mamberti; critics Jean-Claude Bernardet, Astrid Fontenelle, Rodrigo
Carrero, Gabriel Priolli, Luiz Carlos Maciel, Marcelo Tas, and Bárbara Heliodora; theater
directors Gerald Thomas, Marcelo Marchioro, and Cacá Rosset; writers Nelson Nadotti,
Maria Tereza Vargas and Marcelo Rubens Paiva; choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras;
playwright Renata Pallottini; and film professor Giba Assis Brasil.
They were people from all over the country _ not only from Rio and São Paulo. Michiles
is from Amazonas, Carrero from Pernambuco, Marchioro from Paraná, and Brasil from Rio
Grande do Sul.
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