Francisco Rabal, one of the grand old men of Spanish acting, died Aug. 29 from pulmonary complications on a Madrid-bound flight from the Montreal Film Festival, where he was received a tribute. He was 75.
A leading man in 1950s Spanish films, Rabal’s rugged charm and nonchalant manliness were used by Luis Bunuel to searing ironic effect in some of the surrealist maestro’s greatest films: “Nazarin” (1958), “Viridiana” (1961) and “Belle de jour” (1966).
Rabal went on to act for famed directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni (“The Eclipse,” 1962) and Jacques Rivette (“The Nun,” 1966).
Rabal later took off his toupee and played character roles to sometimes superb effect — for example as the loon-faced idiot savant in Mario Camus’ “The Holy Innocents,” for which he shared a best actors award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984.
A repentant womanizer and unrepentant communist, a poet, anecdotalist and roisterer, Rabal weathered superbly. In 1999, he turned in his last major performance as the Spanish painter Goya in Carlos Saura’s “Goya in Bordeaux.”
Rabal is survived by his wife, actress Asuncion Balaguer; his daughter, actress-singer Teresa Rabal; and his son, film director Benito Rabal.