Censorship was the most overt symptom of the Francoist state's desire to reshape the Spanish film industry. Other measures included special production subsidies for films of "national interest" and a rating system for subsidies that reflected the government's own evaluation of films. The Spanish film industry was thus easily coerced into developing the narratives that advanced the regime's ideological and cultural goals. The production subsidies proposed by the new regime created in the industry a dependency on government financial supports that would last well beyond the four decades of the Franco regime.

There were no stated norms for film censorship, so the censorship boards that operated over the next two decades delivered their verdicts on scripts and films based on their own predilections and biases. The effect of the intimidation built into the censorship and subsidy processes was to transfer to the producers, screenwriters, and directors of Spanish films a form of self-censorship. These were the people who would invent the narrative formulas and imagery that would promote the regime's ideology.

A related form of censorship sprang from the directive that the Castilian language be used for all films exhibited in Spanish territory. Dubbing quickly became a way of deleting dialogue that appeared to challenge the values, icons, or ideology of the regime. The policy required the dubbing of all non-Spanish films, and it had an unintended consequence of helping foreign films, which were then circulating in Spanish-dubbed versions, to gain a strong commercial foothold in the domestic market; the local industry has never recovered.

In the immediate postwar period compliant filmmakers produced a series of films that mythified the Francoist struggle. By far, the most important film of this genre was José Luis Sáenz de Heredia's (1911–1992) Raza ( Race , 1942). The film was actually scripted by Franco and followed the exploits of a fictional soldier during the recent military uprising, suggesting parallels to Franco's personal career.

Among the most popular films of the 1940s were costume dramas that fell into various subgenres. One type, pseudoreligious in nature, was based freely on the lives of historical figures and the fictionalized lives of saints. The most notable of these films were Manuel Augusto García Víñola's Inés de Castro (1944), José López Rubio's (1903–1996) Eugenia de Montijo (1944), Rafael Gil's (1913–1986) Reina santa (Saintly Queen, 1947), and Juan de Orduña's (1900–1974) Misión blanca (The White Mission, 1946). Another popular genre was the historical costume epic that afforded audiences an escape from the drab social realities of the postwar period. Two films of this type were directed by Juan de Orduña for CIFESA: Locura de amor ( Love Crazy , 1948) and Agustina de Aragón ( Augustina of Aragon , or The Siege , 1950). Featuring the striking stage actress Aurora Bautista, these films became instant hits and, owing to their commercial and critical success, were deemed high points of Spanish filmmaking.

Even more popular in the 1940s were adaptations of nineteenth-century Spanish novels, triggered by the surprising success of El escándalo ( The Scandal , José Luis Sáenz de Heredia, 1943) and El clavo ( The Nail , Rafael Gil, 1944), both adaptations of works by Pedro de Alarcón (1833–1891). These films and those that quickly followed shared, in addition to sources in well-known novels, a strong melodramatic style. The popularity of Lola Montés (Antonio Román, 1944), Gil's La pródiga ( The Prodigal Woman , 1946), and the historical biography El Marqués de Salamanca (Edgar Neville, 1948) proved the vitality of what by the decade's end had been formalized as costume melodrama.

Many Spanish studio-produced melodramas of the 1940s resembled low-budget imitations of Hollywood's costume epics of the same period, at least in terms of the efforts to develop a lavish studio style buttressed by a highly developed star system that featured Alfredo Mayo and José Nieto (b. 1942) in both heroic and romantic roles, and Amparito Rivelles (b. 1925), Ana Mariscal (1923–1995), and Luchy Soto (1919–1970) as female romantic leads. CIFESA had become the quasi-official studio of the government, producing some of the largescale productions that made it the Spanish equivalent of MGM in the United States.

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