Antonio Quevedo, 86 years old, swimming champion and one of the canaries of the shooting team in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria of the John Huston film with Gregory Peck, provides new information and photos of the film. Among others, details of the boxing match between two of the actors held 62 years ago today, New Year's Eve 1954 in the courtyard of the Cuys cinema.
62 years ago today, the evening of December 31, 1954, a ring raised above the space that used to occupy the cockpit of Movie theater Cuyás, located in what is now the courtyard of the Cuyás Theater, hosted the celebration of a special boxing match, which confronted two of the actors who had arrived in the city two weeks before for the filming of the film Moby Dick, by John Huston, starring Hollywood star Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab. The canary Antonio Quevedo, swimming champion, is one of the few that remain of those who were present in that fight. Quevedo is also one of the few places of the hundred people who worked in the historic shooting. In your case, in the production team to control the trips of the taxi drivers hired.
The fight of boxing was of exhibition for a charitable cause, for the poor children surely, by the Christmas date, as it indicated months ago to this newspaper the expert in boxing Servando Vera. The celebration of the combat demonstrates the great involvement of the members of the shooting in activities of the island society. It was thanks to the links with the English colony of the city, as a result of the participation in the filming of the English companies Miller and Elder. Servando Vera also confirmed the identity of both fighters, the actor and singer of color, Edric Connor, who in Moby Dick he plays the character of the sailor Dagoo, and Tom Cleeg, who played the Indian sailor Tashtego.
John Huston, Gregory Peck and actor Harry Andrews, who played second officer Stubb in the film, acted as coaches for both contenders. This was demonstrated by the unpublished photos of the shooting that appeared this year. The images certified, also for the first time, the presence on the Island of the actor's girlfriend, the French journalist Veronique Passani, with whom Gregory Peck married just one year later, on December 31, 1955, and to which he would remain attached until his death in 2003. Antonio Quevedo, in addition, now provides the fact that, to start the show, Edric Connor also played the song Ol 'Man River, popularized by the different Hollywood versions of the film Show Boat, the best known Magnolia (George Sidney, 1951), played by Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner and Howard Keel. It is a musical that had as its setting one of the characteristic steamboat wheels of the Mississippi River. In the list of the 100 most representative songs of the American cinema, made by the American Film Institute in 2004, the gospel interpreted in the Cuyás by the African-American Edric Connor occupies the position number 24.
Antonio Quevedo (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1932) went to work in Moby Dick thanks to swimming. "Isidoro Martínez Ferry, the assistant director of the film during the filming in Spain, was also", he assures, contributing an unknown data until today: the participation of Martínez Ferry in the film. At least until the 70s, the entrepreneur, filmmaker and swimmer remained linked to the cinema. His most outstanding credit is that of co-director with Marco Ferreri of The little apartment (1958), starring Mary Carrillo and José Luis López Vázquez. "I had met him seven years before, in 1947, when the first swimming championships in Spain were held in the city, the year that the first regulatory swimming pools were inaugurated, those of Julio Navarro in Ciudad Jardín." Martínez Ferry was the main figure of those championships, he won the 400 and the 1,500 free meters ".
Three pounds sterling
Antonio Quevedo had started swimming with 15 years in the Maritime Club of Sagasta Street, located at the height of the current Plaza de Saulo Torón in The pits. The championships of '47 lived them from the stands. Like Martinez Ferry, who came to swim in the London Olympics in 1948, the Quevedo slugger also triumphed as a swimmer. It was the best in Spain -with 19 years- in the championships held in the new pool of the Casa de Campo in Madrid in 1951. That year was European champion in the University Championships held in Luxembourg, with a Spanish team composed almost entirely by Canary swimmers . He would revalidate the title of champion of Spain in 1952, 1953 – both with the Club Alcaravaneras – and 1956 – with the Club Victoria -, year of the premiere in theaters Moby Dick, when the tournament was held again in the Gran Canaria capital. Between 1952 and 1959, Quevedo held the record of Spain 100 meters back, with a record of 1: 08.04. Of those years, he remembers swimming with the Italian Carlo Pedersoli, years later reconverted to an actor like Bud Spencer.
For the filming of Moby Dick, according to Quevedo, "only the main artists (Gregory Peck, John Huston, Leo Genn and Richard Basehart) were staying at the Santa Catalina hotel." The rest of the team slept in the Parque Hotel, which was then a main hotel in the city They hired seven taxis for the transfers of the team and my mission was to be every day at six o'clock in the morning to control the kilometers of the previous day and to foresee those of that day.I received three pounds sterling a day, which then was a lot of money The taxi drivers were paid every day according to the mileage traveled, hours before, "he remembers," since five o'clock in the morning, Gregory Peck was already in the makeup room, because they had to make the scar that runs through his face. von Ledebur, who played the character of Queequeg and had his body full of tattoos, began to put on makeup every day at four in the morning. "
Antonio Quevedo controlled the taxis that took the team to the filming and also when they had to be moved to meals and parties. "The movie made the Juan Pérez de La Puntilla bar famous, because Gregory Peck often came to eat with his girlfriend here," he recalls. The place is now occupied by La Macarena restaurant. Quevedo was also invited on one occasion to see the tests of the shots shot, which were made at the Avellaneda cinema, today Guiniguada Theater. He also remembers that when he was filming in the area of La Puntilla, the team was in charge of taking meat with the sea to attract the gulls and that there were "four or five canaries" who played doubles of the actors that came out in the boats to hunt the whale in distant shots. "Gregory Peck also had a double for those distant shots, although that was brought from outside," he says. "The call to the casting of doubles was made in Puntilla itself, between 50 and 60 men showed up and they were chosen by hand". Quevedo also recalls that Christmas Eve brought the members of the technical team to the party of the Victoria Club, which had opened on the Paseo de Las Canteras a few months before. "From there I took them back to the Parque Hotel, they took a shower and went to work, during the filming they worked every day, it did not matter whether it was a Sunday or a holiday," he explains.
Precisely, it was the same December 31, 1954 boxing match when the cable that linked the boat on which the white whale was built with the tugboat was released. The episode is told by John Huston in his memoirs Open book (Espasa, 1986). In the chapter dedicated to the filming of Moby Dick, the American director of Irish descent narrates how he himself was introduced by a hatch inside the whale adrift. The aim was to avoid a new destruction of the model as those that had already occurred during the filming in Wales, off the coast of Fishguard. He messed with a bottle of whiskey. "Until next year," he said to those who were out after "greeting the crew militarily and taking a long drink."
It was necessary to recover the whale with Huston inside and "the problem was to pass the cable through a large hole in the belly of the whale," the director wrote. Finally the feat was achieved and Huston refers in his memoirs to the two people who made it, although he only names the Irish assistant director Kevin McClory, who three decades later was executive producer of the James Bond movie Never say never (Irving Kershner, 1983). The other was "a Spanish swimming champion". In the open sea, off the coast of Las Palmas, writes Huston, "big waves lifted the whale out of the water and then dropped it all in. Those men risked their lives, but finally they managed to hold the cable and the whale went again Then I got out of the whale and got back aboard the PequodQuevedo thinks that the Spaniard referred to by John Huston in his memoirs could not be other than Martinez Ferry, another swimmer on the team was the canary Roberto Taylor, who worked to translate the instructions from the English to the Canarian team, but Quevedo thinks that "the most certain thing is that it was Martínez Ferry, because he was the one who was permanently at the side of McClory and Huston for everything that could happen".