Virgínia de Castro e Almeida
Portuguese film pioneer Virgínia de Castro e Almeida is still better known today for her work as an author of children’s books, travel literature, and digests on the history of Portugal. She was married to João da Mota Prego, an agronomist, and lived in France and Switzerland. She took an interest in cinema during the first half of the 1920s, founding the production company Fortuna Films in 1922. The company released two features: A Sereia de Pedra (1922) and Os Olhos da Alma (1923), both written by Castro e Almeida and directed by the French director Roger Lion. In 1923, she took part in the foundation of another production company, Rosy Film, whose only output was the non-extant commercial O Castelo de Chocolate (1923) for the Portuguese chocolate company Suissa. This was the first film by Portuguese director Arthur Duarte, who began as an actor in Fortuna Films’ two features and also starred in O Castelo de Chocolate as a young man in love with a Suissa factory worker. Castro e Almeida’s Fortuna Films was registered both in Lisbon and in Paris and was likely the earliest Portuguese attempt to establish an international film company. To that end, not only did Castro e Almeida choose a French director, but both films also featured several French actors (including Lion’s wife, Gil Clary) and originally premiered in Paris, and only later in Portugal. Castro e Almeida’s two sons were her right-hand men at Fortuna Films, as was Ayres d’Aguiar, a college friend of the two young men who would later have an important career as a film distributor in France.
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