Film and Fado in Portugal from the 1930s to the 1950s

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A popular urban song, fado has been the subject of highly contested debates in Portuguese politics and culture. This dissertation examines the representation of fado in the Portuguese cinema of the 1930s and 1940s, concentrating primarily on the popular comedies, dramas and rural-folkloric films. These decades witnessed the establishment of the Estado Novo (New State) (1932-1974) government of António Salazar, the promotion of fado as the national song, and the song’s prominence in the theatre, radio, and in film. It is generally accepted that this period in Portuguese cinema was complicit with the ideological values of the dictatorship. Critics of Portuguese cinema have identified fado as a prominent feature in the films, noting that the song’s position as the national song is reason enough for its presence, yet there has been no critical discussion examining fado's representation in these films. In this dissertation, I concentrate on Portuguese cinema’s negotiation with fado’s history and traditions, and the mise-en- scène of performance, place, and iconography. As this dissertation will show, in the 1930s and 1940s, fado and film were negotiating a position between the popular and the political, and that while the films have conservative elements, they nonetheless offer up contradictory representations that do not warrant
the generally unfavourable critical view of a cinema in step with a dictatorship. This is due largely to the enduring legacy of fado’s transgressive history leading up to 1930.
Date of Award1 Jul 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRichard Dyer (Supervisor) & Ginette Vincendeau (Supervisor)

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