Last laugh of a comedy legend

Tony Leblanc, who has died aged 90, was perhaps Spain's best-loved comic

The actor Tony Leblanc, who died last week aged 90.
The actor Tony Leblanc, who died last week aged 90.B. ECHABARRI (EFE)

Tony Leblanc, who has died at the age of 90 after a battle with cancer, was one of the most popular Spanish comedians of the 20th century.

The star of films such as El tigre de Chamberí (1957) and Los tramposos (1959), he led a life bursting with anecdotes, many of which he revealed in his 1999 memoirs, Esta es mi vida (or, This is my life).

They begin in 1922 with his birth - at the Prado Museum, as he tells it, on a sofa in the room containing the Cartones de Goya: his father was a doorman at the main entrance. The actor - real name Ignacio Fernández Sánchez - also used to boast that he was the reigning Spanish tap-dancing champion, because after him the contest didn't take place again.

Leblanc did everything there was to do in the world of art - and in the world of sport. He performed in the Celia Gámez company at the age of eight; he was a dancer and singer in the Lola Flores and Manolo Caracol company; he starred in 77 movies, and performed in almost 50 more. He was goalkeeper for Fuyma, the youth team of Atlético de Aviación (as Atlético Madrid was once known) and a boxer who took part in 50 fights.

A unique generation

After performing in dozens of shows for Republican soldiers, Leblanc made his full stage debut with the Nati Mistral company in 1944. A year later, he appeared in his first movies, Eugenia de Montijo and Los últimos de Filipinas, going on to star in such legendary titles as El tigre de Chamberí, Muchachas de azul, Los tramposos (one of his best works), Las chicas de la cruz roja and Historias de la televisión in the 1950s in the 1960s. He even directed three films between 1961 and 1962: El pobre García, Los pedigüeños and Una isla con tomate.

He often appeared alongside other legends such as Manolo Gómez Bur, José Luis Ozores and Concha Velasco, the youngest of a unique generation of Spanish comedians.

Remarkably, Leblanc also had time to combine his film work with TV appearances, running his own company, starring in and directing multiple revues, composing 500 pasodobles and other songs and having seven children with his wife Isabel, who cared for him until his death last Saturday at his home in Villaviciosa de Odón in Madrid.

In 1994 he received an honorary Goya Film Award for his life's work, and backstage the comedian Santiago Segura offered him a part "in a comedy in which he would play a character in a wheelchair." The role in Torrente, el brazo tonto de la ley (1998) won him the Goya for Best Supporting Actor and he went on to feature in the three sequels to the film.

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