María Amelia Batvinik was the daughter of Belarusian Jewish immigrants, she was born on November 14, 1914 in Buenos Aires, in a house located on Pasaje del Carmen, in Barrio Norte. She was the youngest of the seven children of Jaime Batvinik, a construction contractor, originally from Minsk, and Ana Zager, from Pinsk. She grew up in a house located on 1913 Paraguay Street, also in Barrio Norte.
At just five years old, at the Lavardén Children's Theater, she was preparing to play a little boy who had to leave an envelope to the Three Wise Men. The scene passed, and little María Amelia's teacher, who taught declamation there and wrote the plays, was called none other than Alfonsina Storni. Perhaps uncomfortable because of the nerves of her debut, María Amelia swallowed the stamp on the envelope while she waited for her turn behind the curtain. Crying was the first obstacle that she had to overcome in what later became her long artistic career. Miss Storni called her and between a challenge, a push and a slap on the tail, she sealed the girl's fate with a phrase: "Don't cry, don't cry because you're not going to die, go and get out. Well, you're going to be an actress." ". Thus she entered the stage for the first time “Amelia Bence”, who debuted professionally in 1933 and only stopped performing 77 years later, in 2010.
The Lavardén years allowed her to make theater "a game", as she several times defined it. She enjoyed rehearsals, but she most enjoyed putting that virtue into practice to transform herself into whatever they asked of her.
After five years of learning, it was her turn to attend the National Conservatory of Music and Declamation. It took her a while to convince her parents, but there was an agreement. She could do it if she at the same time studied piano and English. Little María Amelia, 12 years old, accepted with the certainty that her future was in acting. She did not get a position in declamation, but she did get a position in classical dance with teacher Mecha Quintana and, like almost everything in her career, the opportunity she was waiting for arrived early. A certain Armando Discépolo, her brother Enrique and the singer Tania, required young girls between 12 and 13 years old, for the Bonderbar, which was opening on Corrientes Street. The play recreated the details of life in a Buenos Aires cabaret, but Armando did not want professionals.
At that time, he also offered her some photo shoots that her mother supported and her father questioned. "Dad was right, it's true that there was a lot of exposed leg," he once confessed, because of that Estival advertisement that showed her with her legs somewhat uncovered above the knee. At just 13 years old, Amelia agreed even though she embarrassed her. That premise of showing little and never doing without elegance was a hallmark of her career and her life.
Her first approach to cinema was also her first disappointment. They took her to see Luis César Amadori, film director, screenwriter, musician and writer. Amadori looked at her but didn't choose her because of her dark hair. In the heyday of blonde actresses, being brunette was a disadvantage. Amelia's revenge would come soon, Amadori himself sought her out again to be part of the cast of several of her films shortly after.
In 1933 she achieved a supporting role in the second film in the Argentine filmography, "Dancing", the film did not achieve the expected critics and Amelia had to wait four more years for a new opportunity.
Her next challenge came from Luis Saslavsky who was putting together the cast of his film "The Escape." Far from Amadori's sentence, Saslavsky was captivated by the brunette from the beginning, although he also rejected her: "I'm sorry, my daughter, all the papers are complete." True to her style, Amelia sighed and told him, "Don't worry, Mr. Saslavsky, it will be another time." Although she sensed that this opportunity would not take long to arrive, she never imagined that it would be the next day. Well, Saslavsky called her on the phone and confessed: "I invented three little scenes for you, so that you can play a character. I need you to come dressed like she came to my house." Amelia thought that Saslavsky was going to change the color of her hair, because like Amadori, she preferred blondes, but the director gambled on betting on her own imprint, something that others, like Tita Merello, also achieved. "The Escape" was a success, and Amelia participated in eleven more films until she received her breakthrough role in "The Gaucha War" in 1942, considered one of the most important films in the history of Argentine cinema.
References and Photographs:
Moure, Gustavo , “Su mirada enamoró al público y algunos de los hombres más deseados del ambiente artístico”, La Nación: https://www.lanacion.com.ar/lifestyle/sumirada-enamoro-al-publico-algunos-hombres-nid2230430/
Bence, Etchelet. La niña del umbral: Amelia Bence, Memorias. Ed. Corregidor.
The following year his fame rose when he starred in Saslavsky's film, "The Prettiest Eyes in the World." The metaphor of her eyes accompanied the rest of her life. Amelia was already part of the so-called "golden era" of cinema in our country.
Her great challenge was to embody the poet Alfonsina Storni, the same one who had given her the pat at the Teatro Lavardén. Amelia did not look like the writer, but she had the advantage of having known her, and she only agreed to a haircut that barely rounded the contour of her head to play one of the women she most admired in her life. she.
She always said that "Alfonsina" (1957), directed by Kurt Land, was her most beloved film and the one that allowed her to earn her first serious money. She was highly praised for that lead role and the film was chosen to represent Argentina at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Amelia Bence's love life could be summed up by her constant search for love, expressed in a couple of marriages and several romances. Her first partner was Roberto Fernández Beyró, in 1941, the romance ended when Beyró had no better idea than to ask him to abandon her artistic career to go live with him.
In 1946 during the filming of the film "María Rosa" in Chile, she met the Spanish actor Alberto Closas, who encouraged her to enter the theater field when Amelia was already established as a film actress. With Closas she shared works such as "The star fell into the sea", and "My husband and his complex". In film, "My wife is crazy" and eight years of real life between courtship and marriage, which took place in 1950. Amelia fell madly in love with Closas, but she also recognized that that love was "an illusion." The relationship ended after four years, when Amelia returned from a tour in Mexico and discovered some of her husband's affairs. Without hard feelings, when she had already turned 100, she said that she felt "flattered" to have shared that time with him, whom she always admired for his personality and her talent. "As the years go by, I forgive what they made me suffer, I am not spiteful. I keep the good things."
In the mid-1950s, the writer José María Fernández Unsain came into her life who, according to her confession, made her understand that she can love herself more than once in her life. It was an intense but brief romance, also shaken by the coup d'état that overthrew Perón in 1955, and which earned Bence the censorship of one of her works due to the recognized Peronist affiliation of her husband.
Loves followed one another and many of those romances were secrets that Amelia preferred to keep to herself. This was not the case with her six-year relationship with the actor and writer Osvaldo Catonne, who was 19 years younger than her and who also directed her on several occasions in Argentina and Peru. They were together between 1964 and 1970. De Catonne declared that no one had ever transmitted him so much peace. She remarried in 1980 to Carlos Ortiz Basualdo, a rich Argentine landowner who died just two years after the wedding. "
In her extensive career, Amelia garnered many nominations and awards. Among them, she won the award for best actress from the Association of Cinematographic Chroniclers and the Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences of Argentina, on multiple occasions. In 1989 she received the Silver Condor Award for Lifetime Achievement and obtained the Podesta Award in the same category in 1992.
She was a great actress recognized in Spain, in Latin America and she was even invited to perform at the Gramercy Arts Theater in New York with “La valija”, which earned her the ACE award for Best Foreign Actress.
Amelia continued acting as long as her health allowed, and her participation in the Alta Comedia cycle in the 90s is well remembered. She gave more than 40 films and productions to cinema in Argentina, Mexico and Spain. There were 77 years of active professional life between cinema and theater, which in itself constitutes a true record. On February 8, 2016, at the age of 101, the most beautiful eyes in the world closed forever. Her remains were laid to rest at the Cervantes National Theater and deposited in the Actors' Pantheon of the Chacarita Cemetery.
In her biography "The Girl on the Threshold" she says at the end something that defines her: "I love being an actress because I earned it. Because I built it, because I knew how to listen and learn. I love being made of flesh and blood. I love acting, I love that applause that flies from the audience to the stage. I love looking up and meeting their gaze. They have always been with me, how can I not bow down to them, how can I not love that background music, the most beautiful melody."