The society of respected film critics that hands out the annual Gawad Urian in cinematic excellence

SUSANA C. DE GUZMAN, Recipient of 1991 Natatanging Gawad Urian

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By AGUSTIN SOTTO

In Philippine cinema's long history, only a handful of directors are women. Starting with Brigida Perez Villanueva, the first woman director who also earned the distinction of directing the last silent film ("Pendulum of Fate"), women directors have not numbered more than seven.

Of these, Susana C. de Guzman ranks not only as one of the foremost directors in film history but also as an accomplished Tagalog novelist, scriptwriter and radio dramatist. She has directed more than 40 films, written countless screenplays, novels and radio serials. For three decades, her name was a household word that was associated with top rated entertainment. Her plots and characters are still being adapted for the mass media. Susana C. de Guzman was born in Manila on May 24, 1912. She is the niece of Lope K. Santos and Severino Reyes. Her brother is composer Constancio de Guzman. She started writing at an early age. She won several prizes for her novels and short stories — Ang Pamana ng Tulisan, Ang Kanilang Lihim. Her pre-war screen writing credits include "Kalapating Puti," "Arimunding-Munding," "Prinsesa ng Kumintang," "Pasang Krus," "Ibong Sawi" and "Ikaw Rin." Just before the war, she married Antonio Astudillo, a reporter who later became the actor-director, Tony Arnaldo.

In 1946, she wrote and directed the first film of Premiere Productions — "Probinsyana" starring Carmen Rosales. This was a big hit that established one of the major studios as well as her career. She was persuaded by Dona Sisang to become a director for LVN. Despite the fact that she had a standing offer to direct for Sampaguita, she stayed put in LVN until it closed in 1961.

Wearing only pants since a star guessed her underwear, Susana C. de Guzman directed her best films in LVN. She had a knack for screwball comedies laced with social messages. In "Milyonaria," newspaper heiress Mila del Sol is taught a lesson in social understanding by editor Rogelio de la Rosa. In "Lupang Pangako," the penniless but bemedalled guerrillas are given a piece of land which they convert into their version of Walden. In "Tininti del Barrio," a spoof on political corruption in a small town, illiterate farmer Gregorio Ticman is taught how to write in order to generate more graft for wife Patsy Mateo.

But her name is associated more with powerful romantic dramas. In "Teniente Carlos Blanco," Armando Goyena, a war hero, agrees to pose as his departed friend, Nestor de Villa, in order to escape poverty. In "Huling Dalangin," Norma Blancaflor's husband, Tony Arnaldo, shoots up the corporate ladder because of favors given to heiress Rosa Rosal. In "Mahal Mo Ba Ako?," nightclub singer Rosa Rosal is blackmailed by Gil de Leon and is prevented from living a happy family life with Tony Arnaldo.

Susana C. de Guzman has also elicited memorable performances from her cast: Rosa Rosal in her Famas-award-winning role in "Sonny Boy," Lilia Dizon in "Sa Paanan ng Bundok" and Charito Solis in "Ang Langit Ko'y Ikaw."

Susana C. de Guzman's plots are still being adapted for many popular films, although unauthorized. It is testimony to her vast influence in popular culture.