In Memoriam: Juan Gabriel, the Actor

Sonia Amelio (left), Verónica Castro, and Juan Gabriel in  Nobleza ranchera  (1977)

Sonia Amelio (left), Verónica Castro, and Juan Gabriel in Nobleza ranchera (1977)

Mexican superstar Juan Gabriel died of a heart attack today at the age of 66 in Santa Monica, California. An icon in the Latino music world, widely known for his music career as a prolific composer—with over 1,500 compositions—and as a singer with over 100 million albums sold worldwide, he also had a short, yet popular film career.

Born Alberto Aguilera Valadez in Paracho, Michoacán in 1950, Juan Gabriel made his film debut in 1977 in Arturo Martínez's Nobleza ranchera (Rural Chivalry) playing the main role opposite Verónica Castro. The romantic drama shot in Weslaco, Texas, also starred veteran actors Sara García and Carlos López Moctezuma. The film tells the story of Don Fernando, who returns to his ranch from the city to spend his holidays with his two daughters, but he is blackmailed by his past.


Nobleza ranchera (1977)


Two years later, Juan Gabriel starred in Gilberto Martínez Solares' En esta primavera (1979) in which he played himself in the big screen for the first time. Starring Estrellita and Ramón Valdés, the film is story of Estrellita, a young student who meets Juan Gabriel while writing a school story, and falls in love with him. Yet, the student is committed to marry her school boyfriend.

In 1980, Juan Gabriel starred as Alberto Molina in Gonzalo Martínez Ortega's drama Del otro lado del puente shot in Los Angeles, California and also starring Valentín Trujillo, Lucha Villa, Julio Alemán, and Estela Nuñez. 


Del otro lado del puente (1980)


One year later, also by the hand of director Martínez Ortega, Juan Gabriel starred in his rags to riches biopic El Noa Noa—named after one of his most popular songs—also participating as associate producer. Starring Mercedes Carreño, Federico Villa, and Arlette Pacheco, the film follows Juan Gabriel as a teenager who dreams of becoming a singer, but because he's underage, the management of "El Noa Noa" won't let him in. As time goes by, he befriends a prostitute (played Carreño), and eventually, he's allowed to sing at the club, where he naturally triumphs. 


El Noa Noa (1981)


Based on the success of the film, a new sequel of Juan Gabriel's biopic is made the following year under the title Es mi vida (El Noa Noa 2) starring the superstar himself. The 1982 prison drama starring Guillermo Murray, Narciso Busquets, and Leonor Llausás, follows Alberto Aguilera when he is accused of stealing and is sent to jail, a place that marks his life with some bitter experiences. 

Juan Gabriel had two additional movie participations as actor in the 1984 musical Siempre en Domingo based on the popular TV show, directed by René Cardona Jr., and in the Spanish movie Bazar Viena by Amalio Cuevas in 1990.

More recently, he participated in the 2014 musical comedy ¿Qué le dijiste a Dios? by Teresa Suárez, featuring the songs of Juan Gabriel. The movie, about two housekeepers who risk it all for love, features a cameo appearance by the beloved artist, who was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.