Taking his Alternativa in Valencia, and later Confirmed in Madrid, Jaime Bravo was a super star matador who, at the same time, might well be considered a classic example of a star that never burned. Known for his death-defying style, in the late 1960s he was clearly being groomed for Hollywood movie roles. Then tragedy struck and he was killed in a 1970 auto accident in Zacatecas, Mexico. Who knows how far he might have gone or if he would have even been the hit that some hoped.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Mexico was full of crossover movie stars. You had the singer, Antonio Aguilar, making western films, usually singing in them like a Latin version of Elvis, the scripts groomed to fit his more high-profile career. You had Gaston Santos, the rejoneador, making movies. You had wrestlers like Blue Demon, El Santo, Chanoc, Mil Mascaras and Nathaniel Leon making horror films. Then you had bullfighters like Carlos Arruza, Luis Procuna, Manuel Capetillo, and David Liceaga entering the field. Like the last group, Jaime Bravo was a bullfighter for many years, especially popular with the ladies and with the border town crowds. He had the looks and the charm, if not the talent, to make it on the screen and to some producers, that's all that mattered.
Bravo played a small part in a movie called "Un Toro Me Llama" (1968), which was available through a California distributor some years ago in both English and Spanish. (English title, "Call Of A Bull"). The film starred the late Emilio Fernandez and a cast of Americans, the main theme being about a woman wanting to be a bullfighter. Bravo was there, for more reason than not, just to see how he looked on the screen.
Another film, which was scandalous for the time, "Love Has Many Faces" (1965) featured Bravo as what else... a matador. Starring Lana Turner, Cliff Robertson, Hugh O'Brian, Ruth Roman, and Stefanie Powers, the film was rife with repeated affairs... seemingly Bravo was typecast. Although Bravo spoke English very well, the film's producers used another actor's voice to dub over Bravo's thick accent.
He was also the topic of a (currently unavailable) documentary directed by the American, Art Swerdloff. This film, titled "The Story Of A Matador" (1962), was a David Wolper production, with Bravo demonstrating what a bullfighter went through as he rose to stardom in the rings. "It is one of my favourite half hour films," Swerdloff commented recently when asked about it. "One of the best I've done."
Away from the bullrings, Bravo already had the making of a big screen movie idol, if only by his - often scandalous s- behaviour. Numerous affairs with Hollywood's most beautiful and biggest names, his reputation as a romantic was and is still well-known... and more often than not, caused him trouble. To this day, he is remembered for frequently having more than several of any of his girlfriends mixed throughout the crowd, at any particular bullfight, and unbeknownst to one another.
Quite the character, Bravo was a true showman. Although a top matador, Bravo's fame was moreso driven by his persona and his unrelenting bravery. Always pushing the envelope of drama and danger just a little bit further than his contemporaries, Bravo drew tremendous crowds who were mesmerized by his repeatedly placing himself in and then ripping himself out from the jaws of death. As one journalist put it, "The bull was probably scared of Jaime."
“Jaime was gored more than 50 times in his career." Larry Jones, an official of a Tijuana ring, said when informed of the bullfighter’s death, “He was very daring and thought he had to get injured to please the fans.”
“Bravo delighted in challenging the bull to the fullest extent. He was popular in Tijuana because he was flashy and colorful. Few bullfighters took more chances than Jaime."
Bravo was a circus aerialist (a "trapezista") in Mexico before turning to bullfighting. Fans thought that saved his life in the bull ring many times. A native of Mexico City, Jaime seldom fought there because he was so popular in border towns like Tijuana.
Bravo also had the uncanny knack of utilizing scandal to make sure that he received the best headlines. During an August 1968 corrida, playing to the Tijuana, non-aficionado tourists, Bravo "requested the animal be spared. This, in turn, was denied, and the torero [Bravo] who refused to kill the bull was was escorted to the local jail and fined". Of course, Bravo received headlines for his defiance.
Only one month earlier, at a July 1968 corrida, Bravo had, once again, used a similar press-grabbing tactic, when he was not performing his best and another matador's superior performance was going to gain the next day's headlines. Before that corrida ended, Bravo made sure to curse at the bullring's judge, just enough to infuriate the judge so that Bravo was immediately arrested and jailed. Cameras captured countless photos of Bravo being cuffed, escorted from the bullring, taken to the jail, and locked in a cell. Bravo accomplished his goal. The next day, the newspapers' headlines boldly declared that Jaime Bravo had been jailed. Much further down the page, and in much smaller type, only a few sentences stated that the other matador had performed brilliantly.
Never a dull moment for the crowds, gossip was further promulgated by such actions as his behavior during a 1957 Tijuana bullfight, during which he tossed flowers to Ava Gardner, from the ring. She was at the corrida with actor Gilbert Roland.
One of the biggest scandals concerning Bravo and his misadventures related to Arabella Arbenz, daughter of Guatemala's leftwing president Jacobo Arbenz, who was ousted long ago. This woman was a top fashion model, who eventually committed suicide in front of the matador, shooting herself on October 5, 1965.
Although he had a ridiculously large amount of short-term relationships, he did try his hand at marriage, twice. In 1957, Bravo married an actress named Ann Robinson (visit Ann's official Website), by whom he had his first two sons, named Jaime and Estefan. In 1967, two years after appearing in a 1965 Las Vegas promotional bullfight, he married a Las Vegas showgirl named Monica Lind (from "Les Folies Bergere"), by whom he had his third and final son, named Aleco Jaime Bravo ("Aleco Bravo") . Clearly, this bullfighter made the rounds.
By the late 1960s, Bravo was a seasoned bullfighter, who still had his looks and, as such, was looking to the film world for a career that might suit him once he would retire from the bulls. There were a variety of production companies keen on giving him a go. He had a high enough profile that his name could draw the people, both within the Mexican interior and in the USA. Keep in mind that he had a large following in the border towns, such as Tijuana, Nogales,Juarez and Matamoras, making his name easily recognizable in states such as California, Arizona, and Texas. But such was not to be.
In the 1970 auto accident, that killed Jaime Bravo, were his driver and another, much younger matador, Eloy Cavazos, whom Jaime had taken under his guidance. His driver died in the accident; Eloy Cavazos is currently one of Mexico's top matadors. (Continuing the legacy of greatness, Matador Eloy Cavazoshas taken under his wing, the prominent, up-and-coming Matador Alejandro Amaya, who was featured by ESPN in November 2006.)
Jaime died shortly after the accident, spelling an end to whatever hopes there might have been for him to establish himself as a movie star.