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Legendary actress, Rita Moreno, was born Rosita Dolores Alverio on Dec 11, 1931 in Humacao, Puerto Rico. As of December 2016, Rita Moreno was 85 years old.
Early Life and Career
Rita Moreno was born Rosa Dolores Alverio on December 11th, 1931 in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Her father, Francisco Jose, was a farmer and her mother, Rosa Maria, was a seamstress. After the pair divorced in the mid-1930s, Rosa moved to New York, bringing her daughter along for ride. They settled in the Bronx, where the five-year old Rita began taking dance lessons. Her instructor was Paco Cansino, the uncle of Rita Hayworth. Clearly a natural talent, it wasn't long before the young dancer was entertaining audiences with her Camera Miranda Act at weddings and bar mitzvahs. She quickly moved into acting and began working in children's theater. At age 11 Moreno worked on her first film, dubbing Spanish-language versions of American movies. Two years later the young actress would make her Broadway debut as Angelia in the play Skydrift. Now at the age of 14, Moreno knew this was her calling and soon dropped out of school to concentrate her time on show business.
Early Hollywood Career
Sometime in the late 1940s Moreno caught the eye of an MGM talent scout. She was brought to Louis B. Mayer, who signed Moreno to multi-year contract. Her first role under the new contract was a small part the Technicolor musical The Toast of New Orleans. She then went on to play the young ingenue Zelda Zanders in Singin' in the Rain. Although Moreno was able to build her career at MGM, it was defined by the racism that dictated her early career. In films such as Jivaro, Latin Lover, El Alamein and Garden of Evil, she was cast as the fiery Latin sexpot and was defined more by her ethnicity than her abilities. When not cast as the Hispanic sex-kitten stereotype, she was then offered roles another "ethnic" character, playing everything from Cajun to South Asian.
When her time at MGM was at an end, she signed on with Twentieth Century Fox. Despite the change in scenery, the roles were no different. In 1954 she played the sexy Cantina Singer in the western Garden of Evil and followed that up by playing the naive Native American, Ula, in Seven Cities of Gold. One film that did manage to utilize the multi-talented actress was the role of Tuptin in the Walter Lang musical The King and I. Although film still had her playing an exotic other, the role allowed Moreno to fully utilize her talents as an actor and dancer. However, after filming The Deerslayer in 1957, Fox decided not to renew her contract.
West Side Story
After leaving Fox, Moreno remained in Hollywood. Although film roles did not come her way for another three years, she did have an active career on television. She appeared on a myriad of series, such as General Electric Theater, Zorro, The Red Skeleton Hour and Climax. In 1961 Moreno was cast in Robert Wise's big screen adaption of the hit Broadway musical West Side Story. In the film she played Anita, the girlfriend to the Sharks' gang leader Bernardo. Although role gave Moreno another chance to show audiences her skills as an actress and dancer, the part was still in the realm of the hotheaded Latina stereotype. She would eventually go on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her the first Hispanic actress to take home Oscar gold.
Although Moreno had hoped winning something as prestigious as an Academy Award would open doors to a wider ranger of parts, she was sadly mistaken. She was still offered nothing but demeaning stereotypical trite. Rather than accept, Moreno decided she would rather just move on and left Hollywood to pursue a stage career.
After leaving Hollywood in 1961, it would be 7 years before Moreno would return to film. In the mean time, she traveled to London and star in the play She Loves Me. She returned to New York and renewed her work on the Broadway stage. In 1964 she starred in the Peter Kass's production of The Sign I Sidney Burstein's Window. During this time Moreno met her husband, Dr. Leonard Gordon, whom she would marry in 1965.
The end of the 1960s and into 1970s was something of a turning point in Moreno's career. Although most women find work more difficult to come by as they age, the opposite seemed true for Moreno. She lost her youthful "sexpot" appeal that defined her career in the 1950s and 60s but still aged gracefully, retaining her nature beauty. Add all of this to the Hollywood's growing progressive nature at the time; Moreno was finally freed of the stereotypes that held her back for so long.
She returned movie making in 1968, starring as a drug addict opposite Marlon Brando n the crime drama The Night of the Following Day. She followed up starring opposite Alan Arkin in the dark comedy Popi and then in the mystery-drama Marlowe. In 1971 she appeared as Jack Nicholson's favorite lady of the night, in the Mike Nichols comedy Carnal Knowledge. During this time Moreno also remained busy on the Broadway stage, appearing in Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Gantry.
In 1971 Moreno became a cast member on the children's television series The Electric Company. It often used sketch comedy and reoccurring characters to help further nurture children's reading and writing skills. The cast would go on to win the 1972 Grammy for Best Recording for Children. She continued to appear on television and Broadway. In 1974 she was cast as Googie Gomez in the Broadway farce The Ritz. The show was extremely successful, playing for 400 nights. As for Moreno, she would walk away with a Tony Award For Best Featured of Supporting Actress in a Play.
In 1977 Moreno guest starred as vulnerable prostitute, Rita Capkovic, in a three-episode arch on the The Rockford Files. The role won her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstand Guest Actress - Drama Series. With this award, Moreno became only the third person to have the "grand slam" of American show business: The EGOT AKA winning a competitive Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. This is an incredible feat in the entertainment industry and thus far only 12 people have achieved this accomplishment.
1980s to Now
Since her EGOT win, Moreno has been working steadily in the entertainment business for the past three and a half decades. A steady fixture on television, she has guest starred on classic series such as The Love Boat, Golden Girls, The Cosby Show and was a regular on the sitcom Nine to Five. In the late 1990s she was frequent guest star on the gritty HBO prison drama, Oz, as psychiatrist nun, Sister Pete. The role help introduce Moreno to an entirely new generation of television viewers. Outside of television she remained committed to the stage, eventually starring in the gender-swapped version of the The Odd Couple. And in 1997 she returned to the London stage to try her hand as the delusional former silver screen star, Norma Desmond, in Andrew Lloyd Webbers' musical version of Sunset BLVD.
All her hard work and struggle throughout her 7-decade career culminated in 2004, when she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush. She has since been presented with the National Medal of Arts form Barack Obama in 2009, Hispanic Organization of Latin actresses (HOLA) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2013, and the Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award in 2015.
To this very day, the octogenarian shows no signs of stopping. This year alone starred in the Steve Goldbloom film Remember Me and has made guest appearances on the television series Grey's Anatomy and Grace and Frankie. She is currently filming the Netflix reboot of One Day at a Time, set to air in 2017.(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).
HONORS and AWARDS:.
Rita Moreno was nominated for one Academy Award, winning for Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story (as Anita) in 1961.
|1961||Best Supporting Actress||West Side Story (1961)||Anita||Won|
She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Rita Moreno's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #207 on Nov 15, 2011.
, Happy Birthday, (2)By C. S. Williams on Dec 11, 2013 From Classic Film Aficionados
At the age of 11, began her acting career dubbing voices for Spanish-language versions of American films. She had her debut in 1950′s “So Young So Bad”, her performances always rang true and her ability to dance and sing gave her film-work through the 50′s and ear... Read full article
, Happy Birthday,By C. S. Williams on Dec 11, 2013 From Classic Film Aficionados
At the age of 11, began her acting career dubbing voices for Spanish-language versions of American films. She had her debut in 1950’s “So Young So Bad”, her performances always rang true and her ability to dance and sing gave her film-work through the 50’s and ear... Read full article
: A Memoiron Jul 8, 2013 From Journeys in Classic Film
Actress has solidified her spot in the pantheon of Hollywood heavy-hitters, despite her small list of film credits; as the first Latin actress to win an Academy Award, Moreno certainly can’t deny that Hollywood took notice her, regardless of their tendency to place her in sub par &... Read full article
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Bernardo: Ah, my sister is a precious jewel!
Anita: What am I, cut glass?
Bernardo: [singing] Everywhere grime in America / Organised crime in America / Terrible time in America
Anita: You forget I'm in America
Anita: Come in, come in! We won't bite you until we know you better.
read more quotes from Rita Moreno...