Comments, Culture, In Focus, On Stage, Screen

Viva Rita in Hollywood!

Hollywood. A dream factory, source of aspirations and opportunity for some, but historically a virtual closed shop for others. Sometimes for legitimate reasons, but often not! Ethnicity, for example!


Chris Ludlam


To this day, only one Latina/Hispanic Actress has won a coveted Academy Award (Oscar) – Rita Moreno (b. Puerto Rico in 1931),who struggled and persevered against prejudice and stereotypical roles in her early movie career to finally gain the recognition and respect her talent as an Actress/Singer/Dancer deserved.

Even though she showed enough promise in very early roles(e.g. “The Toast of New Orleans”(1950)),she was reduced to appearing in decorative cameos where she was given little or nothing to do. “Fort Vengeance” (1953 ) or the great “Singing’ in the Rain” (1952) are prime examples.

Usually she portrayed exotic Senoritas or Native American Maidens. Her eye-catching performance as Honey Bear in the 1954   Western “The Yellow Tomahawk” was one of her more interesting performances in this latter genre, soon followed by her touching portrayal of Tuptim in the popular screen version of “The King and I” two years later.

Her big break finally came when she was cast as Anita in Bernstein’s classic musical “West Side Story”.

She turned in a really compelling performance and was rewarded by receiving a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar!

She is one of the very small group of performers to have achieved the distinction of winning an Oscar,an Emmy T.V. award (Twice),a Tony (Theatre) and a Grammy(Recording Artist).

She has won many other accolades and awards in her ongoing Career,one of the most recent being a ‘HOLA’ Lifetime Achievement gong, in 2010. A Lady of great determination! It is worth noting that it is more than fifty years since she won her Oscar, and one wonders when the next similar recognition will be afforded to an Actress from Central or South America?

Coincidentally, the first Latino/Hispanic Actor to win an Oscar was also from Puerto Rico: Jose Ferrar for his virtuoso portrayal as “Cyrano de Bergerac” in 1950.

(The Prisma’ memoirs. May 2013)

 (Photos: Pixabay)



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