Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dolores Del Rio

Film actress Dolores Del Rio was born Lolita Dolores Asunsolo de Martinez on this day in 1905 in Durango, Mexico.

Often referred to as one of the most beautiful women in the history of film, Dolores, the convent-educated cousin of Ramon Novarro, married lawyer Jaime Del Rio at age 16. When she was 20, she was spotted by a Hollywood director at a Mexico City tea party and invited to appear in her first film, Joanna (1925). She followed her debut with plum roles in silent films such as What Price Glory? (1926, from the Maxwell Anderson play), Resurrection (1927, based on the Tolstoy novel) and Evangeline (1929).

Although she was not often cast as a vamp, which was Hollywood's usual approach to dark, exotic beauty, she tended to play "an assortment of puzzled Indian and Polynesian maidens" (per Richard Schickel) in such films as Ramona (1928; based on the Helen Hunt Jackson story) and Bird of Paradise (1932; directed by King Vidor) in which she appears topless (wearing a strategically placed lei) for most of the film.

While the studios were dropping many of the foreign beauties who graced the silent screen when the talkies arrived, Del Rio survived in Hollywood on her education, her grace and taste -- even if Hollywood didn't often know what to do with her singular persona. Divorced from Jaime before 1930, Del Rio married twice and came close to marrying Orson Welles around the time she starred with him in Journey into Fear (1942).

Disappointed over the end of her relationship with Welles and exasperated with Hollywood for underestimating her dramatic talent, she returned to Mexico in 1943, negotiating lucrative contracts and starring in some of the finest pieces in the golden age of Mexican cinema, including the classic Maria Candelaria (1943). She returned to American films intermittently, appearing in John Ford's The Fugitive (1947, with Henry Fonda) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). She appeared with Elvis Presley in Flaming Star (1960), summing up her decision to join the project with a sentiment which no doubt prodded her throughout her career: "I took the part because it permitted me to play an intelligent, sensitive woman of character."

She died on April 11, 1983 in Newport Beach, California.

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Anonymous Tom Thompson said...

Was she ever rumored to have had an affair with William S. Hart?

10:22 AM  

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