Dolores del Río

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Dolores del Río
Delores del Rio-publicity.JPG
Del Río in The Bird of Paradise (1932)
Born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo López-Negrete
(1905-08-03)August 3, 1905
Durango, Mexico
Died April 11, 1983(1983-04-11) (aged 77)
Newport Beach, California, U.S.
Nationality Mexican
Occupation Actress and singer
Years active 1925–1978
Spouse(s) Jaime Martinez del Río (1921-1928)
Cedric Gibbons (1930-1941)
Lewis Riley (1959-1983)
Partner(s) Orson Welles (1938–1941)

Dolores del Río (August 3, 1905 in Durango, Mexico – April 11, 1983 in Newport Beach, California) was a Mexican film actress. She was a Mexican actress in Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s, and was one of the most important womanly figures of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in the 1940s and 1950s. She was considered a mythical figure in Latin America and quintessential representation of the feminine face of Mexico in the world. She was the first Latin American female star to be recognized internationally.

During the 1920s and 1930s in Hollywood, Dolores was considered one of the most beautiful women of her time, a sort of female version of Rudolph Valentino, the "Latin lover" in the silent films. Her career flourished until the end of the silent era, with success in films such as Resurrection (1927), Ramona (1928) and Evangeline (1929). She was one of the few superstars of the silent era to adapt to the talkies in Hollywood. She filmed successful films like Bird of Paradise (1932), Flying Down to Rio (1933), Madame Du Barry, Wonder Bar (1934) and Journey into Fear (1942). When her Hollywood career began to decline, Del Río decided to return to her native country and join the Mexican film industry, which at that time was living its best.

When del Río returned to Mexico, under the guidance of the director Emilio Fernández, she became the most important star of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. The 1943 film María Candelaria is considered her masterpiece from this time. Del Río was in force at the cinema of her country during the next three decades and returned to Hollywood only sporadically. Her long career also spanned theater and television. Along with Lupe Velez, Katy Jurado and Salma Hayek, del Rio completes the group of successful Mexican actresses in Hollywood.

Early life[edit]

Born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López Negrete in Durango, Mexico, into a wealthy family.[1] del Río was the second cousin of actor Ramón Novarro (Latin Lover of the Silent Cinema) and a cousin to Mexican actress Andrea Palma. Her parents, Jesus Leonardo Asúnsolo Jacques, director of the Bank of Durango, and Antonia Lopez-Negrete, were members of Mexico's Porfiriato: members of the ruling class from 1876–1911 when Porfirio Díaz was president.

Her family lost all its assets during the Mexican Revolution, and settled in Mexico City, where they lived under the protection of then President Francisco I. Madero, who was a cousin of her mother.

She studied at the Liceo Franco Mexicano[2] in Mexico City and had a passion for dancing, admiring the great Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. In 1921, an elite group in the Mexican capital decided to organize a benefit for a local hospital. They chose Dolores to perform “Spanish” dances. The organizer of the benevolent group, Jaime Martínez del Río y Viñent, was captivated. However, Dolores was captivated by his interest in her and by his conversation about art and artists.

When he asked for her hand in marriage, her parents accepted. After a two-month courtship, Dolores married Jaime on 11 April 1921. He was 34. She was 16. Their honeymoon in Europe lasted two years. During that time the young bride entered an entirely new and exciting world, one far removed from the stifling restraints of the conservative Mexican upper class. Jaime’s connections and his wife’s beauty and intelligence got them invited into the homes of the European social and artistic aristocracy. In 1924, the couple reluctantly returned to Mexico. They decided to live on Jaime’s country estate, where cotton was the main crop. The two concocted a plan to limit their stay in Mexico to two years, during which time Jaime would make a fortune from cotton crops, and then return to Europe. However, when the bottom fell out of the cotton market, Jaime lost his entire fortune. Another loss was suffered when Dolores miscarried. She was told never to try to have another child.[3]

Her discovery reads like a Hollywood movie. Edwin Carewe, an influential director at First National Films, had traveled to Mexico for the wedding of actors Bert Lytell and Claire Windsor, to which they came Dolores and her husband.[4] Carewe fell under her spell watching her dance a tango at a dinner party. The infatuated Carewe cajoled the couple into moving to Hollywood, urging the couple to rebuff familial objections that viewed acting as socially demeaning. Del Río saw it as a marriage-strengthening opportunity.[5]

Career in Hollywood[edit]

Silent films[edit]

Dolores del Río (no date).

Dolores was contracted by Carewe as her agent, manager, producer and director, and her fate was sealed. Before she had a single movie project, Carewe hired Henry Wilson to publicize the arrival of the new screen beauty. Much was made of her Mexican aristocratic background, her education by nuns, and her dancing talents. Her name was shortened to “Dolores Del Rio” (with an incorrect capital “D” on "del"). To keep the husband out of the way, Carewe sent Jaime off to “study the various aspects of filmmaking.”

Using her married name, del Río made her film debut in Joanna directed by Carewe in 1925 and released that year. She played "Carlotta Da Silva", a nebulous vamp of Spanish and Brazilian origin. However, in the film she appeared for only five minutes, and the credits mistakenly called her "Dorothy Del Rio." Carewe reassured her that the little that she appeared in the film looked extremely good.[6] Despite her brief appearance, Carewe arranged for wide publicity for her with the intention to transform her into a star on the order of Rudolph Valentino, a "Female Latin Lover".

In her second film, High Steppers, del Río took the second female credit after the actress Mary Astor. She also appeared in the comedy The Whole Town's Talking, her first film without the guidance of Carewe.[7] These films were not blockbusters, but helped to increase del Río's popularity.

In her next film, the comedy Pals First (1926), del Río received her first starring role. Her success came despite not yet having mastered English.

Dolores del Río in the movie magazine Photoplay (1927)

In late 1926, the director Raoul Walsh called del Río to cast her in What Price Glory as "Charmaine". Later, she was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1926, along with fellow newcomers Joan Crawford, Mary Astor, Janet Gaynor, Fay Wray and others. She came to be admired as one of the most beautiful women of that generation of "Baby Stars". During the Baby Stars parade in New York, the audience stood and cheered at Dolores for seven minutes.[8]

In 1927, Carewe produced and directed Resurrection (1927), based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy, which was a box office hit. Although Hollywood had already made three versions of the film, Carewe was sure that his version would be the best. He worked on the script with the son of Leo Tolstoy, Count Ilya Tolstoy. Del Río was selected as the heroine, Rod La Rocque starred as leading man, and the Count Tolstoy himself having a role in the film.[8]

In 1927, Raoul Walsh called del Río to do a second version of Carmen, The Loves of Carmen (1927). Walsh thought del Río to be the best interpreter of Carmen for her authentic Hispanic origin.

A succession of movies without artistic merit were produced to exploit del Río's fame. Critics noticed, calling the film The Gateway of the Moon (1928) a “badly-directed, sappy melodrama obviously released only to cash in on the popularity of the star.”[9] At the same time, she filmed No Other Woman, also without success.

In 1928, she replaced the actress Renée Adorée (who was showing symptoms of tuberculosis) in the MGM film The Trail of '98, directed by Clarence Brown. She was hired by United Artists for the successful 1928 film Ramona, for which she recorded the famous song "Ramona" with RCA Victor. Dolores would be the first interpretation of a true Latin American Ramona. This was the first United Artists film with a synchronized score, but was not a talking picture.

After finishing filming[clarification needed] Ramona, Hollywood was concerned with the impending arrival of talkies. On 29 March at Mary Pickford's bungalow, the United Artists brought together Pickford, del Río, Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, John Barrymore, and D. W. Griffith to speak on the radio show The Dodge Brothers Hour to prove they could meet the challenge of talking movies. Del Río surprised the audience by singing Ramona,proving to be prepared to face the challenge of talkies.[10]

She made other films such as The Red Dance, directed again by Raoul Walsh (a kind of reprisal of Resurrection, since once more she would play a Russian peasant in love with an aristocrat), and another production sponsored by Carewe: The Daughter of the Bear Tamer, a novel by Konrad Bercovici. As a del Río vehicle, she had the luxury of having it renamed Revenge, in the belief that all her successes should begin with "R".[11]

But her personal life was a shambles. Jaime, completely disgusted with standing in his wife’s shadow, left for New York where he planned to collaborate on a play provocatively titled From Hell Came a Lady. Dolores began filming The Red Dance. After the unfortunate failure of Jaime’s play in New York, he wrote that he wouldn't be returning to Los Angeles but would go to Europe instead. Dolores decided to get a divorce. With a lawyer recommended by the overly-eager Edwin Carewe, she traveled to Tijuana and secured a divorce which would be recognized in both Mexico and the United States.

Back in Los Angeles, Dolores received an urgent telegram informing her of Jaime’s illness in Germany. However, by the time she received the news, he was already dead. Some said it was suicide by poison. He had entered a hospital in Berlin, had minor surgery or a medical procedure (all very mysterious), and had died a few days later from “blood poisoning.” Two friends were by his bedside as well as a priest sent from Spain by Jaime’s worried family in Mexico. Ludicrous stories began circulating in the international press that Dolores would attend the funeral in Mexico and then immediately enter a convent. Instead, her mother persuaded her not to come to Mexico for the funeral. Jaime’s family somehow held the young movie star responsible for the death of their 41-year-old relative.[3]

During the filming of Evangeline United Artists considered removing her from the tutelage of Carewe, who had ambitions to marry her and become a famous Hollywood couple. Evangeline (1929) was a critical success, but a box office disappointment. The recording of del Río singing the title track received extensive radio airplay, enjoying a longer life than the movie.

Upon completion of the exquisite, well-crafted Evangeline, directed by Carewe, her studio United Artists convinced her to separate herself artistically and professionally from Carewe, who still held an exclusive contract with the actress. Despite his fury, as much that of a man scorned as of an investor losing his investment and a Pygmalion losing his Galatea, Dolores paid Carewe a substantial settlement out of court and began truly looking toward liberation. To her bungalow on the United Artists lot she invited important columnists such as Adela Rogers St. Johns, to whom she openly talked about her life and attitudes: “For the first time in my life I am myself. I do what I want to do. I enjoy life and happiness which I never had as a young woman because I married too quickly, scarcely two weeks after graduating from parochial school. I want to have a romance, laugh and talk about nothing important. I am now regaining lost time.”

Following the economic crash of 1929, Del Rio's investments were not affected and she continued growing richer, now with a weekly salary of $9,000 whether she worked or not. She eagerly went into her next film and first talkie, The Bad One. However, Del Río’s voice was clear and not nearly as accented as Garbo’s. They would both survive the technical revolution and have another decade of work in Hollywood.[3]


Del Río in In Caliente (1935)

In 1928, Dolores met Cedric Gibbons, one of the original Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences members and a leading MGM art director and production designer, who supervised the design of the Academy Award's Oscar trophy by printing the design on a scroll. Del Río reunited with Cedric Gibbons once again for a party organized by William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies at Hearst Castle. The couple started a romance, that culminated in a marriage ceremony at the Old Mission Santa Barbara Church in 1930. Her presence in Hollywood of the thirties was not limited to the world of cinema but also into the circles of high society. In the Gibbons-del Río house in Hollywood had a special place for Greta Garbo. Other of her closest friends were Marlene Dietrich, Errol Flynn and her wife Lili Damita, Fay Wray, Constance Bennett, Joan Bennett and Myrna Loy.[12]

It was there that Dolores fell seriously ill with a severe kidney infection. Doctors feared for her life and instructed her to rest for an extended time. All the activities of the previous five years had finally caught up with her. Despite her happiness her body could no longer go on as it had. During her convalescence del Río was shocked to see that Carewe was remaking Resurrection, now with Lupe Vélez, who was not exactly del Río’s enemy but certainly was not a friend either. Adding to del Río’s concerns, studios who forced actors to make three or four films a year did not look favorably on contract actors who did not work at all. She returning to studio work. She began with Girl of the Rio, in which she played a young Mexican woman working in a border-town cabaret.[13]

She scored a new success with Bird of Paradise in 1932, directed by King Vidor. The producer of the film, David O. Selznick, reportedly told Vidor: "I want del Río in a love story in the South Seas. I don't care about the script, but in the end, del Río should be thrown into a volcano."[14] The film scandalized audiences when she was shown taking a naked swim with Joel McCrea: the film was made before the Hays Code was enacted.

Next she filmed Flying Down to Rio in 1933, the film that first paired Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Its global success swept away all concerns and controversy. Del Río and Gene Raymond received top billing, and it might have also marked the first appearance of the two-piece bathing suit. It also featured Del Río opposite Fred Astaire in an intricate dance number called Orchids in the Moonlight.

Del Río in a shot from the trailer of Madame Du Barry (1934).

Failing to anticipate the movie's success, RKO, in the midst of a financial crisis, terminated del Río’s contract,[9] but Warner Bros. picked it up, with their press release touting how she would “bloom into another Greta Garbo.” The studio wanted to make her in his answer to Garbo of the Metro, and Dietrich of the Paramount. This plan was sabotaged by movies such as Wonder Bar and Madame Du Barry (both 1934) which were mutilated by the Hays Code. In Wonder Bar, the star Al Jolson personally selected del Río, giving her a chance to shine.[15] Meanwhile, Madame DuBarry was one of the first films severely altered by the Hays Code. The copy finally shown was full of cuts and had nothing to do with the original, and was not liked by the public. The only thing salvageable was its costumes, designed by Orry-Kelly for del Río, who was still considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood at the time.[16]

Next, del Río starred in the Busby Berkeley comedies In Caliente and I Live for Love (both 1935), but she refused to participate in the film Viva Villa! which she described as an "anti-Mexican movie".[17] Fay Wray took her place, and del Río’s contract with Warner Brothers was finished.

"Box office poison"[edit]

Del Río worked on Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox films in 1937, but was more visible in advertisements for Lucky Strike cigarettes, Max Factor makeup, or promoting clothing lines and perfumes than acting in films.[9] With the support of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, she made a series of unsuccessful spy films (such as Lancer Spy in 1937 and International Settlement in 1938). In this situation, she accepted a contract from Criterion United Artists to film Accused in England with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr..[18]

Dolores del Río with the singer Everett Marshall in I Live for Love (1935)

Cedric Gibbons, despite his position at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, could never help his wife in his place of work in which the leading figures were Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Jean Harlow. The "strong men" of the company, Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, felt that Latina women had no place in their stories. While they both praised her beauty, they refrained from discussing her career.[19]

Del Río's career in the late thirties suffered from too many exotic, two-dimensional roles designed with Hollywood's clichéd ideas of ethnic minorities. In the late thirties, the Latin temperament was no longer fashionable. "Primitive" no longer played in a world encircled by the imminence of war, and traditional glamour, while it does not go away, loses some of its appeal. del Río, one of the great beauties of the star system, was suddenly without an available film character.[20] She was put on a list entitled "Box Office Poison" along with Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and Katharine Hepburn. The list was submitted to Los Angeles newspapers by an independent movie theater whose point was that these stars' high salaries and public popularity did not counteract the low ticket sales for their movies.[21]

Relationship with Orson Welles[edit]

Dolores attended a party given by Jack Warner, where she met Orson Welles and fell completely under his spell. He was young, intellectual, and seductive. Ten years younger than del Río, he had been in love with her ever since seeing Bird of Paradise when he was 17 years old. Coincidental with her new romance, del Río was shocked to hear that Edwin Carewe had committed suicide, reminiscent of Jaime’s possible suicide.[13]

Confused by her lack of a film career and controlled by her new love of Welles, Dolores moved out of Gibbons' house and asked for a divorce in March 1940. Gibbons was devastated and confused by his loss of Dolores, but he conceded the divorce at the beginning of 1941.

In August 1940 Dolores's father died, dealing her another terrible blow. She traveled to Mexico with her mother. While there she was contacted by Mexican director Chano Urueta, who wanted to make a new version of the famous Mexican film Santa, this time with Dolores del Río in the title role. del Río said she would think it over. Back in Los Angeles, she showed Welles the script for Santa and he almost immediately wrote a brand new version with “47 extraordinary scenes.” Chano Urueta came to Los Angeles, met with Welles and Dolores again, and with cinematographer Gregg Toland, but the deal fell through because of the proposed salary.

Welles had planned a Mexican drama with del Río, which he gave to RKO to be budgeted. In the story, she would play Elena Medina, "the most beautiful girl in the world", with Welles playing an American who becomes entangled in a plot to disrupt a Nazi plot to overthrow the Mexican government. Welles planned to shoot in Mexico, but the Mexican government had to approve the story, and this never occurred.[22]

Meanwhile, Citizen Kane had its world premiere on 1 May 1941 at the Palace Theater in New York City. Dolores had returned to the East Coast in order to enter the theater on the arm of Orson Welles. The film, eventually considered among the finest ever made, was a box office disaster, thanks to Hearst papers' negative reviews. Hearst had threatened to reveal all the peccadillos of major studio bosses if the film was released. Dolores is safe from media scandal, probably thanks to her friendship with Marion Davies, Hearst's mistress.

In July 1941 Orson began work on The Magnificent Ambersons, while also returning to radio production. Dolores starred in one of those radio shows in a play about Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the priest who rallied the Mexican people to the cause of independence from Spain in 1810. Dolores, amazingly, also appeared as assistant for some of Orson’s live magic shows in the Mercury Theatre. Welles proposed yet another movie, Journey into Fear, in which Dolores had a major role. It would be her last American film for nearly two decades.

Del Río and Joseph Cotten in Journey into Fear (1943).

As America was on the verge of entering the already raging Second World War, the federal government was worried about Argentina and other places where Nazis could create in-roads into the Western Hemisphere. Nelson Rockefeller, in charge of the Good Neighbor policy (and also associated with RKO through his family investments), asked Orson Welles to travel to South America as an ambassador of good will to counter fascist propaganda about Americans. Welles and del Rio celebrated Christmas 1941 together and discussed the possibility of marriage.

At the beginning of 1942 del Río began work on Journey into Fear with Norman Foster as director. Meanwhile, Welles left for New York City to edit The Magnificent Ambersons. But his agreement with Rockefeller required him to leave four days later for Rio de Janeiro on his goodwill tour. He thereby forfeited control over the editing of the new film. After the studio cut 45 minutes and added new scenes directed by someone else, the film was a mess. Dolores anguished over the failure of her lover’s film, but he was off having a wonderful time in Brazil, where he threw himself into the carnival spirit, filmed a bit of this and a bit of that, and satisfied all his erotic hungers, and left unanswered all of del Rio’s increasingly distraught telegrams. Her final telegram announcing the end of their romance remained unanswered. Realizing that virtually everything in America was over for her, Dolores del Río made the significant decision to return to Mexico. Almost immediately, she found work as an actress and made some of her most important films.[13]

"Divorced again, without the figure of my father. A film where I did not appear, and one where if I pointed the way of the art. I wanted to go the way of the art. Stop being a star and become an actress, and that I could only do it in Mexico. I wanted to return to Mexico, a country that was mine and I did not know. I feel the need to return to my country...".[23]

Career in Mexico[edit]


Since the late thirties, Dolores del Río was sought on several occasions by Mexican film directors. In 1938, the producer Pancho Cabrera asked Dolores to do the Mexican film La Noche de los Mayas. Later, the director Chano Urueta considered her for a new version of Santa, but economic circumstances were not favorable for the entry of del Río to the Mexican cinema.[24] She was friends with noted Mexican artists, such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and maintained ties with Mexican society and cinema. She had also modeled for portraits of Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. After breaking off her relationship with Orson Welles, del Río decided to try her luck in Mexico, disappointed by the "American star system".

Mexican director Emilio Fernández invited her to film Flor silvestre (1942). Dolores del Río became the most famous movie star in her country filming in the Spanish language for the first time. The production group Del Río-Fernández, together with the cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa and the actor Pedro Armendáriz had international fame. Her most successful film was María Candelaria, which became a winner at the Cannes Film Festival) in 1943. The movie was written by Emilio as a present for her birthday.[25] Fernández has said that he wrote an original version of the plot on 13 napkins while sitting in a restaurant. The film allowed Del Río to keep her international prestige. In addition to the experienced team of producers, the film benefited from Del Río's success as an actress through the American star system.[26] On several occasions, Emilio's "bronco" temperament had surfaced violently and the actress had been about to leave the shooting, angry at what she considered ill treatment. The pleas of his partners and their high sense of professionalism had convinced her to return, but her relationship with the director had become distant. In addition to needing her as an actress, Fernández began to fall in love with her.

Other celebrated movies of the team were Las Abandonadas and Bugambilia (1944). Dolores del Rio became the leading figure, par excellence, of all the Mexican film industry.

In 1945 Dolores filmed the movie La selva de fuego directed by Fernando de Fuentes. The film was written for Maria Félix but the messenger sent the film by mistake to Dolores. Félix finished filming the movie Vértigo (written for Del Río).[27]

Roberto Gavaldón was the one who inherited from Fernández the privilege of creating stories for the flaunting of Del Rio. Under the Gavaldón direction, Dolores filmed the movies La Otra (1946), La Casa Chica (1949), Deseada (1950) and El Niño y la Niebla, (1953).

Dolores worked in Argentina in 1947, in a film version of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan.[28] Later, Dolores was called by John Ford to film The Fugitive, which was based on the novel by Graham Greene with Henry Fonda in México. The film was co-produced by Emilio Fernandez, and Dolores played a kind of Maria Magdalene. Ford had planned to make a film about the life of the Empress Charlotte of Mexico and thought that she was the ideal actress for the role instead of Bette Davis, who starred in Juarez.[29]

In 1949, Dolores returned to work with Fernandez for the film La Malquerida. In the film Dolores represented for the first time the role of mother of the Mexican actress Columba Domínguez.[30]

In late 1949, in Acapulco, Dolores met Lewis "Lou" Riley, a theatrical American businessman and a former member of the Hollywood Canteen. The couple immediately began an affair.


In 1951, Dolores starred in Doña Perfecta, in which she was acclaimed for her great dramatic representation. She won the Silver Ariel (Mexican Academy Award) as best actress four times.

Negotiations to bring Dolores del Rio back to the American screen in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's film, Ferguson, opposite Cary Grant, in 1949, were unsuccessful. According to Arthur Freed, producer of the film, Del Rio was wanted for the role.[31] The project was finally cancelled. The cinema of Spain called her for the movie Señora Ama (1954).

In 1959, the director Ismael Rodríguez brought Dolores del Río and María Félix together in one film La Cucaracha. The newspapers speculated a strong rivalry between the two actresses.

In 1959, on November 24 she married Lewis Riley in New York.[32]


In 1934, del Río became one of the victims of the "open season" on the "reds" in Hollywood. With Ramón Novarro and Lupe Vélez, she was accused of promoting communism in California. This happened after these actors attended a special screening of Sergei Eisenstein's ¡Que viva México! copies of which were claimed to have been edited by Joseph Stalin.[33] The film aroused nationalist sentiment with socialist overtones, and many Mexican filmmakers later led to the big screen, including Emilio Fernandez, Pedro Armendariz and Dolores del Rio. In Hollywood she was associated with figures such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles, who were associated with communism.[34] Twenty years later this would have consequences on her career.

In 1947, during the filming of Historia de una mala mujer, in Argentina, she befriended the political leader of the nation, Evita Perón, who was a social activist with socialistic aspirations. She also befriended the Duke of Windsor.[35]

In 1954, del Río was slated to appear in the 20th Century Fox film Broken Lance. The U.S. government denied her permission to work in the US, accusing her of being a sympathizer of international communism. Claims of Del Rio “Aiding anti-Franco refugees from the Spanish Civil War” were interpreted as communist leanings.[36] Katy Jurado replaced her in the film and thus del Río became one of the victims of McCarthyism. Del Rio sent a letter to the government of the United States where she defended saying that I believe it after all this, I have nothing to reproach myself. I am a Catholic woman who only wants to live in peace with God and with the men.[37] In an interview with Louella Parsons she revealed: Never mind the proximity to Cuba. We are worried and fighting against the communism.[38]

Her situation with the U.S. was fixed in 1956 when the actress was able to return to the United States to perform in the theatrical production of Anastacia.

Later years[edit]

Return to Hollywood[edit]

In 1960 Dolores del Río finally returned to Hollywood. She starred with Elvis Presley in Flaming Star directed by Don Siegel. Dolores had been out of Hollywood for eighteen years at this point. Presley received her with a bouquet of flowers and said: "Lady, I know exactly who you are. It's an honor to work with one of the largest and most respected legends of Classic Hollywood. As you will be my mother in the film, I want to ask permission for my ophthalmologist make contact lenses that mimic the color of your eyes". Del Río immediately took to the young Presley and regarded him with maternal affection.[39]

Del Rio alternated between films in Mexico and the US, in both television and theater. In 1961 she filmed El Pecádo de una Madre in Mexico. Her mother's death in 1961 forced her to cancel the Spanish movie Muerte en el otoño, directed by Juan Antonio Bardem.[40] She also received a proposal from Kirk Douglas to make a film about the conquest of Mexico.[41] In addition, Federico Fellini offered her a project in Italy that never materialized.[42]

In 1964, she appeared in Cheyenne Autumn directed by John Ford, with a cast that included Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, James Stewart, Gilbert Roland, Ricardo Montalbán and Sal Mineo.[43]

The last film that del Río worked on in Mexico was Casa de Mujeres in which she played the role of a madame of a brothel.

In 1967, she performed for the first time in Italy, with Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif in the film More Than a Miracle. She perform the role of the mother of Shariff.

In 1976, she participated in the documentary film Salsa, about Latin culture, along the tropical music stars Celia Cruz and Willie Colón.

Dolores del Río's last movie was The Children of Sanchez with Anthony Quinn and Katy Jurado in 1978, directed by Hall Bartlett, making only a short appearance as the Grandma.

In 1981, del Río was honored by the directors Francis Ford Coppola and George Cukor in the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. This was her last public appearance.[44]


With the decline of Mexican cinema during the fifties and sixties, Dolores del Río opted for work in theatre. del Rio decided to prepare with acting teacher Stella Adler, who did not ordinarily give private lessons to anyone but made an exception to work with del Rio. Dolores debuted on Broadway with the classic Anastasia (1956), with the German actress Lili Darvas. Del Río's debut on the Mexican stage was in Lady Windermere's Fan (1958).[45] In 1958, Del Rio starred in The Road to Rome by Robert E. Sherwood, with Pedro Armendáriz, but Armendáriz dropped out of the production and was replaced by Wolf Rubinski. The production was a flop.[41] Her next project was in the play The Ghost Sonata (Espectros) by the Swedish playwright August Strindberg in 1962 and was one of her most successful theatre projects. Despite the death of her mother, Doña Antonia, she did not cancel anything on her schedule.[46] Her next project was Dear Liar: A Comedy of Letters by Jerome Kilty, based on the correspondence between George Bernard Shaw and actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell. The play was a success when it debuted in June 1963 at the Teatro de los Insurgentes in Mexico City.[47] In August 1964, Del Rio starred in the work La Vidente de Rousin with her husband Lew as director. Despite the success, the play only ran for a month.[48] In 1967, Del Rio returned to the theater with in La Reina y los Rebeldes by the Italian Hugo Betti.

Her next project was The Lady of the Camellias. For this play, del Rio brought in Broadway director José Quintero, but the lack of professionalism of the director resulted in a lawsuit that caused a scandal in the newspapers. In 1969, Dolores was finally able to do the play but caused a commotion when at the beginning of the work, del Río appeared in a negligee quite bold and with a deep neckline.[49]


She also participated in some American TV series. Her first project was in 1957, in an episode of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars with Cesar Romero. In 1958 she starred The United States Steel Hour and in 1960 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show in the episode Mexican Fiesta with Gilbert Roland, Ricardo Montalbán and Tito Guízar. In 1963 appeared in Spectacular Show, with a soap opera named The Man Who Bought the Paradise acting with co-stars like Buster Keaton, Robert Horton and Paul Lukas.[50] In 1964 in England she starred in a BBC TV program along with Ben Lyon.[51] In 1965 she starred in an episode of the TV Series I Spy, reuniting with her Madame Du Barry co-star Victor Jory. In 1966 she appeared in Branded, in the episode The Ghost of Murrietta.[52] Dolores never worked on Mexican television in spite of the efforts of Ernesto Alonso to perform Doña Perfecta as a soap opera.

Her last appearance on American television was in a 1970 episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. entitled "The Legacy" with Robert Young, James Brolin and Janet Blair.[53]

Social work[edit]

From the 1950s to the 1970s, del Río collaborated in some international film festivals like Cannes Film Festival (1957), Berlin Film Festival (1962)[54] and San Sebastián Film Festival (1976) as a juror.[55]

In 1966, she was co-founder of the Sociedad Protectora del Tesoro Artistico de México (Society for the Protection of the artistic treasures of Mexico) with the philanthropist Felipe García Beraza. The society was responsible for protecting buildings, paintings and other works of art and culture in México.[56] In 1972, she helped found the Festival Cervantino in Guanajuato.[57]

"Rosa Mexicano" and the Estancia Infantil "Dolores del Río"[edit]

During the 1970s, one of the most momentous groups in the history of the National Association of Actors (ANDA) of Mexico was formed: the "Rosa Mexicano". Led and supported by Dolores del Rio, the purpose of the group is to protect children and female artists. On January 8, 1970, Dolores, in collaboration with Carmen Montejo, Silvia Pinal, Gloria Marín and other renowned Mexican actresses founded this faction, which has as one of its greatest achievements the creation of the "Estancia Infantil Dolores del Río".[58]

The story of the founding of this place goes back to a desire cherished by actress Fanny Schiller, who observed the need of the actresses to work while educating their children, and conceived of creating a nursery located in front at the offices of the ANDA. Once created, the members of the group "Rosa Mexicano" felt the need to continue the ideas of Fanny Schiller, so the actresses Carmen Montejo, Maria Eugenia Rìos and Alicia Montoya decided to search for a star to lend her image to promote the project. They decided on del Rio, whose diplomacy and charisma was thought to be boundless for endorsement meetings. Dolores served as president of the nursery for several years, functioning based on advice provided by the Montessori education system of Summerhill. The first stone was laid on April 30, 1973. [59][60]

Personal life[edit]

Gate of the house of Dolores del Río ("La Escondida") in Coyoacan, Mexico City

In 1921 del Río married Mexican socialite Jaime Martínez del Río, but the marriage came to end in 1928. Her former husband died under suspicious circumstances in Berlin a year later.

From 1930 to 1940 Dolores was married to MGM's Art Designer Cedric Gibbons. After her divorce, she began a romance with Orson Welles.

Her relationship of four years with Orson Welles came to an end in 1943, and he married Rita Hayworth shortly thereafter. Rebecca Welles, the daughter of Welles and Hayworth, met Dolores in 1954 and said: "My father considered her the great love of his life, she was a living legend in the history of my family".[61] Del Rio recalls Welles as “The most intense and volcanic passion I had in my life.”[9] According to Rebecca Welles, her father felt an obsession for Dolores until the end of his life.[61]

In the late thirties, Dolores was also supposedly involved with Errol Flynn and the German writer Erich Maria Remarque.[62] In 1949, Dolores met Lewis A. Riley in Acapulco. Riley was a theatre producer who was a member of the Hollywood Canteen, and who had an affair with Bette Davis in the 1940s. After ten years together, the couple married in New York in 1959.

The house of Dolores in México, called "La Escondida" in Coyoacán, was very popular with Mexican and foreign celebrities, such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, María Félix, Merle Oberon, David O'Selznick, Jennifer Jones, the Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, Princess Soraya of Iran, and many more.[63]

Many anecdotes exist about her rivalry with Lupe Vélez. Dolores was terrified to meet her in public places because Lupe was known to have engaged in biting and other aggressive behavior. She imitated Dolores openly, mocking with irony and wit about her refinement and elegance but the prestige of del Río was renowned and respected, and Lupe could not ignore this. Lupe resented the success of del Río during her best years in Hollywood.[64]

The newspapers speculated about a strong rivalry between Dolores and María Félix, the other diva of the Mexican Cinema.[65] About this "rivalry" María Félix said in 1993: "With Dolores I don't have any rivalry. On the contrary. We were friends and we always treated each other with great respect. We were completely different. She refined, interesting, soft on the deal, and I'm more energetic, arrogant and bossy".[66]

Death and memorials[edit]

Tomb of Dolores del Río in Mexico City

Starting in the 1960s, Del Río suffered severe pains in her bones. In 1978, she was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, and in 1981 she was diagnosed with Hepatitis B following an injection of expired vitamins. In 1982, Del Río was admitted to the Medical Center of La Joya, California, where hepatitis led to cirrhosis.[67]

In 1982, Del Rio was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.

On April 11, 1983, Dolores del Río died from her liver disease at the age of 77, in Newport Beach, California. That day she had been invited to appear on the next Academy Awards Ceremony.[67] She was cremated and her ashes were interred in the Panteón de Dolores cemetery in Mexico City, Mexico.

In 2005, on the centenary of her birth, her remains were moved to the Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres in Mexico City. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1630 Vine Street, in recognition of her contributions to the motion picture industry.



Dolores del Río in 1935

Dolores del Rio was considered one of the prototypes of the classic woman style of the 1930s: According to the author Larry Carr (author of More Fabulous Faces), the Dolores del Río's appearance at the beginning of the 30's influenced Joan Crawford. In 1930, when Crawford emerged as beauty personified in the entire world, but especially in Hollywood, the women imitated her style of dress and make-up. They produced a new type of beauty, of which Dolores del Río was the precursor. She left her 1920s look, loosened her hairdo, enlarged the shape of her lips and altered her eyebrows to underline her exquisite bone structure. She converted hers into one of the truly Great Faces.[68] Crawford said on a visit to Mexico in 1963: "Dolores became, and remains, as one of the most beautiful stars in the world".[69] According to the filmmaker Josef von Sternberg, stars as Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Rita Hayworth and Dolores del Rio, defined the concept of glamour in Hollywood.[70]

Marlene Dietrich said del Río was "The most beautiful woman in Hollywood"[71][72] On one occasion, during a meeting at the home of Dolores, Greta Garbo came to her and gently placing her little finger on the belly of del Rio, she exclaimed "That magnificent navel!", as if admiring a work of art or a sculpture.[12]

Some rumors said that her diet consisted of orchid petals and that she slept 16 hours a day.[73]

The fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli once said: "I have seen many beautiful women in here, but none as complete as Dolores del Rio!".[74]

George Bernard Shaw once said: "The two most beautiful things in the world are the Taj Mahal and Dolores del Rio".[75] The German writer Erich Maria Remarque, who compared her beauty with Greta Garbo, described that a perfect woman would be a merger between the two actresses.[62] Her face was defined by the Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes as "the most perfect facial bones of the Indo-Mediterranean miscegenation".[76]

In 1978, Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times mentions her as "one of the reigning beauties of the twentieth century".[77]

The "Four Ladies of Hollywood" gazebo at the western border of the Walk of Fame: Del Río, Dorothy Dandridge, Anna May Wong and Mae West.


Dolores del Rio was the first Mexican to succeed in Hollywood. The others are Lupe Vélez, Katy Jurado and now, Salma Hayek.[78]

Viewed from today's perspective, what is striking about her representation in the media are the adjectives used to describe her. They were not words like Latin bombshell, hot tamale, sultry, spitfire, or hot cha cha. Rather, they were words like sophisticated, aristocratic, refined elegance, glamorous, sedate and "ladylike". Also surprising is the extent to which the references to her clothes often matched these adjectives and how she, nonetheless, retained her Latin-ness, i.e., her Mexican origins in the coverage.[79] Consequently, given this picture of Mexican segregation, some might find it surprising to find any major Mexican stars at the box office during this period and to find them depicted in the way Dolores del Río was.[80] Dolores del Río's career highlights the potential for Latina agency and negotiation through Hollywood film, but has also sparked the myth of the Hollywood Latina as a racialized and sexualized mediator in Hollywood film. Current stars Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Mendes, and Penélope Cruz follow in the footsteps of the trailblazing Dolores del Rio.[9]

Dolores del Río has a statue at Hollywood-La Brea Boulevard in Los Angeles, designed by Catherine Hardwicke built to honor the multi-ethnic leading ladies of the cinema together with Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge and Anna May Wong.

In 1982, Dolores and María Félix were parodied in the Carlos Fuentes's script Orquídeas a la luz de la luna. Comedia Mexicana that was presented in Spain and at Harvard University. Since 1983, the Mexican Society of Film Critics has been giving the Diosa de Plata "Dolores del Río" award for the best dramatic female performance.

She was interpreted by the actress Lucy Cohu in the TV film RKO 281 in 1999.



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  5. ^ [2]: The First Latina to Conquer Hollywood
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  7. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 25-26
  8. ^ a b Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 28
  9. ^ a b c d e Ricardo Jimeno March 11, 2012 - 3:40 am (2012-03-11). "The First Latina to Conquer Hollywood | Film International". Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
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  17. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 48: She claimed "Mexican reasons."
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  75. ^ [5]Dolores del Río
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Further reading[edit]

  • Bodeen, DeWitt (1976). From Hollywood: The Careers of 15 Great American Stars. Oak Tree. ISBN 0498013464. 
  • Carr, Larry (1979). More Fabulous Faces: The Evolution and Metamorphosis of Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Dolores del Río, Carole Lombard and Myrna Loy. Doubleday and Company. ISBN 0-385-12819-3. 
  • Hall, Linda B. (2013). Dolores del Río: Beauty in Light and Shade. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013.
  • Reyes, Luis, Rubie, Peter (1994). Hispanics in Hollywood: An Encyclopedia of Film and Television. Garland. ISBN 0815308272. 
  • Dolores del Río, el rostro del cine mexicano (Dolores del Río: The Face of the Mexican Cinema) (1995). In SOMOS. México: Editorial Televisa, S. A. de C. V.
  • Shipman, David (1995). The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years. Little Brown and Co. ISBN 0-316-78487-7. 
  • Ramón, David (1997). Dolores del Río. Editorial Clío. ISBN 968-6932-35-6. 
  • Hershfield, Joanne (2000). The invention of Dolores del Río. University of Minnesota. ISBN 0-8166-3410-6. 
  • E. Fey, Ingrid., Racine, Karen (2000). Strange Pilgrimages: Exile, Travel, and National Identity in Latin America, 1800-1990s: "So Far from God, So Close to Hollywood: Dolores del Río and Lupe Vélez in Hollywood, 1925-1944,". Wilmington, Delaware, Scholarly Resources. ISBN 0-8420-2694-0. 
  • Agrasánchez Jr., Rogelio (2001). Bellezas del cine mexicano/Beauties of Mexican Cinema. Archivo Fílmico Agrasánchez. ISBN 968-5077-11-8. 
  • Dolores del Río, la mexicana divina (Dolores del Río: The Divine Mexican) (2002). In SOMOS. México: Editorial Televisa, S. A. de C. V.
  • Franco Dunn, Cinta (2003). Grandes Mexicanos Ilustres: Dolores del Río. Promo Libro. ISBN 84-492-0329-5. 
  • Torres, Jose Alejandro (2004). Los Grandes Mexicanos: Dolores del Río. Grupo Editorial Tomo, S.A. de C.V. ISBN 970-666-997-3. 

External links[edit]