Dolores del Río

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Dolores del Río
Dolores del Río in Madame Du Barry (1934)
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.
Cause of death
Liver disease
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 (Spanish pronunciation: [doˈloɾez ðel ˈrio]; born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo López-Negrete; August 3, 1905 – April 11, 1983), was a Mexican film actress. She was a Hollywood star in the 1920s and 1930s, and was one of the most important female figures of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in the 1940s and 1950s. She was the first Latin American female star to be recognized internationally.

During the 1920s and in Hollywood, Dolores was considered one of the most beautiful women of her time, in parallel to Rudolph Valentino. Her career flourished until the end of the silent era, with success in films such as Resurrection (1927) and Ramona (1928). She was one of the few superstars of the silent era to adapt to the talkies in Hollywood. In the 1930s, she was noted for her participation in musical films of the Pre-Code era like Bird of Paradise (1932), Flying Down to Rio (1933) and Madame Du Barry. 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 at its peak.

When del Río returned to Mexico she became the most important star of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. A series of films like Flor silvestre, María Candelaria (1943), Las Abandonadas and Bugambilia (1944) are considered classic Mexican masterpieces. Del Río was a force in the cinema of her country for the next three decades and returned to Hollywood only sporadically. Her long career also spanned theater and television.

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 the 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.

Dolores del Río (no date)

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. 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]

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 was contracted by Carewe as her agent, manager, producer and director. 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. 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. The film was not blockbuster, 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 with Edmund Lowe and Victor McLaglen in What Price Glory? (1926)
Head Shot used to promote Dolores del Rio on her Spanish Tour in 1926.

In late 1926, the director Raoul Walsh called del Río to cast her in What Price Glory with a great success. 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.

In 1927, Carewe produced and directed Resurrection (1927), based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy, which was a box office hit. 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.[7]

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.

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 and written by Robert W. Service. 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. Dolores divorced of her husband during the filming of Ramona.

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.[8]

She made other films such as The Red Dance, directed again by Raoul Walsh and another production sponsored by Carewe: Revenge.[9]

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. 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.

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 Bird of Paradise (1932)

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.

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. 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 ends her contract with United Artists, and is hired as exclusive by RKO Pictures. She began with Girl of the Rio.

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."[10] 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.

Del Río with Gene Raymond in Flying Down to Rio (1933)

Next she filmed Flying Down to Rio in 1933, the film that first paired Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It also featured Del Río opposite Fred Astaire in an intricate dance number called Orchids in the Moonlight.

Failing to anticipate the movie's success, RKO, in the midst of a financial crisis, terminated del Río’s contract,[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

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

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".[14] 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.[11] 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 to film Accused in England with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr..[15]

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.[16]

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 did not go away, lost some of its appeal. Del Río, one of the great beauties of the star system, was suddenly without an available film character.[17] 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.[18]

Relationship with Orson Welles[edit]

Dolores del Río and Orson Welles after the premiere of Citizen Kane (1941)

Dolores attended a party given by Jack Warner, where she met Orson Welles and fell completely under his spell. 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.[3]

Dolores moved out of Gibbons' house and asked for a divorce in March 1940. 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.” 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.[19]

Meanwhile, the Welles film 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. Del Río also starred in many of the Welles radio shows in the Mercury Theatre.

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.

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

At the beginning of 1942 del Río began work on Journey into Fear with Norman Foster as director and Welles as producer. But his agreement with Rockefeller required him to leave four days later for Rio de Janeiro on his goodwill tour. 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.[3] She later said of her return to Mexico:

Divorced again, without the figure of my father. A film where I barely appeared, and one where they were really showing me 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 in Mexico. I wanted to return to Mexico, a country that was mine and I did not know. I felt the need to return to my country...[20]

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.[21] She was a friend of noted Mexican artists, such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and maintained ties with Mexican society and cinema. 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). This was del Río's first Spanish-language film. 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. The movie was written by Emilio as a present for her birthday.[22] 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.[23] 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 in the Mexican film industry.

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) and El Niño y la Niebla, (1953), among others.

Dolores also worked in Argentina in 1947, in a film version of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan.[24] 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.[25] In 1949, Dolores returned to work with Fernandez for the film La Malquerida.

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

In 1959, on November 24 she finally married Lewis Riley in New York.[26]


In 1934, del Río, along with Ramón Novarro and Lupe Vélez, was accused of promoting communism in California. This happened after the actors attended a special screening of Sergei Eisenstein's ¡Que viva México!, copies of which were claimed to have been edited by Joseph Stalin,[27] and a film which promoted nationalist sentiment with socialist overtones. In Hollywood she was associated with figures such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles, who were associated with communism.[28] Twenty years later, this would have consequences for 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.[29]

In 1954, del Río was slated to appear in the 20th Century Fox film Broken Lance. The US government denied her permission to work in the United States, accusing her of being sympathethic to international communism. Claims of Del Rio's having "aid[ed] anti-Franco refugees from the Spanish Civil War,” were interpreted as communist leanings.[5] She was replaced by Katy Jurado in the film and thus del Río became one of the victims of McCarthyism. Del Rio reacted by sending a letter to the US government stating, "I believe that after all this, I have nothing [for which] to reproach myself. I am a Catholic woman who only wants to live in peace with God and with the men."[30] In an interview with Louella Parsons she revealed that, "We are worried and fighting against the communism."[31] In 1956, she was cleared to return to the United States to perform in the theatrical production of Anastacia.

Later years[edit]

Return to Hollywood and final films[edit]

Promotional picture of del Río in Flaming Star (1960)

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.[32]

Del Rio alternated between films in Mexico and the US in both television and theater. The death of her mother in 1961 forced her to cancel the Spanish movie Muerte en el otoño, directed by Juan Antonio Bardem.[33] She also received a proposal from Kirk Douglas to make a film about the conquest of Mexico.[34] In addition, Federico Fellini offered her a project in Italy that never materialized.[35]

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.[36]

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 in Italy, with Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif in the film More Than a Miracle. She perform the role of the mother of Sharif.

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.

Stage and Television[edit]

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. Dolores debuted on Broadway with the classic Anastasia (1956). Del Río's debut on the Mexican stage was in Lady Windermere's Fan (1958).[37] One of her most important project were The Ghost Sonata in 1962, and Dear Liar: A Comedy of Letters, in 1963.

Her next project were La Vidente (1964), La Reina y los Rebeldes (1967) and 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.[38]

She also participated in some American TV series. Her first project was in 1957, in an episode of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. In 1958 she starred The United States Steel Hour and in 1960 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show. In 1963 appeared in Spectacular Show, with a soap opera named The Man Who Bought the Paradise.[39] In 1964 in England she starred in a BBC TV program along with Ben Lyon.[40] In 1965 she starred in an episode of the TV Series I Spy, and in 1966, she appeared in Branded, in the episode The Ghost of Murrietta.[41] Dolores never worked on Mexican television.

Her last appearance on television was in a 1972 episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. entitled "The Legacy" with Robert Young, James Brolin and Janet Blair.[42]

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)[43] and San Sebastián Film Festival (1976) as a juror.[44]

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.[45] In 1972, she helped found the Cultural Festival Cervantino in Guanajuato.[46]

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

During the 1970s, was formed "Rosa Mexicano" ("Mexican Rose"), one of the most momentous groups in the history of the National Association of Actors (ANDA) of Mexico. Lead 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 other renowned Mexican actresses like Silvia Pinal and Carmen Montejo, founded this faction, which has as one of its greatest achievements the creation of the "Estancia Infantil Dolores del Río" ("Dolores del Río's Nursery").[47]

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 many actresses 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. [48][49]

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 husband, 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. 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.

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 rumors were that it was suicide by poison, although this was unverified. He had entered a hospital in Berlin, had a nonspecific minor surgical or medical procedure, and had died a few days later from “blood poisoning.”[citation needed]

From 1930 to 1940 Dolores was married to the Art Designer at MGM, Cedric Gibbons. Together they organized famous Sunday lunches at his home. The couple was close to actress Greta Garbo. Other close friends of del Rio were Marlene Dietrich, Errol Flynn and his wife Lili Damita, Fay Wray, Constance Bennett, Joan Bennett and Myrna Loy.[50] 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".[51] According to Rebecca, her father had an obsession for Dolores until the end of his life.[51]

The Mexican film director Emilio Fernández, was one of the greatest admirers of Dolores. He claimed that he appeared as an extra in several films with Dolores in Hollywood. The beauty and poise of the actress had deeply impressed him. Said Fernández: "She looked at me, but without seeing me. Eventually she would ask me to direct her first film in Mexico. I fell in love with her, but she ignored me. I adored her, seriously adored her".[52] Fernandez pursued Dolores with lavish gifts. For months, he would surprise her daily a small token of affection. When there was not money for jewelry, he sent crystal glasses with fireflies trapped inside.[53] There were some rumors as to a romance between them, although none were verified. Fernandez later began a romance with the Mexican actress Columba Domínguez, who he worked with in La Malquerida.

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.[54]

Many anecdotes exist about her rivalry with Lupe Vélez, another Mexican film star in 1930s Hollywood. Del Rio never understood the struggle that Velez had with her. She was annoyed meeting her because she hated to be ridiculed by the Mexican Spitfire. But the prestige of del Río was known and respected, and Vélez could not ignore this. Velez wore spectacular costumes, but never reached the supreme elegance of del Rio. Velez was popular, had many friends and admirers, but was never accepted by the Hollywood social circle where del Rio was accepted without reservation. Velez spoke ill of del Rio without mentioning her by name. Obviously Vélez resented the success of del Rio during the years that both were in Hollywood.[55]

The newspapers speculated about a strong rivalry between Dolores and María Félix, the other diva of the Mexican Cinema.[56] About this "rivalry" María Félix said: "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".[57]

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 Jolla, California, where hepatitis led to cirrhosis.[58]

In 1981, del Río was honored in the San Francisco Film Critics Circle by the film directors Francis Ford Coppola and George Cukor. She chatted in a private event organized by Coppola and his family in her honor. This was her last public appearance.[59]

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.[58] She was cremated and her ashes were interred in the Panteón de Dolores cemetery in Mexico City, Mexico.


Model and Muse[edit]

The qualities of Dolores del Río have led to her ongoing veneration, even beyond death. Since young, Dolores del Río had the intelligence to know surround personalities of the intellectual milieu. The myth of Hollywood placed her in another area, as became one of the women involved in the rebirth of the Mexican culture and customs. She met the group of contemporaries: Jaime Torres Bodet, Xavier Villaurrutia, Celestino Gorostiza and Salvador Novo. Novo wrote her a sonnet and translated all her stage plays. She inspired Jaime Torres Bodet's novel La Estrella de Día (Star of the Day), published in 1933, which chronicles the life of an actress named Piedad, obviously inspired by Dolores. Other authors who wrote poems for here were Carlos Pellicer and Pita Amor. Carlos Monsivais and Jorge Ayala Blanco made for her a tribute book to mark the Latin American Film Festival of Huelva in 1983. Vicente Leñero was inspired by del Río to write his book Señora.[60]

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.

The face of Dolores del Rio was also the object of veneration for many artists that used her image on their canvases. These include Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Angel Zarraga, Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Miguel Covarrubias, Rosa Covarrubias, Antonieta Figueroa, Frances Gauner Goshman, Adolfo Best Maugard, John Carroll and Francisco Zúñiga.

Image and Influence[edit]

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 '30s 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.[61] Crawford said on a visit to Mexico in 1963: "Dolores became, and remains, as one of the most beautiful stars in the world".[62] According to the filmmaker Josef von Sternberg, stars as Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Rita Hayworth and Dolores del Rio, they helped define his concept of the glamour in Hollywood.[63]

Marlene Dietrich said del Río was The most beautiful woman in Hollywood[64][65] 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!.[50]

Some rumors said that her diet consisted of orchid petals and that she slept 16 hours a day.[66]

The fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli once said: "I have seen many beautiful women in here, but none as complete as Dolores del Rio!".[67]

George Bernard Shaw once said: "The two most beautiful things in the world are the Taj Mahal and Dolores del Rio".[68] 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.[69] Her face was defined by the Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes as "the most perfect facial bones of the Indo-Mediterranean miscegenation".[70]

In 1978, Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times mentions her as "one of the reigning beauties of the twentieth century".[71]

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.[72]

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.[73] 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.[74] 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.[11]

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, Del Rio was awarded The George Eastman Award,[75] given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.

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.

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.

Professional wrestler Alberto Del Rio was named after her.



  1. ^ Mary Beltrán, ''Latina/o stars in U.S. eyes: the making and meanings of film and TV stardom''. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  2. ^ colegio francés
  3. ^ a b c d "Welcome to the Austin Film Society! - Austin Film Society". Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  4. ^ Franco Dunne (2003), p. 14
  5. ^ a b "The First Latina to Conquer Hollywood | Film International". Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  6. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 24-25
  7. ^ Ramón 1997, vol. 1, p. 28
  8. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 34
  9. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 35
  10. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 47
  11. ^ a b c
  12. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 49
  13. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 53-54
  14. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 48: She claimed "Mexican reasons."
  15. ^ Ramón (1997),vol. 1, p. 55
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  29. ^ Dolores del Río: La Mexicana Divina, Revista SOMOS México, 2002, ed. Televisa, p.65
  30. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 2, p. 45
  31. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 2, p. 56
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  33. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 3, p. 59-60.
  34. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 2, p. 59-60
  35. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 2, p. 52
  36. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 3, p. 14-15
  37. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 2, p. 48-51
  38. ^ Ramón (1997),vol. 3, p. 14,31,34,38
  39. ^ Ramón (1997),vol. 3, p. 11
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  43. ^ "12th Berlin International Film Festival: Juries". Retrieved 2010-02-01. 
  44. ^ Ramón (1997),vol. 2, p. 49-50; vol. 3, p. 9-10, 48-49
  45. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 3, p. 20
  46. ^ Ramón (1997),vol. 3 p. 41-42: Realized in Guanajuato, México since 1972
  47. ^ "Dolores del Río: La Mexicana Divina", Revista SOMOS México, 2002, ed.Televisa, p.67
  48. ^ Ramón (1997),vol. 2, p. 49-50; vol. 3, p. 37-39
  49. ^ "Dolores del Río: El Rostro del Cine Mexicano", Revista SOMOS México, 1994, ed.Televisa, p.85-86
  50. ^ a b Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 56
  51. ^ a b Ramón (1997),vol. 3 p.11
  52. ^ Franco Dunne (2003), p.79
  53. ^ "''El orgullo de la seducción: Emilio "el Indio" Fernández". Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  54. ^ Ramón (1997), vol.2, p. 13: Located in the Santa Rosalía 37 street in Coyoacán, Mexico City
  55. ^ Moreno, Luis (2002). Rostros e Imagenes. Editorial Celuloide. pp. 138, 141. ISBN 9789709338904. 
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  57. ^ Félix, María (1994). Todas mis Guerras. Clío. p. 84. ISBN 9686932089. 
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  60. ^ Dolores del Río: El Rostro del Cine Mexicano, Revista SOMOS México, 1994, ed.Televisa, p.70-72
  61. ^ Carr. (1979), p. 229: ": Cited by Carlos Monsivais and Jorge Ayala Blanco in the Huelva Iberoamerican Film Festival in 1981
  62. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 3, p. 19-20
  63. ^ Lazaro Sarmiento (2013-04-16). "''Buena suerte viviendo: Dolores del Río''". Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  64. ^ Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 53
  65. ^ Riva, Maria (1994). Marlene Dietrich. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-38645-0. 
  66. ^ María Idalia "Dolores del Río se retira del cine" Cinema Reporter no. 290 pp. 11 (1948)
  67. ^ SOMOS:Dolores del Río: El Rostro del Cine Mexicano. Editorial Televisa. 1995. p. 26. 
  68. ^ [1][dead link]
  69. ^ Theodoracopulos, Taki (2007-03-09). "All Quiet on the K Street Front – Taki's Magazine". Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
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External links[edit]