Dolores del Río
|Dolores del Río|
Del Río in The Bird of Paradise (1932)
|Born||María de los Dolores Asúnsolo López-Negrete
August 3, 1905
|Died||April 11, 1983
Newport Beach, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Jaime Martínez del Río (m. 1921–1929)
Cedric Gibbons (m. 1930–1940)
Lewis Riley (m. 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 star in Hollywood 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 considered a mythical figure in Latin America and quintessential representation of the feminine face of Mexico in the world.
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).
She was married to the MGM's art designer Cedric Gibbons. She also had a four-year relationship with Orson Welles. She was with him during the filming of Citizen Kane. Welles considered her the great love of his life.
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. She was the first Latin American female star to be recognized internationally.
Born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López Negrete in Durango, Mexico, into a wealthy family of Spanish ancestry. del Río was the second cousin of actor Ramón Novarro and a cousin to 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.
She studied at the Liceo Franco Mexicano 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. Son of a wealthy family who had lost nothing during the Revolution, Jaime had been educated in England and had spent some time in Europe. More interested in the arts than in business, he sang, played piano, had friends from the Spanish aristocracy, and demonstrated an “exquisite sensibility,” which caused suspicion about his masculinity. However, Dolores was captivated by his interest in her and by his conversation about art and artists.
When he asked for the young girl’s hand in marriage, her parents accepted. After a two-month courtship, Dolores married Jaime on 11 April 1921. He was 34. She was 16. Her husband designed her wedding gown, not a common task for grooms. 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. The King of Spain Alfonso XIII was so taken by the young beauty that he found many reasons for Dolores and Jaime to visit the palace, so much so that the queen Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg got jealous and gossip flew around the court. In 1924, the couple reluctantly returned to Mexico, accompanied by a new automobile and Jaime’s Spanish man-servant Felix. They decided to live on Jaime’s country estate, where cotton was the main crop. Life in the country, perhaps idyllic at first, quickly became boring to the couple who began to miss their glamorous circuit of parties, concerts, museums, and art studios. 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.
Her discovery reads like a Hollywood movie. Edwin Carewe, an influential director at First National Films, 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. “Jaime wanted to escape an environment that did not satisfy him, hoping to develop his literary inclinations writing scripts for Hollywood.” She was also aware that it was a risky adventure for a 21-year-old. “I was mad to do it. My family and my friends would have ostracized me if I’d been a failure.”
Career in Hollywood
First silent films
Dolores was contracted by Carewe as her agent, manager, producer and director, and her fate was sealed. She was to get $250 weekly to start with, not enough to live in style yet, but enough to rent a small house, buy a car, and have one servant. Dolores asked her mother to lend her some jewels and send money for clothing. The very next day after their arrival Carewe placed Dolores in front of the camera for 24 hours. True to his passion for her, Carewe spent days editing her screen test to show to studios. He saw her beauty and eroticism but wanted to be sure that others could see it captured on film. 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.” Dolores was given an arduous daily routine of studying English, swimming, gymnastics, diction, singing, and acting as well as walking, dancing popular American styles, and horseback riding.
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. 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".
Del Río emerged in Hollywood in a period ruled by blond female stars. The dark-haired stars at the time were Theda Bara and Pola Negri, who were equally exoticized within the film frame or publicized as vamps. While the silent era allowed del Río to maximize the racial ambiguity of her dark hair and fair complexion, she was cast in various ethnic roles whose characterizations and movement often carried sexual connotations.
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. 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. She only had to move her lips phonetically for the benefit of silent film audiences.
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 Dolores Costello). She came to be admired as one of the most beautiful women of that generation of "Baby Stars".
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 in 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.
In 1927, Raoul Walsh called del Río to do a second version of Carmen, The Loves of Carmen (1927) (the first was with Theda Bara in 1917 and it would be reprised by Rita Hayworth in 1948). Walsh thought del Río to be the best interpreter of Carmen for her authentic Latin American 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.” At the same time, she filmed No Other Woman, also without success.
Success of Ramona and Evangeline
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. Early film versions of the novel had cast fair-haired actresses like Mary Pickford (directed by D. W. Griffith, 1910) and Adda Gleason (1916) in the role of the Anglo-Indian heroine. Dolores would be the first interpretation of a true Hispanic. Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times found much to praise in what he called "an Indian love lyric":
"This current offering is an extraordinarily beautiful production, intelligently directed and, with the exception of a few instances, splendidly acted. The scenic effects are charming and there is for the most part an admirable restraint throughout this drama of Southern California. The different episodes are told discreetly and with a good measure of suspense and sympathy. Some of the characters have been changed to enhance the dramatic worth of the picture, but this is pardonable, especially when one considers this subject as a whole."
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.
She made other films like 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".
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.
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. Carewe hired Al Jolson to write Dolores's songs in the movie. 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. Photoplay singled out del Río for her performance: “She now steps into a role that might have been reserved for a Lillian Gish. It’s a tribute to her versatility”.
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. Despite some legal problems with an unscrupulous lawyer she had used during her contract with Carewe, she eagerly went into her next film and first talkie, The Bad One, in which she played Lita, a young virgin living and working in a whorehouse in Marseilles. It was not a pleasant experience. Filming early talking pictures really put a crimp in everyone’s acting style; microphones were hidden around the set (still no overhead booms following the actors), and the performers had to stand near the microphones and enunciate precisely. 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.
First talkies and Flying Down to Rio
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. In need of a model for his statuette, del Río introduced him to the Mexican film director Emilio Fernández. Reluctant at first, Fernández was finally convinced to pose nude to create what today is known as the "Oscar."
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. The Gibbons-del Río house in Hollywood was a frequent meeting place for personalities like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Errol Flynn, Lili Damita, Fay Wray, Constance Bennett, Joan Bennett, Myrna Loy, Clark Gable, and many others.
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. For her recuperation Gibbons designed a small beachside home in Malibu. Gibbons was at her side as often as work allowed, and her mother was always present. 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. Gibbons encouraged Dolores to hire the drama/voice coach Oliver Hindsell. She enjoyed working with him and became excited about 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.
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." 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.
Failing to anticipate the movie's success, RKO, in the midst of a financial crisis, terminated del Río’s contract, but Warner Bros. picked it up, with their press release touting how she would “bloom into another Greta Garbo.” 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, arousing the jealousy of Kay Francis the Warner star, who threatened to leave the film. 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.
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". Fay Wray took her place, and del Río’s contract with Warner Brothers was finished.
"Box office poison"
Del Río worked on Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox films such as The Widow from Monte Carlo in 1936, and The Devil's Playground 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. She left the Fox Studios after a cameo in the multi-star film Ali Baba Goes to Town. 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..
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.
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. Vivien Leigh dirty and exhausted by the war in Gone with the Wind, was not the same as Greta Garbo in Queen Christina, Marlene Dietrich in Josef von Sternberg's films, or Dolores del Río in Bird of Paradise. del Río, one of the great beauties of the star system, was suddenly without an available film character. 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.
Relationship with Orson Welles
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.
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. She and her mother bought a home at 1455 Stone Canyon Drive in the new subdivision Bel Air, that was filling up with stars and moguls. Gibbons was devastated and confused by his loss of Dolores, but he conceded the divorce at the beginning of 1941. There was no rancor and each kept the property and possessions they had gathered before and during the marriage.
Avoiding public scandal was difficult with such an outgoing, flamboyant young man who was full of debts and doubts, Dolores tried to keep the relationship with Welles a secret. Orson would buy her lavish jewels which she would then have to pay for or return to the jewelers. They went out in public but only if mutual friend Marlene Dietrich or Charlie Chaplin was along. Orson painted, wrote, did radio shows, and planned his debut movie. To get himself ready for his acting role in Citizen Kane, he went on complicated diets and took amphetamines. He wavered between needing Dolores near him and needing her far away during filming.
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 Orson 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.
The press screening of Citizen Kane was tumultuous, particularly because Hearst had threatened to reveal all the peccadillos of major studio bosses if the film was released.
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.
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. The newspaper magnate had offered to buy the negative (some said for $1,000,000) just so he could have the pleasure of destroying it, but fortunately RKO declined the offer. The landmark film was virtually shelved for nearly two decades, and was seen by relatively few people until its resurrection in the late 1950s.
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 one trick he cut the most beautiful woman in the world in two. By now her life was verging on the ludicrous. 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.
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.
"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...".
Career in Mexico
María Candelaria and Del Río-Fernández team
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. She was friends with 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). 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. The film allowed Del Río to keep her international prestige. Fernández has said that he wrote an original version of the plot on 13 napkins while sitting in a restaurant. The film was first entitled Xochimilco and the protagonist was named María del Refugio. In addition to the experienced team of producers, the film benefited from Del Río's success as an actress through the American star system. 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. On Good Friday 1943, Del Río's onomastic was the occasion chosen by the filmmaker to find the desired reconciliation. 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, which not only renewed her laurels that she had previously won in Hollywood, but increased them by reaching heights and unsuspected depths of drama and expression.
In 1945 Dolores filmed the movie La selva de fuego directed by Fernando de Fuentes. According the Mexican diva María Félix in her autobiography (Todas mis Guerras, 1993), because of this movie she and Dolores crossed paths. 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).
After her work with Fernández, Del Río was given the opportunity to work with the best film directors in Mexico. 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, which was entered for competition at the Cannes Film Festival).
Dolores worked in Argentina in 1947, in a film version of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan. She was affectionately received by Eva Perón, with whom Dolores had a close friendship. 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.
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 another woman: Mexican actress Columba Domínguez, who was having an affair with Fernandez. The resulting tension led to this film becoming the last time they worked together.
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. The project was finally cancelled.
In 1959, on November 24 she married Lewis Riley in New York.
Victim of McCarthyism
In 1934, del Río became one of the victims of the "open season" on the "reds" in Hollywood. With James Cagney, 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. 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, Marlene Dietrich and Orson Welles, who were associated with communism. 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.
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. Katy Jurado replaced her in the film and thus del Río became one of the victims of McCarthyism. Figures such as Cecil B. DeMille, Robert Taylor, Walt Disney, Gary Cooper, the mother of Ginger Rogers and Sam Wood, was dedicated to denounce the "reds" in Hollywood, and for over twenty years, had its eyes on Dolores del Rio, mainly because of her relationship with Orson Welles and the other personalities mentioned.
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.
Return to Hollywood
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. Her contemporaries from the Golden Age of Hollywood were surprised with her lasting beauty and youth. She was considered to be a sort of endangered species: a true Classic Hollywood Diva. 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". Dolores immediately took to the young Presley and regarded him with maternal affection.
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 with the Argentinean actress and Tango singer Libertad Lamarque. Her mother's death in 1961 forced her to cancel the Spanish movie Muerte en el otoño, directed by Juan Antonio Bardem. She also received a proposal from Kirk Douglas to make a film about the conquest of Mexico. In addition, Federico Fellini offered her a project in Italy that never materialized.
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, who was fascinated with the legendary star who played in the film the role of his mother. del Rio was happy to participate in the last great movie of her friend John Ford.
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. Del Río's performance in this movie shocked the public because of how she stood out among all the young actresses. The film was not a critical success, but it was very financially successful. One critic wondered: Has Mexican cinema come a long way from Santa to Casa de Mujeres?
In 1967, she performed for the first time in Italy, with Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif in the film More Than a Miracle, produced by Carlo Ponti. del Rio considered turning down the film due to such a small role, but the director Francesco Rosi insisted she perform the role of the mother of Sharif. Del Rio's beauty rivaled that of Sophia Loren, nonetheless.
The producer and film director Archibaldo Burns wrote the screenplay of the movie La Noche de las Flores at the request of del Río in 1972. But, the actress declined to participate in the film because it contained lesbian scenes, which departed from what had been del Río's image in Mexican cinema. The project was conceived by Burns to mark the swansong of del Río in Mexican Cinema. Burns envisioned actress Diana Bracho as the woman with whom del Rio would have the lesbian scenes within the film. Four decades after the cancellation of the project, Burns's son Adrian revived it to star Diana Bracho. The film was released in the Cineteca Nacional, in Mexico City, on April 16, 2012.
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), directed by Boris Taumarin. Del Río's debut on the Mexican stage was in Lady Windermere's Fan (1958). 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. 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. 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. Her co-star was Ignacio López Tarso. The play was a success when it debuted in June 1963 at the Teatro de los Insurgentes in Mexico City. In August 1964, Del Rio starred in the work La Vidente de Rousin with her husband Lew as director. Meanwhile, in France Edwige Feuillère was cast. Despite the success, the play only ran for a month.
In 1967, Del Rio returned to the theater with in La Reina y los Rebeldes by the Italian Hugo Betti, but the story took an unexpected turn and some newspapers published: Dolores del Rio in a Communist stage play. The play was savaged by critics during the student uprisings in Mexico.
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. At 66 years of age, very few women in the world dared to do this. The play ran with great success in Mexico, Latin America and Europe.
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. In 1964 in England she starred in a BBC TV program along with Ben Lyon. 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.
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. She never appeared on Mexican television. The newspapers claimed that del Río, Cantinflas and María Félix demanded high salaries.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, del Río collaborated in some international film festivals like Cannes Film Festival (1957), Berlin Film Festival (1962) and San Sebastián Film Festival (1976) as a juror. Dolores promoted the Mexican Cinema in the Film Festivals "for the good of the country."
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. In 1972, she helped found the Festival Cervantino in Guanajuato.
The group "Rosa Mexicano"
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, Amparo Rivelles, Gloria Marín, Irma Dorantes, Anita Blanch, Socorro Avelar 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".
Estancia Infantil "Dolores del Río"
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 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[disambiguation needed]. The first stone was laid on April 30, 1973. Besides Dolores, other presidents have been Alicia Montoya, María Elena Marqués, Carmen Montejo, Jacqueline Andere, Emilia Carranza and Virginia Gutierrez.  Del Río's understanding of child psychology was ahead of her time, “A baby's first six years are the most important. We play Brahms and Bach to them, teach them English, Folklorico dancing, and all the arts.”
She was a devout Roman Catholic. 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". Del Rio recalls Welles as “The most intense and volcanic passion I had in my life.” Welles once remarked that he was incredibly impressed by her lingerie, which had been made by nuns in France. According to Rebecca Welles, her father felt an obsession for Dolores until the end of his life.
In the late thirties, Dolores was also involved with Errol Flynn and the German writer Erich Maria Remarque. In the forties, she was involved with the Mexican movie producer Archibaldo Burns, the Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa and the Mexican actor Tito Junco. In 1949, Dolores met Lewis A. Riley in Acapulco. Riley, 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, John Wayne, Cantinflas, the Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, Yvonne Blanche Labrousse, and many more.
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.
The newspapers speculated about a strong rivalry between Dolores and María Félix, the other diva of the Mexican Cinema. 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". The Mexican writer Oswaldo Diaz Ruanova described them thus: "Dolores del Rio was very feminine and socially active; Maria Felix was very sullen and exhibited manly attitudes. Dolores del Rio was a breeze, Maria Felix was a hurricane. Dolores del Rio cut an aristocratic style, but Maria Félix's style was typically middle class".
Death and memorials
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.
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. 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.
She was considered one of the prototypes of the classic woman style of the 1930s: "I think", said Larry Carr (author of More Fabulous Faces), "that 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. Gone was the style of heavy pancake and little heart shaped mouths. In its place the angular face, the sculptured look came into vogue. 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". Crawford said on a visit to Mexico in 1963: "Dolores became, and remains, as one of the most beautiful stars in the world". "Glamour," said the filmmaker Josef von Sternberg, "is the result of chiaroscuro, the play of light on the landscape of the face, the use of the surroundings through the composition, through the shaft of the hair and creating mysterious shadows in the eyes. In Hollywood, stars as far apart as Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Rita Hayworth and Dolores del Rio, own and acquire glamor, technology and willingness to refine the beauty of their own. [They] are the indecipherable magic of the cinema, the substance of the dreams of a generation and hold the admiration of those who follow afterwards".
Marlene Dietrich considered del Río "The most beautiful woman in Hollywood" For many people, she has better legs than Dietrich and better cheekbones than Garbo. 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.
Some rumors said that her diet consisted of orchid petals and that she slept 16 hours a day. Author Salvador Novo gave a perfect, if unintended, eulogy a year before Del Rio’s death. “With Dolores del Rio we are in the presence of a case in which extraordinary beauty is only the material form of talent. She has been gifted with grace, and fresh and vibrant nimbleness that, being natural, seems exotic.” Time caught up to the ageless beauty, which del Rio, never a vain person, at no time worried about. del Rio said, “So long as a woman has twinkles in her eyes, no man notices whether she has wrinkles under them.” In Paris, all the great fashion designers wanted to dress Dolores by the perfection of her form. They were amazed at the fineness of her ankles and wrists, her small feet, her fragile neck, her arms long and thin, her radiant face.
George Bernard Shaw once said: "The two most beautiful things in the world are the Taj Mahal and Dolores del Rio". 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.
Despite the passage of years, Dolores del Río continued until the end to present an image of an educated lady, elegant and sophisticated, that despite her age still remained pleasant and desirable in the eyes of the public. In 1978, Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times mentions her as "one of the reigning beauties of the twentieth century".
Armando Montoya, a columnist for the diary El Universal summarized in a phrase what del Rio meant to her fans: "She was for years an image the proximity of a dream, a passion ..."
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. 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. 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. However limited Del Río´s roles, her career greatly impacted the star trajectories of each Hollywood Latina who followed, especially those closely aligned with cinematic whiteness like Rita Hayworth and Jennifer Lopez. Current stars Salma Hayek, Eva Mendes, and Penélope Cruz follow in the footsteps of the trailblazing Dolores del Rio.
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 à 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.
From September 2009 to January 2010, Dolores del Río was honored in the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City, with one of the most complete photography compilations from her career.
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- Espectros (1961) (Mexico City)
- Mi querido embustero (1961) (Mexico City)
- La Vidente, de Roussin (1965) (Mexico City)
- La Reina y los Rebeldes (1966) (Mexico City)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Dolores del Rio|
- Dolores del Río at the Internet Movie Database
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- Dolores del Río on Myspace
- Dolores Del Río Biography - Yahoo! Movies
- Dolores del Rio Biography at The New York Times
- The Dolores del Rio mural 1990 by artist Alfredo de Batuc, 6529 Hollywood Boulevard + Hudson St, Los Angeles, California
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- Photographs of Dolores Del Rio