|Born||María de los Ángeles Félix Güereña
8 April 1914
Álamos, Sonora, Mexico
|Died||8 April 2002
Mexico City, Mexico
|Other names||La Doña|
|Spouse(s)||Enrique Álvarez (1931–1938; divorced)
Agustín Lara (1943–1947; divorced)
Jorge Negrete (1952–1953; his death)
Alex Berger (1956–1974; his death)
|Children||Enrique Álvarez Félix (1935–1996)
Diana Negrete (stepdaughter)
Rocío Durán (adopted daughter)
María Félix (8 April 1914 – 8 April 2002) was a Mexican actress, considered by many to be the most iconic leading lady of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, known for her larger-than-life, tough film characters. She was nominated for five Ariel Awards, of which she won three for Enamorada, Río Escondido, Doña Diabla and a special Golden Ariel Award for her contribution to cinema. She was more commonly known, particularly in her later years, by the honorific La Doña.
Born María de los Ángeles Félix Güereña in Álamos, Sonora, Mexico on 8 April 1914. Her obituary in The New York Times stated she was born on 4 May 1914, which would have made her 87 at the time of her death on 8 April 2002, rather than 88. Her gravestone would appear to confirm the 8 April birthdate.
She was the ninth of twelve children born to Bernardo Félix, descendant of Yaqui (a Mexican tribe) and Josefina Güereña, who was Spanish. Her siblings were: Josefina, (María de la) Paz, Bernardo, Miguel, (María de las) Mercedes, Fernando, (María del) Sacramento, Pablo, Victoria Eugenia, Ricardo and Benjamin. She showed a strong temperament and preferred playing with boys rather than girls, which upset her sisters. During her teens, she reportedly had an incestuous relationship with her brother Pablo, who later was admitted to the Colegio Miltar in Mexico City, but died mysteriously soon after admission. The authorities claimed he committed suicide.
In 1931 she married Enrique Álvarez Alatorre, a seller of Max Factor whom she met in Guadalajara. He was the father of her only child, actor Enrique Álvarez Félix (1935-1996). The couple divorced in 1938. She lived with her parents until 1939, when she traveled with her son to Mexico City. However, soon after, her ex-husband took custody of their son, whom she was later able to recover in 1943.
María Félix was discovered by businessman Fernando Palacios in Mexico City. The Calderón Brothers, famous film makers in Mexico, led her to Hollywood, where she met Cecil B. DeMille, who offered her work in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. María refused, wishing to work in Mexico. Palacios introduced her to the film maker Miguel Zacarías, who would give her the opportunity of starring El Peñón de las Ánimas, alongside Jorge Negrete.
In 1943, she starred in Doña Bárbara, directed by Fernando de Fuentes and inspired in the novel of the Venezuelan writer Rómulo Gallegos. De Fuentes increased her popularity with such films as La Mujer sin Alma (1944) and La Devoradora (1946); the latter film made her the vamp of Mexican cinema during the 1940s. She declined work in Hollywood, claiming that Americans would only offer her Native American roles; as a result, she never achieved the fame in the United States as she had in Latin America and parts of Europe. Félix reportedly was considered for the role of "Pearl Chavez" in Duel in the Sun (1945), but could not take the role due to insufficient English language skills,losing the role to Jennifer Jones.
In 1945, Félix filmed Vértigo, directed by Antonio Momplet. According to Félix, because of this movie, she and Dolores del Río mistook their paths for a brief period of time. The film had been written for Del Río, but by mistake, the messenger sent the film to Félix. Meanwhile, Del Río finished filming the movie La Selva de Fuego. In 1946, she came under the influence of director Emilio Fernández, with whom she made the films Enamorada (1946), Río Escondido (1947) and Maclovia (1948), launching her career throughout Europe.
She worked in Spain in Mare Nostrum (1948), Una mujer cualquiera, La Noche del Sábado (1950) and the Spanish-French film La Couronne Noire (1951). Later she moved to Italy where she filmed Messalina (1951, directed by Carmine Gallone) and Incantessimo Tragico (1951). In 1952 she work in Argentina, in the film La Pasión Desnuda, directed by Luis César Amadori. In 1953 she returned to México to film El Rapto, the last film of her third husband, Jorge Negrete.
In France, she worked with Jean Renoir in the successful film French Cancan (1954) with Jean Gabin, and in Les héros sont fatigués (1955) with Yves Montand. She returned to Mexico in 1955, and filmed successful films like The Hidden One (1955) with Pedro Armendáriz, Tizoc (1956) with Pedro Infante and The Soldiers of Pancho Villa (1959) with Dolores del Rio. In later years, her films were inspired by the Mexican Revolution (1961), La Valentina (1966), and La Generala (1970), her last film. Her last films made abroad were Beyond All Limits (Mexican-American production, 1957) with Jack Palance, Faustina (Spain, 1957), Sonatas (Spain, 1957) directed by Juan Antonio Bardem and La Fièvre Monte à El Pao (French-Mexican production, 1959) directed by Luis Buñuel.
María’s first husband was the Max Factor seller Enrique Álvarez, father of her only child. The couple married in 1931 and divorced in 1938. Her second husband was the famous Mexican musician and composer Agustin Lara. She met him in 1943, and married in 1945. In the honeymoon in Acapulco, Lara composed her the famous song María Bonita (Pretty María). She achieved international fame with this song. The couple divorced in 1947.
Her third husband was the Mexican actor and singer Jorge Negrete. They met in 1942, during the shooting of El Peñón de las Ánimas and had mutual dislike. The situation changed when María returned to Mexico from Spain in 1953. However, Negrete was deathly suffering from liver cirrhosis, and died in Los Angeles, 11 months after their marriage.
Her last husband was a French banker, Alex Berger, whom she married in 1956. Berger owned thoroughbred horses, achieving notable success with the colt Nonoalco who won four Group One races including the 1974 British Classic, the 2,000 Guineas. When Berger died in 1974, Félix inherited his multi-million dollar thoroughbred horse racing stable.
In music, art and fashion
Song writers composed songs for the actress, including María de Todas las Marías by Juan Gabriel. She was painted by various artists, including Diego Rivera, Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, and Bridget Tichenor.
In 1949, Diego Rivera painted a portrait of her, which Félix classified as "muy malo" ("very bad"). The portrait was originally intended to première in a retrospective on Rivera's work, but Félix did not allow the painting to be displayed, as she disliked it; she reportedly eventually sold it.
In fashion, Félix was dressed by designers like Christian Dior, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Balenciaga. The House of Hermès (Couture Department) designed extravagant creations just for her. She was a noted collector of fine antiques, favoring pieces like her famous collection of Second French Empire furniture. She was also a jewellery connoisseur and had an extensive jewelry collection, including the 41.37 carat (8.274 g), D-flawless Ashoka diamond. In 1968, she commissioned a serpent diamond necklace from Cartier Paris. The result was a completely articulated serpent made out of platinum and white gold and encrusted with 178.21 carats (35.642 g) of diamonds. In 1975, she again asked Cartier to create a necklace for her, this time in the shape of two crocodiles. The two crocodile bodies were made of 524.9 grams of gold, one covered with 1,023 yellow diamonds, while the other was adorned with 1,060 circular cut emeralds.
Since Félix’s death, these jewellery pieces have been displayed as part of The Art of Cartier Collection in several museums around the world. To pay tribute to the actress, in 2006 Cartier debuted its La Doña de Cartier collection. The La Doña de Cartier watch with reptilian links was created to impress by its wild look. The case of the La Doña de Cartier features a trapezoid shape with asymmetrical profile reminding a crocodile’s head. The wristband of the watch resembles the contours of a crocodile in large, bold and gold scales. The La Doña de Cartier Collection also includes jewellery, accessories and handbags.
- Diego Rivera and María Félix
- Félix, María (1994). Todas mis Guerras. Clío. pp. 52, 84. ISBN 968-6932-08-9.
- Félix (1993), vol. 1, pp. 65–75
- Félix (1993), vol. 1, p. 80
- "María Félix es un mito del cine mexicano". Retrieved 29 November 2011.
- Félix (1993), vol. 2, p. 53
- Félix (1993), vol. 3, p. 24–31
- Estate of María Félix: La Doña totals $7.3 million
- La Doña de Cartier Reptile-Like Watch
- Felix, María (1994). Todas mis Guerras. Clío. ISBN 968-11-0556-7.
- Agrasánchez Jr., Rogelio (2001). Bellezas del cine mexicano/Beauties of Mexican Cinema. Archivo Fílmico Agrasánchez. ISBN 968-5077-11-8.
- Taibo I., Paco Ignacio (1986). María Félix: 47 pasos por el cine. Editorial Planeta. ISBN 968-406-283-4.
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