|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 (1945–1947; divorced)
Jorge Negrete (1952–1953; his death)
Alex Berger (1956–1974; his death)
|Children||Enrique Álvarez Félix (1935–1996)|
María de los Ángeles Félix Güereña (Spanish pronunciation: [maˈɾia ˈfeliks]; 8 April 1914 – 8 April 2002) was a Mexican film actress. She is considered one of the most important female figures of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. She was also considered one of the most beautiful film actresses of her time, and one of the greatest erotic myths of Spanish-language cinema. Along with Pedro Armendáriz and Dolores del Río, she is one of the most important figures of Latin American cinema of the 1940s and 1950s.
She is known by the nickname La Doña a name derived from her character in the film Doña Bárbara (1943). She is also known as María Bonita, thanks to the anthem composed exclusively for her, as a wedding gift by the composer Agustín Lara. She completed a film career that included 47 films made in Mexico, Spain, France, Italy and Argentina.
María de los Ángeles Félix Güerena was born in Álamos, Sonora on April 8, 1914. She was a daughter of Félix Bernardo Félix, a descent of Yaqui Native Americans. Her mother was Josefina Rosas Güereña, of Basque ancestry. She had twelve siblings: Josefina, María de la Paz, Pablo, Bernardo, Miguel, María Mercedes, Fernando, Victoria Eugenia, Ricardo, Benjamín and Ana María del Sacramento.
She spent her childhood in Álamos. The family lived with dignity, despite not being rich. During her childhood she had a close relationship with her brother Pablo. Her mother separated the two, thinking that they might be involved in an incestuous relationship. For that reason, she sent Pablo to a military school. Those who knew María say, she enjoyed boy hobbies, something that was not expected for a girl. As a young girl she was an accomplished horse rider,She never had a good relationship with her other sisters, partly because of their physical differences (all her sisters were blonde by maternal inheritance) and also because of María's contrasting personality.
Later, her family moved to Guadalajara. Time passed and her beauty soon began to attract attention. She was crowned student Beauty Queen at the University of Guadalajara. Still very young, in 1931 she accepted marriage to Enrique Álvarez Alatorre, a salesman for the cosmetics firm Max Factor (with whom she had, in 1934, her only son, the actor Enrique Álvarez Félix). After her divorce, María returned to Guadalajara with her family, being the subject of gossip and rumors due to her status as divorceé. Because of this situation, María decided to move to Mexico City with her son Enrique.
In Mexico, she worked as a receptionist in a plastic surgeon's office, and lived in a guest house. One day, the father of her son visited the capital, and deliberately refused to give the boy back to his mother, instead taking him to Guadalajara. María swore that one day she would be more influential than him and would get her son back. María managed to regain custody of her son a few years later with the help of Agustín Lara.
The prosperous relationship of María with the cinema began by chance. She was window shopping in the historic center of Mexico City when the director Fernando Palacios approached her asking if she would like to make movies. Her response also belongs to the legend of La Doña: "Who told you that I want to get into the movies? If I feel like it, I will ; but when I want to, and it will be through the front door." Palacios finally persuaded her to break into the movies. Becoming her Pygmalion, he began to train her and present her in film circles. She made her first appearance in the White and Black Ballroom of the Mexico City Country Club accompanied by some the most popular figures of the Mexican Cinema of that day time: Esther Fernández, Lupe Vélez and Andrea Palma. Eventually she was taken to Hollywood, to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. There she met Cecil B. DeMille, who offered to launch her film career in Hollywood, but María was not interested . She preferred to begin her career in her own country. Finally, thanks to Palacios, she was offered the female lead role in a film by Grovas Productions: El Peñón de las Ánimas, directed by Miguel Zacarías.
First years (1942-1945)
In the film El Peñón de las Ánimas, María played opposite actor and singer Jorge Negrete. Maria Felix and Jorge Negrete got off to a bad relationship during the filming because he had asked that his girlfriend Gloria Marín be given the lead role. For this reason the filming of the movie was difficult and led to a direct confrontation between the two. That confrontation helped cement the reputation of La Doña as a tough and arrogant woman that contributed so much to her success.
After the filming of El Peñón de las Ánimas, her fame never stopped growing. However, in her second film, Maria Eugenia, directed by Felipe Gregorio Castillo, Maria would be wrongly projected on a paper out of her real film personality, that she called "sins of beginner". Maria Eugenia is remembered as the film where María first appeared in swimwear in her career. The same happened with the film La china poblana (1943), where María claimed to have paid a debt of gratitude to her discoverer Fernando Palacios, who directed the film. Nobody has heard from this movie (the second color film of film Mexican), so it is considered lost.
Maria Felix was known as La Doña for her role in the movie Doña Bárbara (1943), based on the novel of the Venezuelan writer Romulo Gallegos. For the film, was already hired another actress (Isabela Corona), but when Gallegos first saw María, was charmed by her and said: Here is my Doña Bárbara!. This movie was filmed in Venezuela with Mexican and Venezuelan actors.
Doña Bárbara will be the start of major collaborations between Maria and the Mexican film director Fernando de Fuentes, under whom filmed La Mujer sin Alma (1943) and La Devoradora (1946). These films help to increase her celebrity as "quintessential vamp of Mexican Cinema". María left this role in such films as El monje blanco (1945) directed by Julio Bracho and Vertigo (1946) directed by Antonio Momplet.
With the director Emilio Fernandez, María made the three films that embody internationally: Enamorada (1946 ), Rio Escondido (1947) and Maclovia (1948). The relationship between María and Fernandez was cordial and smooth despite the strong and famous temperament of the director. In Enamorada, María finds her perfect companion film, the actor Pedro Armendáriz. The films of María with Fernandez and his team (Armendariz, photographer Gabriel Figueroa) have strong presence in several international film festivals. In turn, give María her first Ariel Awards.
Among the films with Fernández, Maria also works with Roberto Gavaldón, another director who showcased some of her best performances. Their first collaboration was in La diosa arrodillada (1947) with Arturo de Córdova. Thanks to these films, María's fame across the Atlantic.
Contracted by the Spanish producer Cesareo Gonzalez, Maria began her film adventure in Europe. In Mexico only acted in the film Doña Diabla in 1949 and would not return to film until 1952.
In Spain, she made three major films: Mare Nostrum (1948), Una mujer cualquiera (1950) and La noche del sábado (1950), the three directed by Rafael Gil. In 1951, she filmed the French-Spanish production La Couronne Noire directed by Luis Saslavsky based on a story by Jean Cocteau. In Italy she made Incantesimo Tragico (1951) and Messalina (1951), directed by Carmine Gallone, at the time, the most expensive film of Italian cinema. During the filming of this movie, Maria's father died of a heart attack in Navojoa.
In 1952, Maria wins the Argentine market with the film La pasión desnuda of the Argentine filmmaker Luis César Amadori. In the same year María returned to Mexico. She concludes her working relationship with Cesáreo González on the film Camelia. Her stay in the country is mainly based on her marriage to Jorge Negrete, her former enemy, and who filmed the film El rapto, directed by Emilio Fernández, and will be the last film of Negrete.
After the death of Jorge Negrete, on December 5, 1953, María returned to Europe. In France she made the films La Belle Otero (1954 ), and Les Heros sont Fatigues (1955), the latter alongside Yves Montand. However, the most important film of María in this period is French Cancan (1954) directed by Jean Renoir with the legendary French actor Jean Gabin. Her latest film shot entirely in Europe, was the Spanish film Faustina.
Last films (1955-1970)
Upon her return to Mexico in 1955, María, already become mythical figure of the cinema, the luxury of choosing her own films, directors and co-stars to be given. This period of her career was characterized by performing acclimated belts at the time of the Mexican Revolution. This cycle begins with La Escondida (1955). In this film, as well as stories like Canasta de cuentos mexicanos (1955) and Café Colón (1958), she worked again with Pedro Armendáriz, only figure who she could not obscure in the screen. In 1956 she stars Tizoc (1956) with Pedro Infante, film however was not liked by the actress despite her international success. Eventually she filmed Beyond All Limits (1957) with Jack Palance, and the melodramas Miércoles de ceniza (1958) and The Empty Star (1958). To compensate her, the director of Tizoc Ismael Rodríguez, will make a great vehicle for showcasing: The Soldiers of Pancho Villa, where the director plays to the strong personality of María, leading her to interpret for the first time a different character. In the film, María alternating with Dolores del Río, another celebrated Mexican star with a Hollywood career. In 1959 she performs Spanish-Mexican co-production Sonatas directed by Juan Antonio Bardem and La Fievre Monte El Pao, directed by Luis Buñuel.
At 60, María's presence is limited to only a few films. The most prominent were Juana Gallo (1960), La bandida (with Pedro Armendariz, Emilio Fernández and Katy Jurado) (1962), sapho '63, (1963), directed by Luis Alcoriza, and only film where she made a partial nude, and La Valentina (1966). In 1970 she films La Generala, what would be his last film. Mexican historical soap opera La Constitucion(1971) will be his last professional acting job.
Thereafter, María retired from public life to devote herself partially to one of her great passions: horses. Some of her specimens went on to win major international equestrian awards.
Failed projects in Hollywood
Almost from the beginning of her career, María received jobs in Hollywood. But María herself said: Their only give me huehuenche (indian) roles. While she was in France, Hollywood offered her the female role of Duel in the Sun, but she has another project in the door. Later, the director Robert Aldrich sent her the script of The Legend of Lylah Clare, but she did not reach an agreement with the director and Kim Novak finished performing it. Another proposal was The Barefoot Contessa, but she refused to perform in France La Belle Otero. Ava Gardner ended up realizing it.
María’s first husband was Max Factor executive Enrique Álvarez, father of her only child. The couple married in 1931 and divorced in 1938. She met her second husband, the famous Mexican musician and composer Agustin Lara, in 1943; they married in 1945. On their honeymoon in Acapulco, Lara composed one of his most famous songs, 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 filming of El Peñón de las Ánimas. Their dislike was mutual, but that changed when María returned to Mexico from Spain in 1953. Negrete was suffering from liver cirrhosis. He died in Los Angeles eleven months after they were married.
Her last husband was a French banker, Alex Berger, whom she married in 1956. Berger owned thoroughbred horses (his colt Nonoalco won four Group One races, including the 1974 British Classic, the 2,000 Guineas). When Berger died in 1974, Félix inherited his thoroughbred horse racing stable, worth millions of dollars.
In music, art and fashion
Song writers composed songs for the actress, including María de Todas las Marías by Juan Gabriel and Je l'aime à mourir by Francis Cabrel. 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.
- Documental María Félix - Director Arturo Pérez Velasco - Editorial Clio Enrique Krauze
- Félix (1993), vol. 1, p. 74-75
- Félix (1993), vol. 1, p. 80-82
- Félix (1993), vol. 2, p. 21-22
- Félix (1993), vol. 3, p. 48
- 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.
- Alatorre Betancourt, Fausto (2014) Diabla frente al espejo, México, ed. Organización Editorial Mexicana S.A. de C.V., ISBN 9781301034772
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