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Aquanetta image.jpg
Acquanetta in costume for Tarzan and the Leopard Woman, 1946
Mildred Davenport

(1921-07-17)July 17, 1921
DiedAugust 16, 2004(2004-08-16) (aged 83)
Years active1942–1953
Spouse(s)Luciano Bashuk
Henry Clive
Jack Ross
ChildrenSergio Bashuk, Lance Ross,[1] Tom Ross, Jack Ross Jr. and Rex Ross[2]
Parent(s)William and Julia Davenport[1]

Acquanetta (July 17, 1921 – August 16, 2004), nicknamed "The Venezuelan Volcano," was a B-movie actress known for her exotic beauty.

Early years[edit]

The facts of Acquanetta's origins are not known with certainty.[3][4][5] Although accounts differ (some giving her birth-name as Mildred Davenport, from Norristown, Pennsylvania),[1][3][6] Acquanetta claimed she was born Burnu Acquanetta, meaning "Burning Fire/Deep Water",[5] in Ozone, Wyoming. Orphaned from her Arapaho parents when she was two (or three),[7] she lived briefly with another family before being taken in by an artistic couple with whom she remained until she made the choice to live independently at the age of fifteen.[4] Other accounts suggest her ethnicity was African American; her career was followed closely by the African American press.[5][6] In 1942, LIFE magazine noted her mysterious origins, but reported that she had lived with a Spanish family in Spanish Harlem posing as a Venezuelan before moving to Mexico, then Venezuela to obtain citizenship. The article suggests that the Arapaho orphan story was invented because she was unable to produce any identification for the Screen Actors Guild.[7]

According to the 1940 US Census, she had 5 siblings, including a sister, Kathryn Davenport,[1][8] and a brother, Horace Davenport, who was, according to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, "the first African-American judge in Montgomery County."[1][5]

Film career[edit]

Acquanetta started her career as a model in New York City[3][6] with Harry Conover and John Robert Powers.[1] She signed with Universal Studios in 1942 and acted mostly in B-movies, including Arabian Nights, The Sword of Monte Cristo, Captive Wild Woman and Jungle Woman,[9] in which Universal attempted to create a female monster movie franchise with Acquanetta as a transformative ape.

After her contract with Universal expired, Acquanetta signed on with Monogram Pictures but did not appear in any movies; she then signed with RKO where she acted in her only big-budget movie, Tarzan and the Leopard Woman.[1]

Personal life[edit]

In 1948, Acquanetta and "Mexican-Jewish millionaire" Luciano Bashuk had a son, Sergio, who died in 1952 at age 4,[5][10] after the couple's bitter divorce in 1950,[11] where she lost her suit for half his fortune when no record of their marriage could be produced.[1][5]

In 1950, Acquanetta married painter and illustrator Henry Clive and returned to acting.[1][6] She retired from films in 1953 and became a disk jockey for radio station KPOL (AM) in Los Angeles the same year.[1] Her husband Clive died in 1960.

After marrying Jack Ross, a car dealer who later ran for governor of Arizona in 1970 and 1974, the couple settled in Mesa, Arizona,[12] and she returned to a degree of celebrity by appearing with Ross in his local television advertisements,[9] and also by hosting a local television show called Acqua's Corner that accompanied the Friday late-night movies.[1] The couple were prominent citizens, donating to the Phoenix Symphony and the construction of Mesa Lutheran Hospital and founding Stagebrush Theatre.[3] She and Ross had four children, and divorced in the 1980s. In 1987, Acquanetta sold the Mesa Grande ruins to the city of Mesa.[3] An apocryphal Phoenix legend has Acquanetta, upon learning of her husband's infidelity, filling the interior of his Lincoln Continental convertible with concrete.[3][13]

Acquanetta also wrote a book of poetry, The Audible Silence, illustrated by Emilie Touraine (Flagstaff, Arizona): Northland Press, 1974.[1][3] She did not smoke, and did not drink alcohol, tea, or coffee.[1]

In 1987, the all-female band The Aquanettas adopted (and adapted) their name from hers.

Acquanetta succumbed to complications of Alzheimer's disease on August 16, 2004, at Hawthorn Court in Ahwatukee, Arizona. She was 83.[14]

Acquanetta's obituary inspired the composer Michael Gordon to collaborate with librettist Deborah Artman on the opera, Acquanetta (2005/2017). Produced by Beth Morrison Projects, the chamber version received its world premiere at the Prototype Festival in Brooklyn, NY, in January, 2018.


Year Film Role Notes
1942 Arabian Nights Ishya (uncredited)
1943 Rhythm of the Islands Luani as Burnu Acquanetta
Captive Wild Woman Paula Dupree – the Gorilla Girl
1944 Jungle Woman Paula Dupree – the Gorilla Girl
Dead Man's Eyes Tanya Czoraki
1946 Tarzan and the Leopard Woman Lea, the High Priestess
1951 The Sword of Monte Cristo Felice
Lost Continent Native Girl
Callaway Went Thataway Native Girl with Smoky (uncredited)
1953 Take the High Ground! Bar Girl (uncredited)
1989 Grizzly Adams — The Legend Never Dies[15] Direct-to-video release


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Richard Beland (2009-10-15). "Jungle Frolics: Acquanetta". Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  2. ^ "Life Remembered: Jack Ross, iconic Arizona car dealer". azcentral. The Republic. February 15, 2013. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Acqua Blues". Phoenix New Times. September 2, 2004. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Billed As Venezuela Beauty,' Indian Girl Hoaxed Filmdom". The Milwaukee Journal. July 20, 1942. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "B-movie star Acquanetta. Although she was promoted... - Vintage Black Glamour by Nichelle Gainer". Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  6. ^ a b c d "Hollywood Jungle Girl - The Actress Aquanetta". Jet Magazine. February 14, 1952. Retrieved July 6, 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Venezuelan Volcano". LIFE. Time, Inc. 13 (8): 57–59. Aug 24, 1942. ISSN 0024-3019. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  8. ^ Annonces, Vieilles. "Actress Acquanetta's Sister Marries in Tokyo - Jet Magazin…". Flickr. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  9. ^ a b "Acquanetta, Movie Actress". Beaver Country Times. August 18, 2004. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  10. ^ Annonces, Vieilles. "Actress Acquanetta to Collect $4,000 in Son's Death - Jet …". Flickr. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  11. ^ Annonces, Vieilles. "Actress Acquanetta Has Child - Jet Magazine Aug 5, 1954". Flickr. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  12. ^ Cone, Connie (2013-02-15). "A Life Remembered: Jack Ross, iconic Arizona car dealer". Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  13. ^ "Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / The Many Mysteries of Acquanetta (and Jack Ross)". Phoenix New Times. September 25, 2015. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
  14. ^ "Acquanetta, 83, A Star of B Movies". The New York Times. August 23, 2004. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  15. ^ Mank, Gregory William (2015). Women in Horror Films, 1940s (illustrated ed.). McFarland & Co. p. 218. ISBN 9781476609553.

Further reading[edit]

  • Price, Michael H.; Wooley, John (3 September 2018). Fantasies in the Sand: Birth of the Beach Party Box-Office Bonanza. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 1723281069. — Features Acquanetta and her connection to the beach party films

External links[edit]