Dolores del Río

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Dolores del Río
Dolores del Río.jpg
Dolores del Río in a publicity photo (1935)
Born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López-Negrete
(1904-08-03)August 3, 1904
Durango City, Durango, Mexico
Died April 11, 1983(1983-04-11) (aged 78)
Newport Beach, California, U.S.
Cause of death Liver disease
Resting place The Rotunda of Illustrious Persons, Dolores Cemetery, Mexico City, Mexico
Occupation Actress
Years active 1925–1978
  • Jaime Martínez del Río
    (m. 1921; div. 1928)
  • Cedric Gibbons
    (m. 1930; div. 1940)
  • Lewis A. Riley
    (m. 1959; her death 1983)
Partner(s) Orson Welles (1940-1943)
Parent(s) Jesus Leonardo Asúnsolo Jacques
Antonia López-Negrete
Relatives Ramon Novarro [cousin] (1899-1968)
Andrea Palma [cousin] (1903-1987)
Dolores del Río's signature.jpg

Dolores del Río (Spanish pronunciation: [doˈloɾes del ˈrio]; born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo López-Negrete; August 3, 1904[1] – April 11, 1983), was a Mexican and American film, television and stage actress. She was a Hollywood star in the 1920s and 1930s, and one of the more important female figures of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in the 1940s and 1950s.[2]

Del Río was the first major Latin cross-over star in Hollywood,[3][4][5][6]

After being discovered in Mexico by the filmmaker Edwin Carewe, she began her film career in 1925. She had roles in a series of successful silent films like What Price Glory? (1926), Resurrection (1927) and Ramona (1928). With the advent of sound, she acted in films that included Bird of Paradise (1932), Flying Down to Rio (1933), Madame Du Barry (1934) and Journey into Fear (1943). In the early 1940s, when her Hollywood career began to decline, del Río returned to Mexico and joined the Mexican film industry, which at that time was at its peak.

When del Río returned to her native country, she became one of the more important promoters and stars of the called Golden Age of Mexican cinema. A series of films, including Wild Flower (1943), María Candelaria (1943), Las Abandonadas (1944), Bugambilia (1944) and The Unloved Woman (1949), are considered classic masterpieces and they helped boost Mexican cinema worldwide. Del Río remained in the cinema of her native country for the next three decades and only returned to Hollywood sporadically. Her long career also spanned theater and television.

Early life[edit]

María de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López-Negrete[7] was born in Durango, Mexico to a wealthy family.[8] Her parents were Jesus Leonardo Asúnsolo Jacques, son of wealthy farmers and director of the Bank of Durango, and Antonia López-Negrete.[9] Her parents were members of the Mexican aristocracy that existed during the Porfiriato (period in the history of Mexico when the dictator Porfirio Díaz was the president). On her mother's side, she was a cousin of the filmmaker Julio Bracho and of actors Ramón Novarro (one of the Latin lovers of the silent cinema) and Andrea Palma (another actress of the Mexican cinema). On her father's side, she was a cousin of the Mexican sculptor Ignacio Asúnsolo and the social activist María Asúnsolo.[10]

Her family lost all its assets during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921). Dolores and her mother settled in Mexico City, where they lived under the protection of then-president Francisco I. Madero, who was a cousin of her mother. Her father took refuge in the United States. Three years later the Asúnsolo family was reunited. Dolores studied at the Collège Français de Saint-Joseph,[11] a religious school run by French nuns located in Mexico City. She took ballet lessons with Felipita López. In 1921, a group of Mexican ladies led by Doña Barbarita Martínez del Río organized a party to benefit a local hospital in the Teatro Esperanza Iris. At this party, Dolores met Jaime Martínez del Río y Viñent, 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. After a two-month courtship, the couple wed on 11 April 1921. He was 34 years old; she was not yet 17. Their honeymoon in Europe lasted two years. In 1924, the couple reluctantly returned to Mexico. They decided to live on Jaime's country estate, where cotton was the main crop. They settled in Mexico City.[citation needed]

In early 1925, Edwin Carewe, an influential director at First National Films, had traveled to Mexico for the wedding of actors Bert Lytell and Claire Windsor, where he met Dolores and her husband.[12]


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" in the word "del"). Carewe arranged for wide publicity for her with the intention of transforming her into a star of the order of Rudolph Valentino.[13] She made her film debut in Joanna, directed by Carewe in 1925 and released that year. In the film, del Río plays the role of Carlotta Da Silva, a vamp of Spanish-Brazilian origin, but she appeared for only five minutes.

Her second film was High Steppers (1926), a film also directed by Carewe and starring Mary Astor. Eventually, the filmmaker Carl Laemmle invited del Río to participate in the all-star film The Whole Town's Talking. In her fourth film, the comedy Pals First (1926), Carewe gives del Río her first starring role.

Del Río in Ramona (1928)

In late 1926, the director Raoul Walsh called del Río to cast her in What Price Glory?, a war film which was a great success. The cast and crew were impressed with her discipline as well as beauty.[14] In the same year she was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars of 1926, along with fellow newcomers Joan Crawford, Mary Astor, Janet Gaynor, Fay Wray and others.[15]

In 1927, Carewe and his film company produced and directed Resurrection (1927), based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy. Del Río was selected as the heroine and Rod La Rocque starred as leading man.[16] In the same year, Raoul Walsh employed del Río again to film The Loves of Carmen (1927). In the same year del Río starring the film The Gateway of the Moon with Walter Pidgeon.

When actress Renée Adorée was showing symptoms of tuberculosis,[17] Dolores was selected for the lead role of the MGM film The Trail of '98, directed by Clarence Brown and filmed in 1928. The film was a huge success and brought back favorable reviews from critics. Immediately after this film she played a high society woman on the French Riviera in No Other Woman. That same year, she was hired by United Artists for the third version of the successful film Ramona. The success of the film was helped by the musical theme Ramona, written by L. Wolfe Gilbert and recorded by Dolores with RCA Victor. This was the first United Artists film with a synchronized score, but was not a talking picture.

Del Río in Evangeline (1929).

In late 1928, Hollywood was concerned with the impending arrival of sound films. On 29 March, at Mary Pickford's bungalow, 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".[18]

While del Río's career blossomed, her personal life was turbulent. She divorced shortly after the premiere of Ramona. In late 1928 del Río was in her third film with Raoul Walsh: The Red Dance. Her next project was Evangeline (1929) a new production of United Artists also directed by Carewe and inspired by the epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The film was accompanied by a theme song written by Al Jolson and Billy Rose and played by del Río. Like Ramona, the film was released with a Vitaphone disc selection of dialogue, music and sound effects.[19]

During the filming of Evangeline United Artists considered removing Dolores from the tutelage of Edwin Carewe, who had ambitions to marry her and become a famous Hollywood couple. Carewe prepared his divorce from his wife Mary Atkin. But United Artists convinced her to separate herself artistically and professionally from Carewe, who still held an exclusive contract with the actress.[20]

In New York, after the successful premiere of Evangeline, del Río declared to the reporters: Mr. Carewe and I are just friends and companions in the art of the cinema. I will not marry Mr. Carewe.[21] Furious, Carewe filed criminal charges against Dolores. Advised by United Artists lawyers, Dolores reached an agreement with Carewe out of the court. Still, Carewe started a campaign against her. He filmed a new sound version of Resurrection starring Lupe Velez. Following the economic crash of 1929, del Rio eagerly went into her first sound film The Bad One.


Del Río in Bird of Paradise (1932)

In 1928, Dolores met Cedric Gibbons, a prominent art director and production designer at MGM. In 1930, the couple started a romance, that culminated in a marriage ceremony in late 1930. In 1931, she fell seriously ill with a severe kidney infection. Adding to del Río's concerns, studios who forced actors to make 3-4 films a year did not look favorably on contract actors who didn’t work at all. When she regained her health, she was hired exclusively by RKO Pictures. Her first film with the studio was Girl of the Rio (1931).

She scored a new success with the film Bird of Paradise in 1932, directed by King Vidor. The producer of the film David O. Selznick reportedly told Vidor: "I want del Río and McCrea in a love story in the South Seas. I didn’t have much of a story for the film, but be sure that it ends with the young beauty jumping into a volcano".[22] The film was shot in Hawaii and scandalized audiences when she was shown taking a naked swim with Joel McCrea (the film was made before the censorship Hays Code was enacted).

Del Río with Fred Astaire in Flying Down to Rio (1933)

Next, del Río filmed the successful musical film 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. However, RKO eventually terminated the contract of the actress.[23] She then moved to Warner Bros. where she was usually cast in musical films. The choreographer Busby Berkeley was commissioned to emphasize her physical beauty and her grace. In Madame Du Barry (1934), she was directed by William Dieterle, who focused on her beauty with the help of an extraordinary cloakroom designed by Orry Kelly (considered one of the most beautiful and expensive at the time).[24]

Del Río in Madame Du Barry (1934)

Madame Du Barry was a major cause of dispute between the studio and the Hays office, primarily because it presented the court of Louis XV as a sex farce centered around del Rio.[22]

In In Caliente (1935), she plays a sultry Mexican dancer who has an affair with the character played by Pat O'Brien. In 1935, she refused to participate in the film Viva Villa! which she described as "anti-Mexican".[25] Fay Wray finally took her place in the film. In the same year, del Río, along with other Mexican film stars in Hollywood (like Ramón Novarro and Lupe Vélez), was accused of promoting Communism in California. This happened after the mentioned film stars attended a special screening of the Sergei Eisenstein's film ¡Que Viva México!, copies of which were claimed to have been edited by Joseph Stalin,[26] and a film which promoted nationalist sentiment with socialist overtones. Twenty years later, this would have consequences for her career. In 1936 she filmed The Widow from Monte Carlo, her last film for Warners.[27]

In 1937, with the support of Columbia Pictures, del Río filmed Devil's Playground opposite Chester Morris and Richard Dix. However, despite the popularity of the three stars, the film was a failure. In the same year, she signed a contract with 20th Century Fox to perform two films with George Sanders. In both films (Lancer Spy and International Settlement), del Río plays the role of a seductive spy. But both films were box-office failure.[28]

Cedric Gibbons used his influences with MGM, and got his wife the main female role in the film The Man from Dakota (1940). But despite his position at the studio, Gibbons could never help his wife in his place of work where the leading figures were Garbo, Norma Shearer, Crawford and Jean Harlow. Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg both admired del Río's beauty, but her career did not interest them.[29]

She was put on a list entitled "box office poison" along with Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and others. 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. Some of the stars rebounded (Crawford, Hepburn); others did not.[30]

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

Amid the decline of her career, in 1940 Dolores meets actor and filmmaker Orson Welles. The couple felt a mutual attraction and began a discreet affair, which caused the divorce of Dolores and Gibbons.

While looking for ways to resume her career, she accompanied Orson Welles in his shows across the United States, radio programs and shows at the Mercury Theatre. Nelson Rockefeller, in charge of the Good Neighbor policy (and also associated with RKO through his family investments), hired Welles to visit South America as an ambassador of good will to counter fascist propaganda about Americans. At the beginning of 1942 del Río began work on Journey into Fear with Norman Foster as director and Welles as producer. Welles left the film four days later and traveled to Rio de Janeiro on his goodwill tour. Her character in the film was drastically reduced. That same year, her father died in Mexico. She decided to return to Mexico, commenting:

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 wish to choose my own stories, my own director, and camera man. I can accomplish this better 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.[31]


Since the late 1930s, she was sought by Mexican film directors, but economic circumstances were not favorable for the entry of del Río to the Mexican cinema.[32] 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 Welles, del Río went to Mexico, disappointed by the American star system.

Mexican director Emilio "El Indio" Fernández invited her to film Flor silvestre (1943). This was del Río's first Spanish-language film. Her third film with Fernández Las Abandonadas (1944), a controversial film where del Río plays a woman who gives up her son and falls in the world of the prostitution. She won the Silver Ariel (Mexican Academy Award) as best actress for her role in the film. Bugambilia (1944) was her fourth movie directed by Fernández.

In 1945, del Río filmed La selva de fuego directed by Fernando de Fuentes. In the film she plays a sexy adventuress lost in a camp full of lonely men in the jungle of Chiapas. Her first work under Roberto Gavaldón's direction was La Otra (1946), a successful film where del Río plays a twin sisters. She also worked in Argentina in 1947 in a film version of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan named Historia de una mala mujer.[33] In the same year, Dolores was invited by the film director John Ford to film The Fugitive with Henry Fonda in Mexico. The film was based in the novel The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene.

In 1949, del Río worked again with Emilio Fernández in the film La Malquerida. The film is based on the novel of the Spanish writer Jacinto Benavente. In the same year del Río met Lewis "Lou" Riley, a theatrical American businessman and a former member of the Hollywood Canteen. The couple immediately began an affair.[34]

Del Río with María Félix in La Cucaracha (1959)

In 1950 she filmed two movies again under Gavaldón direction: La casa chica (1950) and Desired, two dramas made in the classic style of the Mexican films of the era. In 1951, Dolores starred in Doña Perfecta, based on the novel by Benito Perez Galdos. For this work she won her second Silver Ariel Award for Best Actress. In 1953 Gavaldón directed her again in the film El Niño y la Niebla (1953). Her portrayal of an overprotective mother with a mental instability attracted critical acclaim and she was honored with her third Silver Ariel Award.[35]

In 1950, del Río's cousin, activist Maria Asúnsolo, asked her to sign a document for a "conference for the world peace".[36] 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 United States, accusing her of being sympathetic to international Communism. Claims that she had "aid[ed] anti-Franco refugees from the Spanish Civil War", were interpreted as Communist leanings.[37] She was replaced by Katy Jurado in the film. She reacted by sending a letter to the U.S. government, stating: "I believe that after all this, I have nothing [for which] to reproach myself. I'm a woman who only wants to live in peace with God and with men."[35]

In 1956, she was cleared to return to the United States following an interview with Louella Parsons in which she stated: "In Mexico we are worried and fighting against communism."[38]

In 1959, Mexican film director Ismael Rodríguez brought del Río and María Félix together in La Cucaracha. That same year she married Lewis Riley in New York.[39]

Later years[edit]

In 1960 Dolores returned to Hollywood after 18 years of absence. She was hired by Fox to play the role of mother of Elvis Presley in the film Flaming Star, directed by Don Siegel.

Del Río with Elvis Presley in Flaming Star (1960)

During the rest of the decade del Rio alternated between films in Mexico and in Hollywood with television and theater. In Mexico she made only two films: El pecado de una madre (1960) and Casa de Mujeres (1967). In 1964, she acted in John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn.

Amidst the shooting of her films, Dolores participated in several theater projects in Mexico. She and her husband Lew Riley founded their own production company called Producciones Visuales. Her theater projects included Road to Rome (1959), The Ghost Sonata (1962), Dear Liar: A Comedy of Letters (1963), La Vidente (1964), La Reina y los Rebeldes (1967) and The Lady of the Camellias (1968). In 1967, Italian filmmaker Francesco Rosi invited her to be part of the movie More Than a Miracle with Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif. She played the role of Sharif's mother.

She also appeared American television series, including Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1957), The United States Steel Hour (1958), The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (1960), Spectacular Show (1963), I Spy (1965) and Branded (1966). Her last appearance on television was in a 1972 episode of Marcus Welby, M.D..[40] From the 1950s to the 1970s, she collaborated in some international film festivals like Cannes Film Festival (1957), Berlin Film Festival (1962)[41] and San Sebastián Film Festival (1976) as a juror.[42]

In 1978 the Mexican American Institute of Cultural Relations and the White House gave Dolores a diploma and a silver plaque for her work in cinema as a cultural ambassador of Mexico in the United States. During the ceremony she was remembered as a victim of McCarthyism.[43]

In 1981, del Río was honored in the San Francisco Film Critics Circle in a ceremony presided by the film directors Francis Ford Coppola, Mervyn LeRoy and George Cukor. This was her last public appearance.[44] In 1982, she was awarded the George Eastman Award,[45] given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.

Social work[edit]

In 1966, del Río was co-founder of the 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.[46] In 1972, she helped found the Cultural Festival Cervantino in Guanajuato.[47]

On January 8, 1970, she, in collaboration with other renowned Mexican actresses, founded the union group Rosa Mexican, which provided a day nursery for the children of the members of the Mexican Actor's Guild.[48] Del Río was responsible for various activities to raise funds for the project and she trained in modern teaching techniques.[49] She served as the president from its founding until 1981. After her death, the day nursery adopted the official name of Estancia Infantil Dolores del Río (The Dolores del Río Day Nursery), and today remains in existence.[50][51]

Personal life[edit]

Commemorative plaque at the house where del Río lived in Coyoacan, Mexico City. The plaque reads: Here lived from 1943 to 1983 Dolores del Río, eminent Mexican actress, national glory

In 1921, del Río married Mexican socialite Jaime Martínez del Río. Her marriage came to end in 1928, and Jaime died shortly after unexpectedly in Berlín.[52] From 1930 to 1940 she was married to MGM's art designer Cedric Gibbons. In 1940, she met and fell in love with Orson Welles and sought a divorce from Gibbons. Her relationship with Welles ended after four years largely due to his infidelities. Rebecca Welles, the daughter of Welles and Rita Hayworth, expressed her desire to travel to Mexico to meet Dolores. In 1954, Dolores received her at her home in Acapulco. After their meeting, Rebecca said: My father considered Dolores the great love of his life. She is a living legend in the history of my family. According to Rebecca, until the end of his life, Welles felt for del Río, a kind of obsession.[53]

Del Río and Orson Welles in 1941.

At different times in her life, del Río was also romantically linked to actor Errol Flynn,[54] filmmaker John Farrow,[55] writer Erich Maria Remarque, film producer Archibaldo Burns, and Mexican actor Tito Junco[56]

In 1949, del Río met the American millionaire, adventurer and theater producer Lewis A. Riley in Acapulco. Riley was known in the 1940s for being a member of the Hollywood Canteen. After ten years together, del Río and Riley were married in New York in 1959. Dolores remained attached to Riley until the end of her life.[57]

The Mexican filmmaker Emilio Fernández was one of the biggest admirers of Dolores. Fernández said that he appeared as an extra in several films of Dolores in Hollywood just to be near her. The beauty and elegance of del Río had impressed him deeply. Fernández said: I fell in love with her, but she always ignored me. I adored her... really I adored her.[58]

There are many anecdotes about her rivalry with Lupe Velez. Dolores never understood the strife that Lupe had with her. She bothered meet her and infuriates her that Vélez derided her. But the prestige of Dolores was known and respected, and Lupe could not ignore this. Lupe dressed in spectacular costumes, but never reached the supreme elegance of del Río. Velez was popular, had many friends and admirers rendered, but never attended the social circle of Hollywood, where del Río was accepted without reservation. Vélez spoke ill of del Río, but she never mentioned her name offensively. Lupe obviously resented the success of Dolores during the years when both were in Hollywood.[59]

There was media speculation about a strong rivalry between Dolores and María Félix, the other diva of the Mexican Cinema.[60] Félix said in her autobiography: "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 [was] refined, interesting, soft on the deal, and I'm more energetic, arrogant and bossy".[61] Félix said in another interview: "Dolores del Río was a great lady. She behaved like a princess. A very intelligent and very funny woman. I appreciate her very much and I have great memories of her".[62]


Grave of Dolores del Río in the Dolores Cemetery in Mexico City

In 1978, she was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, and in 1981 she was diagnosed with Hepatitis B following a contaminated injection of vitamins. In 1982, del Río was admitted to the Medical Center of La Jolla, California, where hepatitis led to cirrhosis.[63]

On April 11, 1983, Dolores del Río died from liver disease, aged 78, in Newport Beach, California. She was cremated and her ashes were interred in the Dolores Cemetery in Mexico City, Mexico. That same day she had been invited to appear at the next Academy Awards ceremony.[63]


Dolores del Río was considered one of the prototypes of female beauty in the 1930s. In 1933, the American film magazine Photoplay conducted a search for "the most perfect female figure in Hollywood", using the criteria of doctors, artists and designers as judges. The "unanimous choice" of these selective arbiters of female beauty was del Río. The question posed by the search for the magazine and the methodology used to find "the most perfect female figure" reveal a series of parameters that define femininity and feminine beauty at that particular moment in the US history.[64] Larry Carr (author of the book More Fabulous Faces) said that the Dolores del Río's appearance in the early 30's influenced everyone in Hollywood. Women imitated her style of dress and makeup. A new kind of beauty occurs, and Dolores del Rio, was the forerunner.[65] According to the filmmaker Josef von Sternberg, stars such as del Río, Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard and Rita Hayworth helped him to define his concept of the glamour in Hollywood.[66]

When del Río returned to Mexico, she radically changed her image. In Hollywood, del Río lost ground to the modernity of the faces. In Mexico, she had the enormous fortune that the filmmaker Emilio Fernandez will emphasize the Mexican indigenous features. She does not come to Mexico as the Latina bombshell from Hollywood but she transforms her makeup highlighting her indigenism features turning her into a very attractive woman. Del Río herself defined the change that her appearance suffered in her native country: I took off my furs and diamonds, satin shoes and pearl necklaces; all I swapped by the shawl and bare feet.[67]

Joan Crawford said on a visit to Mexico in 1963:

"Dolores became, and remains, as one of the most beautiful stars in the world'."[68]

Marlene Dietrich said of her:

"Dolores del Río was the most beautiful woman who ever set foot in Hollywood."[69][70][71]

George Bernard Shaw once said:

"The two most beautiful things in the world are the Taj Mahal and Dolores del Rio."[72]

Fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli said:

"I have seen many beautiful women in here, but none as complete as Dolores del Rio!."[73]

Diego Rivera said:

"The most beautiful, the most gorgeous of the west, east, north and south. I'm in love with her as 40 Mexicans and 120 million Americans that can't be wrong."[74]

Photographer Jerome Zerbe said:

"Dolores del Rio and Marlene Dietrich are the most beautiful women I've ever photographed."[75]

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.[76] When she appeared swimming naked in the movie Bird of Paradise, Orson Welles said that del Río represented the highest erotic ideal with her performance in the film.[77]

In art and literature[edit]

Salvador 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. Vicente Leñero was inspired by del Río to write his book Señora.[78]

In the 1920s, the actress was captured on the canvases of the Mexican painters Roberto Montenegro and Ángel Zárraga. In 1938, her portrait was drawn by Mexican artist Diego Rivera in New York. In 1941, she was also portrayed by Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco. Other artists who recorded her image in their paintings were Miguel Covarrubias, Rosa Rolanda, Antonieta Figueroa, Frances Gauner Goshman, Adolfo Best Maugard and John Carroll.

In her will, del Rio stipulated that all her artworks were donated to the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature of Mexico, for display in various museums in Mexico City, including the National Museum of Art, the Museum of Art Carillo Gil and the Home-Studio of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.[79]

Legacy and memorials[edit]

"Hollywood needs a high-society Mexican woman, one who may have been exposed to foreign culture and customs through travel, but who maintains the customs and the traces of the Mexican land. And then, the vulgar and picturesque stereotype, so damaging because it falsities our image, will disappear naturally. This is my goal in Hollywood: All my efforts are turned toward filling this gap in the cinema. If I achieve this it will be the height of my artistic ambition and perhaps I'll give a small glory for Mexico."[80]

—Del Río commenting about her role as a Mexican woman in Hollywood.
Dolores del Río's star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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 actress to succeed in Hollywood. The others have been Lupe Velez, Katy Jurado, and in recent years Salma Hayek.[81]

Dolores del Rio raised the potential of Latinas in Hollywood. She created the myth of the Latina in Hollywood. Seen from today's perspective, enjoyed prestige since the way the Hollywood media described her. She was never the Latin bombshell, hot tamale, sultry, spitfire or hot cha cha. Adjectives to describe her were such as sophisticated, aristocratic, elegant, glamorous, "a lady".[82] Del Río with her career, had a great impact on the trajectories of each Latinas in Hollywood, who followed her. Stars like Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Mendes and Penelope Cruz follow the steps forged by Dolores del Rio.

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1630 Vine Street in recognition of her contributions to the motion picture industry. Dolores del Río has also 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. Del Río has also a mural painted on the east side of Hudson Avenue just north of Hollywood Boulevard painted by the Mexican-American artist Alfredo de Batuc.[83] Del Río is one of the entertainers displayed in the mural "Portrait of Hollywood", designed in 2002 by the artist Eloy Torrez in the Hollywood High School.[84][85]

Del Río's memory is honored in three monuments in Mexico City. The first is a statue located in the second section of Chapultepec Park.[86] The other two are busts. One is located in the Sunken Park, in the south of the city,[87] and the other is in the nursery that bears her name. In Durango, Mexico, her hometown, one avenue is named after her.[88]

After her death, her photo archive was given to the Center for the Study of History of Mexico CARSO by Lewis Riley. She appeared in vintage footage in the Woody Allen's film Zelig (1983). Since 1983, the society Periodistas Cinematográficos de México (Mexican Film Journalists) (PECIME) has been giving the Diosa de Plata (Dolores del Río) Award for the best dramatic female performance. She was played by the actress Lucy Cohu in the TV film RKO 281 in 1999.

In 2005, on what was believed to be the centenary of her birth (she was actually born in 1904), her remains were moved to the Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres in Mexico City.[citation needed]

In 2015, the actress was selected as the image of the AFI Fest. The face of the Mexican actress was illustrated on invitations, posters and presentations at the festival. The director of this event Jacqueline Lyanga said: "Dolores del Rio had a great magnetism on the big screen in the 1930s and had a huge impact on the American cinema."



  1. ^ Sources traditionally cite 1905, however this (see 1919 travel manifest at gives her age as 15; accessed July 19, 2016.
  2. ^ Zolov, Eric (2015). Iconic Mexico: An Encyclopedia from Acapulco to Zócalo. New York: ABC-CLIO,. p. 260. ISBN 9781610690447. Retrieved March 28, 2016. 
  3. ^ Hall, Linda (2013). Dolores del Río: Beauty in Light and Shade. Stanford University Press. p. 3. ISBN 9780804786218. Film International: The First Latina to Conquere Hollywood,; accessed July 19, 2016.
  4. ^ The Face of Deco: Dolores Del Rio,, May 18, 2012.
  5. ^ Terán, Luis (1999). "Katy Jurado: A Proudly Mexican Hollywood Star". SOMOS: 84, 85. 
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  • Beltrán, Mary (2009). Latina/o stars in U.S. eyes: the making and meanings of film and TV stardom. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252076510. 
  • Carr, Larry (1979). More Fabulous Faces: The Evolution and Metamorphosis of Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Dolores del Río, Carole Lombard and Myrna Loy. Doubleday and Company. ISBN 0-385-12819-3. 
  • Félix, María (1993). Todas mis Guerras. Clío. ISBN 9686932089. 
  • Franco Dunn, Cinta (2003). Grandes Mexicanos Ilustres: Dolores del Río (Great Illustrious Mexicans: Dolores del Río). Promo Libro. ISBN 84-492-0329-5. 
  • Hall, Linda (2013). Dolores del Río: Beauty in Light and Shade. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804786218. 
  • Hershfield, Joanne (2000). The invention of Dolores del Río. University of Minnesota. ISBN 0-8166-3410-6. 
  • McNulty, Thomas (2004). Errol Flynn: The Life and Career. McFarland. ISBN 9780786417506. 
  • Moreno, Luis (2002). Rostros e Imagenes (Faces and Images). Editorial Celuloide. ISBN 9789709338904. 
  • Noble, Andrea (2005). Mexican National Cinema. Psychology Press. ISBN 9780415230100. 
  • Price, Victoria (2014). Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography. Open Road Media. ISBN 9781497649408. 
  • Ramón, David (1997). Dolores del Río. Editorial Clío. ISBN 968-6932-35-6. 
  • Revista Somos: Dolores del Río: El Rostro del Cine Mexicano (Dolores del Río: The Face of the Mexican Cinema). Editorial Televisa S.A de C.V. 1995. 
  • Revista Somos: Dolores del Río: La Mexicana Divina (Dolores del Río: The Divine Mexican). Editorial Televisa S.A de C.V. 2002. 
  • Revista Somos: Katy Jurado: Estrella de Hollywood orgullosamente mexicana (Katy Jurado: Proudly Mexican Hollywood Star). Editorial Televisa S.A de C.V. 1999. 
  • Reyes, Luis, Rubie, Peter (1994). Hispanics in Hollywood: An Encyclopedia of Film and Television. Garland. ISBN 0815308272. 
  • Riva, Maria (1994). Marlene Dietrich. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-38645-0. 
  • Torres, Jose Alejandro (2004). Los Grandes Mexicanos: Dolores del Río (The Greatest Mexicans: Dolores del Río). Grupo Editorial Tomo, S.A. de C.V. ISBN 970-666-997-3. 
  • Tuñón, Julia (2003). The Cinema of Latin America. Wallflower Press. ISBN 9780231501941. 
  • Zolov, Eric (2015). Iconic Mexico: An Encyclopedia from Acapulco to Zócalo. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781610690447. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Agrasánchez Jr., Rogelio (2001). Bellezas del cine mexicano/Beauties of Mexican Cinema. Archivo Fílmico Agrasánchez. ISBN 968-5077-11-8. 
  • Bodeen, DeWitt (1976). From Hollywood: The Careers of 15 Great American Stars. Oak Tree. ISBN 0498013464. 
  • E. Fey, Ingrid., Racine, Karen (2000). Strange Pilgrimages: Exile, Travel, and National Identity in Latin America, 1800-1990s: "So Far from God, So Close to Hollywood: Dolores del Río and Lupe Vélez in Hollywood, 1925-1944,". Wilmington, Delaware, Scholarly Resources. ISBN 0-8420-2694-0. 
  • Lacob, Adrian (2014). Film Actresses Vol.23 Dolores del Rio, Part 1. On Demand Publishing, LLC-Create Space. ISBN 9781502987686. 
  • Lopez, Ana M. (1998). "From Hollywood and Back: Dolores del Rio, a Trans (national) Star." Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 17. ISSN 0730-9139.
  • Mendible, Myra (2010). From Bananas to Buttocks: The Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-77849-X. 
  • Nericcio, William (2007). Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the "Mexican" in America. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-71457-2. 
  • Parish, James Robert (2002). Hollywood divas: the good, the bad, and the fabulous. Contemporary Books. ISBN 9780071408196. 
  • Parish, James Robert (2008). The Hollywood beauties. Arlington House. ISBN 9780870004124. 
  • Ramón, David (1993). Dolores del Río: Historia de un rostro (Dolores del Río: Story of a Face). Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, CCH Dirección Plantel Sur. ISBN 9789686717099. 
  • Rivera Viruet, Rafael J.; Resto, Max (2008). Hollywood: Se Habla Español. Terramax Entertainment. ISBN 0-981-66500-4. 
  • Rodriguez, Clara E. (2004). Heroes, Lovers, and Others: The Story of Latinos in Hollywood. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-195-33513-9. 
  • Ruíz, Vicki; Sánchez Korrol, Virginia (2006). Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1. 1. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34681-9. 
  • Shipman, David (1995). The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years. Little Brown and Co. ISBN 0-316-78487-7. 
  • Taibo, Paco Ignacio (1999). Dolores del Río: mujer en el volcán (Dolores del Río: Woman in the Volcano). GeoPlaneta, Editorial, S. A. ISBN 9789684068643. 

External links[edit]