Dolores del Río
|Dolores del Río|
Dolores del Río in a publicity picture (1930s)
|Born||María de los Dolores Asúnsolo López-Negrete
August 3, 1905
|Died||April 11, 1983
Newport Beach, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Liver disease|
|Occupation||Actress and singer|
|Spouse(s)||Jaime Martinez del Río (1921-1928)
Cedric Gibbons (1930-1941)
Lewis Riley (1959-1983)
|Partner(s)||Orson Welles (1938–1941)|
Dolores del Río (Spanish pronunciation: [doˈloɾes del ˈrio]; born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo López-Negrete (August 3, 1905 – April 11, 1983), was a Mexican actress of cinema, theater and television. She was a Hollywood star 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 the first Latin American female star to be recognized internationally.
During the 1920s in Hollywood, Dolores was considered one of the most beautiful women of her time, a female version of Rudolph Valentino, the Latin Lover of the Silent Cinema. Her career flourished until the end of the silent era, with successful films like Resurrection (1927) and Ramona (1928). She was one of the few Hollywood superstars of the silent era to adapt to the talkies. In the 1930s, she was noted for her participation in numerous films of the Pre-Code era like Bird of Paradise (1932), Flying Down to Rio (1933) and Madame Du Barry (1934). When her Hollywood career began to decline, del Río returned to her native country and joined the Mexican film industry, which at that time was at its peak.
When del Río returned to Mexico in the early 1940s, she became one of the most important female stars of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. A series of films including Flor silvestre (1943), María Candelaria (1943), Las Abandonadas (1944), Bugambilia (1944) and La Malquerida (1949), are considered classic masterpieces of the Mexican cinema. Del Río remained a force 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.
María de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López Negrete was born in Durango, Mexico on August 3, 1905, into a wealthy family. Her parents were Jesus Leonardo Asúnsolo Jacques, son of wealthy farmers and director of the Bank of Durango, and Antonia Lopez-Negrete, descendant of an ancient family of high lineage. Her parents are members of the old 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, Dolores was a cousin of the Mexican filmmaker Julio Bracho and the Mexican actors Ramón Novarro (one of the Latin Lovers of the Silent Cinema) and Andrea Palma (another superstar 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. Her family lost all its assets during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921). The wealthy families of Durango suffered persecution of the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. 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. Dolores's father had to take refuge for three years in the United States.
She studied at the Collège Français de Saint-Joseph, a prestigious religious school run by French nuns located in Mexico City. Since her childhood, she had a passion for dancing, admiring the great Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Dolores was deeply impressed when she met the Argentine dancer Antonia Mercé La Argentina, famous for her interpretive dances which Dolores began to imitate.
In 1921, a group of Mexican aristocratic ladies decided to organize a dancing party in benefit of a local hospital. They chose Dolores to perform “Spanish” dances. The organizer of the benevolent group was the Mexican aristocrat Jaime Martínez del Río y Viñent, belonging to one of the most distinguished and respected families of Mexican society who had been educated in Europe. Martínez del Río was captivated by Dolores and she was captivated by his interest in her and by his conversation about art and artists.
The couple began a discreet romance. When he asked for her hand in marriage, her parents accepted. After a two-month courtship, Dolores married Jaime on 11 April 1921. He was 34. She was 16. 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. Among their friends were The Duke of Alba, Luis Fernández, The Duke of Medinaceli, Carlos de Beistegui and even The King of Spain Alfonso XIII and the Queen Victoria Eugenie.
In 1924, the couple returned to Mexico. They decided to live on Jaime’s country estate, where cotton was the main crop. 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. The couple then settled in Mexico City, where they continued their lavish lifestyle with the help of their families.
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. Carewe was impressed by Dolores and later arranged a meeting with her and her husband through the Mexican poet Salvador Novo and the artist Adolfo Best Maugard. Carewe fell under her spell watching her dance a tango at the 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.
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"). To keep her husband out of the way, Carewe sent Jaime off to “study the various aspects of filmmaking.” Carewe arranged for wide publicity for her with the intention of transforming her into a star of the order of Rudolph Valentino, a "Female Latin Lover". A newspaper article dedicated to the rising star circulated in all the major film magazines in Hollywood:
Dolores Del Rio, the heiress and First Lady of Mexican high society, recently arrived to Hollywood with a cargo of shawls and combs valued at 50'000 dollars (some say that she's the richest girl of her country thanks to the fortune of her husband and her parents). She will make her film debut in Joanna, directed by her discoverer Edwin Carewe.
Del Río made her film debut in Joanna directed by Carewe in 1925 and released that year. However, in the film she appeared for only five minutes. Carewe reassured her that the little that she appeared in the film looked extremely good. Despite her brief appearance, the public became interested in the rising star.
In her second film, High Steppers, del Río took the second female credit. In her fourth film, the comedy Pals First (1926), del Río received her first starring role. The films were not a blockbusters, but helped to increase del Río's popularity.
Despite being an exclusive artist of Carewe, he allowed her to work with other directors. 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. Immediately 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. She was picked the winner by the U.S. public. A year later, trying to determine which of its previous roster of thirteen had in fact been most successful, WAMPAS had another contest open to voters from all nations. Dolores solicited the help of her compatriots via ads in The Los Angeles Times and El Universal in Mexico City and she received hundreds of thousands of votes, winning the contest by more than two hundred thousand.
In 1927, Carewe produced and directed Resurrection (1927), based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy, which was a box office hit. Del Río was selected as the heroine and Rod La Rocque starred as leading man. In the same year, Raoul Walsh called del Río once again to film a second version of Carmen, The Loves of Carmen (1927). Walsh thought that del Río was the best performer of all the "Hollywood Carmens" for her authentic Hispanic origin. She worked again with Walsh in 1928 in the film The Red Dance.
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 and written by Robert W. Service. She was hired by United Artists for the successful 1928 film Ramona. The success of the film was helped by the musical theme same name song, 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.
Hollywood was concerned with the impending arrival of the talkies. 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, proving to be prepared to face the challenge.
Unfortunately, while Dolores's career blossomed, her personal life was turbulent. Jaime, her husband, could not endure the pressure of living in the shadow of his wife. The couple ended up divorcing shortly after the premiere of Ramona. As if this were not enough, Dolores suffered incessant harassment by her discoverer Edwin Carewe, who never ceased in his attempts to conquer her. During the filming of Evangeline (1929), United Artists considered removing her from the tutelage of 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.
In New York, del Rio 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. 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 smear campaign against her. He even filmed a new sound version of Resurrection starring Lupe Velez, another popular Mexican actress at the time and del Río's rival.
Following the economic crash of 1929, del Rio eagerly went into her next film and first talkie, The Bad One. The critics and producers were impressed with her voice, which sounded much clearer and had less accent than Greta Garbo, She survived the technical revolution and had another decade of work in Hollywood.
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. In 1930 she reunited with Gibbons in a party at the Hearst Castle. The couple started a romance, that culminated in a marriage ceremony at the Old Mission Santa Barbara Church in late 1930. The marriage of del Río to one of the most important social hubs of the Hollywood of this time, contributed to her consolidation as a superstar. She made the transition from "an exotic star across the border" to one of the great Hollywood princesses. In 1931 del Río fell seriously ill with a severe kidney infection. Doctors feared for her life and instructed her to rest for an extended time. But the film studios forced actors to make three or four films in a year. Therefore, she ended her contract with United Artists. When she regained her health, she was hired exclusively by RKO Pictures.
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 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 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.
Next del Río filmed the successful 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.
Failing to anticipate the movie's success, RKO, in the midst of a financial crisis, terminated del Río’s contract. Dolores then moved to Warner Bros. The studio seduced her with a juicy contract and an alleged plan to turn her into "their response to Greta Garbo of the Metro and Marlene Dietrich of the Paramount Pictures". However, this project was not consolidated. At Warner Bros she was typecast in musical films. The choreographer Busby Berkeley was commissioned to show off with his famous choreographies in films like Wonder Bar (1934), Madame Du Barry (1934) and In Caliente (1935). Unfortunately these films were badly mutilated by the censorship of the Hays Code. 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.
"Box office poison"
In 1935, 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. Del Río was originally announced as the female co star of the film Don't Bet on Blondes, but she was eventually replaced by Claire Dodd. In the same year, del Río was originally considered by Cecil B. DeMille for the role of Delilah in the film Samson and Delilah. But the film was cancelled at that time (the movie was eventually filmed in 1949 with Hedy Lamarr in the principal female role).
In 1936 del Río filmed Accused in England with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.. She also worked on Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox films 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. With the support of 20th Century Fox, she made a pair of unsuccessful spy films with George Sanders in 1938.
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. The "strong men" of the company, Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, felt that Latina women had no place in their stories. Both admired del Río's beauty, but her career did not interest them.
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 the traditional glamour, while it did not go away, lost some of its appeal. 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.
In the middle of the decline that she experienced in her career, in 1939 Dolores met the actor and director Orson Welles. Feeling a mutual attraction, the couple begins a torrid affair, which caused Dolores to divorce her second husband; For her relationship with Welles, Dolores leaves her acting career. She was at his side during the shooting and controversy of his masterpiece: Citizen Kane. The film, eventually considered among the finest ever made, was a box office disaster, thanks to William Randolph Hearst papers' negative reviews. Hearst was openly parodied in the film, and had threatened to reveal all the peccadillos of major studio bosses if the film was released. Del Río was safe from media scandal, probably thanks to her friendship with the actress Marion Davies, Hearst's mistress.
Adding to the decline of her career, del Río suffered a emotional event: Edwin Carewe, her discoverer, commited suicide in 1940. Welles had planned to resurrect Dolores' career with various projects. One of them was the film Santa, which marked the debut of Dolores in the Mexican Cinema. Unfortunately, the high salary demanded by Dolores sank the project. Welles also planned a Mexican drama with del Río, which he gave to RKO to be budgeted (a movie version of The Way to Santiago by Calder Marshall). 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 mission 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. While looking for ways to resume her career, Dolores also accompanied 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 Orson Welles to visit 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 and Welles as producer. But due to his deal with Rockefeller, Welles left the film four days later and travelled to Rio de Janeiro on his goodwill tour. 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. In a final telegram, she announced the end of their romance but he never responded. In addition, the Hearst smear campaign against Welles came into effect and the director had brushes with RKO. Del Río's character in the film was drastically reduced. In the same year, Dolores' father died in Mexico.
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. She said about her return to Mexico:
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...
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 star in 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 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 Orson Welles, del Río decided to try her luck in Mexico, disappointed by the "American star system".
Mexican director Emilio Fernández, her eternal admirer, invited her to film Flor silvestre (1942). This was del Río's first Spanish-language film. The production group Del Río-Fernández, together with the cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa and the actor Pedro Armendáriz had international fame. Their most successful film was María Candelaria. The movie was written for Dolores by Emilio as a present for her birthday. The film was a great success in Europe and allowed del Río to keep her international prestige.
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. But her high sense of professionalism convinced her to return, but her relationship with the director had become distant. In addition to needing her as an actress, Fernández began to fall in love with her.
Other celebrated movies made by the team were Las Abandonadas, Bugambilia (1944) and La Malquerida (1949). Dolores del Rio became into the leading female figure in the Mexican film industry. She became a sort of a national symbol, after being, for many years, a Mexican symbol abroad. She won the Silver Ariel (Mexican Academy Award) as best actress for her role in Las abandonadas.
The Mexican filmmaker Roberto Gavaldón inherited the privilege of creating stories for flaunting del Rio's talent. Under the Gavaldón direction, Dolores filmed the movies La Otra (1946), La casa chica (1950), Deseada (1950) and El Niño y la Niebla, (1953). Dolores also worked in Argentina in 1947, in a film version of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan named Historia de una mala mujer. In the same year, Dolores was invited by the film director John Ford to film The Fugitive 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 del Río was the ideal actress for the role instead of Bette Davis, who starred in the film Juarez (1939).
In 1951, Dolores starred in Doña Perfecta, in which she was acclaimed for her great dramatic representation. The same year, she return to the United States and moved to the growing television industry. Her first appearance was in a live play called Trio By The Lamplight issued by CBS. She won the Silver Ariel twice more in 1951 and 1953. In 1959, the Mexican film director Ismael Rodríguez brought Dolores del Río and the Mexican film star María Félix together in one film: La Cucaracha. The newspapers speculated a strong rivalry between the two actresses, both considered the biggest female stars of the Mexican Cinema.
In 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 that ended in marriage in 1959 in New York.
In 1934, del Río, along with other Mexican film stars of 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, and a film which promoted nationalist sentiment with socialist overtones. In the same year, her refusal to shoot the film Viva Villa!, which she claimed was an "anti-Mexican" film, turned on the red lights of the anti-communists in the film industry. In Hollywood she was associated with alleged communist figures such as the Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles. Twenty years later, this would have consequences for her career.
In 1954, del Río was slated to appear in the 20th Century Fox film Broken Lance. The US government denied her permission to work in the United States, accusing her of being sympathetic to international communism. Claims of del Rio's having "aid[ed] anti-Franco refugees from the Spanish Civil War,” were interpreted as communist leanings. She was replaced by Katy Jurado in the film and thus del Río became one of the victims of McCarthyism. Del Rio reacted by sending a letter to the US government stating: "I believe that after all this, I have nothing [for which] to reproach myself. I am a Catholic woman who only wants to live in peace with God and with men." In an interview with Louella Parsons she revealed that, "We are worried and fighting against the communism." In 1956, she was cleared to return to the United States to perform in the theatrical production of Anastacia.
With the decline of the Mexican cinema during the fifties and sixties, Dolores del Río opted for work in theatre. Del Rio decided to work with the acting coach Stella Adler, one of the leading figures of the Actors Studio. Dolores debuted on Broadway with the classic stage play Anastasia in 1956. Del Río's debut on the Mexican stages was in Lady Windermere's Fan in 1958.
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. 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 Hollywood. As you will be my mother in the film, I want to ask permission for my ophthalmologist make a contact lenses that mimic the color of your eyes". Del Río immediately felt maternal affection for the young Presley.
Del Rio alternated between films in Mexico and in the US with television and theater. In Mexico she made only two films in the 1960s: El pecado de una madre (1960) and Casa de Mujeres (1967). In 1964, she appeared in the film Cheyenne Autumn directed by John Ford, with a cast that included Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, James Stewart, Gilbert Roland, Ricardo Montalbán and Sal Mineo. The death of her mother in 1961 forced her to cancel the Spanish movie Muerte en el otoño, directed by Juan Antonio Bardem. But in 1966, she returned to Spain and filmed the movie La dama del alba. 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 1967, she finally filmed in Italy, with Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif in the film More Than a Miracle. She played the role of Sharif's mother.
Amidst the shooting of her films, Dolores participated in theater projects as 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). The actress surprised the critics who accused her of taking advantage of her movie star status to attract box office to the theater. Her scenic performance was finally praised.
She also participated in some American TV series as 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..
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.
In 1981, del Río was honored in the San Francisco Film Critics Circle in a ceremony presided by the film directors Francis Ford Coppola and George Cukor. She chatted in a private event organized by Coppola and his family in her honor. This was her last public appearance. In 1982, Del Rio was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.
Because of her broad culture, Dolores del Rio was always in favor of cultural causes in her native Mexico. In 1966, she 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. In 1972, she helped found the Cultural Festival Cervantino in Guanajuato.
During the 1970s, Dolores del Río founded and directed the union group "Rosa Mexicano" ("Mexican Rose"), one of the most momentous groups in the history of the National Association of Actors of Mexico (ANDA). The purpose of this group is to protect the children and female artists. On January 8, 1970, Dolores, in collaboration with other renowned Mexican actresses, founded this faction, which has as one of its greatest achievements the creation of a day nursery for the children of the members of the Mexican Actor's Guild.
The story of the founding of this place goes back to a desire of the Mexican actress Fanny Schiller, who observed the need of the actresses to work while educating their children, and conceived of creating a day nursery located in front at the offices of the ANDA. Once "Rosa Mexicano" was created, Dolores del Río and other actresses felt the need to continue the ideas of Fanny Schiller. The day nursery was opened in 1971. Dolores served as the president from its founding, until 1981. After the death of Dolores, the day nursery adopted the official name of Estancia Infantil Dolores del Río" ("Dolores del Río's Day Nursery"), and even today remains in office.
In 1921, del Río married Mexican socialite Jaime Martínez del Río, belonging to one of the most distinguished families in Mexico and several years older than her. Dolores fell pregnant in 1924, but suffered a miscarriage that led her not to try to get pregnant at risk of losing her life. Her marriage came to end in 1928 when del Río had achieved success in film. Her husband, unhappy with living in his wife’s shadow, left for New York where he planned to collaborate on a stage play. 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. Months later, 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 rumors were that it was suicide by poison.
From 1930 to 1940 Dolores was married to the Art Designer at MGM, Cedric Gibbons, one of the most influential men in the Hollywood industry. The Gibbons-Del Rio couple came to be considered one of the social hubs of Hollywood in the early 1930's. They organized Sunday lunches at his home, a spectacular Art Deco mansion considered one of the most glamorous and modern among the Hollywood stars. The mansion was designed by Rudolf Schindler. Among their frequent guests were Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn, Fay Wray, Constance Bennett and Marlene Dietrich. In the late thirties, Gibbons's professional commitments caused a rift between the couple. In 1938 Dolores met and fell in love with Orson Welles. She sought a divorce from Gibbons in 1940.
Dolores attended a party given by Jack L. Warner, where she met Orson Welles and fell completely under his spell. Ten years younger than del Río, Welles had been in love with her ever since seeing Bird of Paradise when he was 17 years old. At first, their relationship was very discreet and they did not appear alone in public. They were accompanied by Charles Chaplin or Marlene Dietrich, who were friends of both. Dolores moved out of Gibbons house and asked for a divorce in March 1940. Her relationship of four years with Welles came to an end in 1943 because of, among other things, the infidelities of Welles. Del Río returned to México in 1943, and Welles married Rita Hayworth (who was already called in Hollywood "the new Dolores del Rio") shortly after. Welles was reunited with Dolores during a visit to Mexico in 1946, where he told her that his marriage to Hayworth was totally unhappy. However, Dolores only offered her support and a sincere friendship.
In 1954 Rebecca Welles, the daughter of Welles and Hayworth, traveled to Mexico with the intention of meeting Dolores. Dolores received her kindly at her home in Acapulco, where the young girl celebrated her 18th birthday. Rebecca said shortly after their meeting: "My father considered this woman as the great love of his life. She was a sort of living legend in the history of my family". According to Rebecca, her father had an obsession for Dolores until the end of his life. He took Dolores look-alikes as his third wife and as his final lover. Years later Rita Hayworth and Dolores were reunited at an event and Hayworth publicly thanked the great details that del Río had with her daughter.
At different times in her life, del Río was also romantically linked to figures like the film director John Farrow, the actor Errol Flynn, the German writer Erich Maria Remarque, the Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa, the Mexican film producer Archibaldo Burns and the Mexican actors Tito Junco and Fernando Casanova.
The Mexican film director Emilio Fernández, was one of Dolores' greatest admirers. He claimed that he appeared as an extra in several films with Dolores in Hollywood. The beauty and poise of the actress had deeply impressed him. Fernández said: She looked at me, but without seeing me. Eventually she would ask me to direct her in her first film in Mexico. I fell in love with her, but she always ignored me. I adored her, really and seriously adored her. Fernandez pursued Dolores with lavish gifts. For months, he would surprise her daily with a small token of affection. When he could not afford jewelry, he sent crystal glasses with fireflies trapped inside. There were some rumors as to a romance between them, although none were verified.
In 1949, Dolores met the American millionaire, adventurer and theater producer Lewis A. Riley in Acapulco. Riley was known in Hollywood cinema in the forties for being a member of the Hollywood Canteen, an organization created by movie stars to support victims of World War II. At that time Riley was having a torrid affair with Bette Davis, who served as the image of the organization. Riley settled with his brother in Acapulco. After ten years together, Dolores and Riley were married in New York in 1959. Dolores remained attached to Riley until the end of her life.
The house of Dolores in México City, called "La Escondida" (localized in the popular neighborhood of Coyoacán), like her home in the port of Acapulco, were very popular with Mexican and foreign celebrities, such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, María Félix, Merle Oberon, John Wayne, Nancy Oakes, Luciana Pignatelli, Helen Hayes, Edgar Neville, Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan, Nelson Rockefeller, the Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, Princess Soraya of Iran, and many more.
Many anecdotes exist about her rivalry with Lupe Vélez, another successful Mexican star in 1930s Hollywood. Del Rio never understood the struggle that Velez had with her, but avoided meeting her. She hated being imitated and ridiculed by the so-called Mexican Spitfire. One source of the rivalry was the well-respected public image of del Río; Vélez could not ignore this. Velez wore spectacular costumes, but never reached the supreme elegance of del Rio. Velez was popular and had many friends and admirers, but was never accepted by the Hollywood social circle where del Rio was accepted without reservation. Velez spoke ill of del Rio, but she was never publicly offensive. Obviously Vélez resented the success of del Rio during the years that both were in Hollywood.
The newspapers also speculated about a strong rivalry between Dolores and María Félix, the other diva of the Mexican Cinema. About this "rivalry" María 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 refined, interesting, soft on the deal, and I'm more energetic, arrogant and bossy". María also said in another interview: "Dolores del Río was a Great Lady. A very intelligent and very funny woman. I want her so much and keep a beautiful memory of she".
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 Jolla, California, where hepatitis led to cirrhosis.
On April 11, 1983, Dolores del Río died from 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.
The qualities of Dolores del Río have led to her ongoing veneration, even beyond death. From a young age, Dolores del Río was surrounded by personalities of the intellectual milieu. The myth of Hollywood placed her in another area, as became one of the women involved in the rebirth of the Mexican culture and customs. She met the famous group of Mexican writers and playwrights known as "Los Contemporáneos" (The Contemporaries): Jaime Torres Bodet, Xavier Villaurrutia, Celestino Gorostiza and Salvador Novo. 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. Other authors who wrote poems for here were Carlos Pellicer and Pita Amor. Carlos Monsivais and Jorge Ayala Blanco made her a tribute book to mark the Latin American Film Festival of Huelva in 1983. Vicente Leñero was inspired by del Río to write his book Señora. In 1982, Dolores and María Félix were parodied in the Carlos Fuentes's script Orquídeas a la luz de la luna. Comedia Mexicana that was presented in Spain and at Harvard University.
The face of Dolores del Rio was also the object of veneration for many artists that used her image on their canvases. These include Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Angel Zarraga, Roberto Montenegro, Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Miguel Covarrubias, Rosa Covarrubias, Antonieta Figueroa, Frances Gauner Goshman, Adolfo Best Maugard, John Carroll and Francisco Zúñiga.
Dolores del Rio was considered one of the prototypes of the classic woman style of the 1930s. According to the author Larry Carr (author of the book More Fabulous Faces), Dolores del Río's appearance at the beginning of the '30s influenced women worldwide, but especially in Hollywood. The women imitated her style of dress and make-up. She was the precursor of a new type of beauty. According to Carr "Del Río always dressed like a star", and women all over the world also were copying her style of dress. She also attended parties where fan writers and the press found her "as dazzling in appearance as she was gracious in manner". According to the filmmaker Josef von Sternberg, stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Rita Hayworth and Dolores del Rio, they helped to define his concept of the glamour in Hollywood.
Joan Crawford said on a visit to Mexico in 1963:
Dolores became, and remains, one of the most beautiful stars in the world.
Marlene Dietrich said:
George Bernard Shaw once said:
She was one of the reigning beauties of the twentieth century.
The fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli once said:
I have seen many beautiful women in here, but none as complete as Dolores del Rio!.
The Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes defined her face as "the most perfect facial bones of the Indo-Mediterranean miscegenation". 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. The Spanish poet Rafael Porlán Merlo said in a poem dedicated to Garbo in 1929: Greta Garbo is the depressing skull and Dolores del Rio is the stimulating skull. On one occasion, during a meeting at the home of Dolores, Garbo came to her and gently placing her little finger on the belly of del Rio, she exclaimed That magnificent navel!
Some rumors said that her diet consisted of orchid petals and that she slept 16 hours a day. However, del Rio scoffed at these claims saying: No one can live only eating flower petals. Also, I'm a woman with many occupations, how could I sleep so long, if the day only has 24 hours?
Legacy and memorials
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.
The same del Río expressed her feeling about her role as Mexican in Hollywood shortly after her arrival in the United States:
Hollywood needs a high-society Mexican woman, one who may have been exposed to foreign culture and customs through travel, but who maintains our customs and the traces of our Mexican land. And then the vulgar picturesque type, 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 a small glory for Mexico.
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. Current stars Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Mendes, and Penélope Cruz follow in the footsteps of the trailblazing 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 (multi-ethnic), Dorothy Dandridge (African-American) and Anna May Wong (Asian-American). 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. 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.
In Durango, Mexico, her hometown, one of the most important avenues is named after her.
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.
In 2005, on the centenary of her birth, her remains were moved to the Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres in Mexico City.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dolores del Rio.|
- Dolores del Río at the Internet Movie Database
- Dolores del Río at AllMovie
- Dolores del Río at the TCM Movie Database
- Dolores del Río at the Cinema of Mexico site of the ITESM (Spanish)
- The Dolores del Rio mural 1990 by artist Alfredo de Batuc, 6529 Hollywood Boulevard + Hudson St, Los Angeles, California
- Dolores Del Rio statue on Hollywood-La Brea Boulevard
- Photographs of Dolores Del Rio