Paula Marie Osterman|
November 11, 1908
August 10, 1987 (aged 78)|
Los Angeles, California
Stephen Ames (1935 - 1955) |
Jon Hall (1959 - ?) (divorced)
Jon Hall (? - ?) (remarried)
Torres was born either 'Paula Marie Osterman' or 'Wilhelmina von Osterman' (there are two obituaries, with differing names) in Hermosillo to a German emigrant father and a Mexican mother. Her mother died while Raquel was very young and the family moved to the United States, where she spent most of her time. Her name change, including adoption of her mother's maiden surname, was done to capitalize on, and conform to, early Hollywood's idea of 'Latin-ness'.
She played a Polynesian beauty in White Shadows in the South Seas (1928), a silent film shot in Tahiti which was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's first feature fully synchronized with music and effects. The next year Raquel was third-billed behind Lili Damita and Ernest Torrence in The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929), the first film version of the classic Thornton Wilder novel, which was a part-talkie. This Oscar winner (for Art Direction) was an early disaster movie that bonded a group of strangers who see their lives flash before their eyes while trapped on a collapsing bridge. Raquel's other 1929 film was The Desert Rider (1929), a standard western in which she provided spicy diversion opposite cowboy star Tim McCoy.
Torres continued the tropical island pace with The Sea Bat (1930) and Aloha (1931) playing various island girls and biracial beauty types. In her last year of filming, she played a sexy foil to the raucous comedy teams of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey in So This Is Africa (1933) and the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup (1933). It was Raquel to whom Groucho delivered his classic line: "I could dance with you until the cows came home. On second thought, I'd rather dance with the cows until you came home."
Raquel abruptly retired following her marriage to businessman Stephen Ames in 1935, who once was married to actress Adrienne Ames. Her husband later produced postwar "B" films but Raquel never returned to the film industry even with her husband's "in" connection.
Romance and marriages
In 1934 Torres met the New York stockbroker Stephen Ames at a Hollywood party. At the time Ames was still married to film actress Adrienne Ames and Torres was escorted to the party by film agent Charles K. Feldman. Torres was suffering from a cold and found a quiet corner for solitude. Ames came over and asked her "Why so quiet?" She told him about "the terrible cold in my head". Ames described some of his favorite remedies and the actress appreciated how considerate Ames was.
A year later they met again in New York. Ames was by now divorced and Torres had not gone through with an anticipated wedding. They met a number of times in New York and Hollywood before Stephen asked her to marry him at the Colony Club while they were dancing. After deliberating for the night Torres decided to marry him when he called her the following day.
Ames presented her with a gift, a Rolls-Royce, and two weeks later they were married. Following their wedding, they spent several months in New York and Florida prior to purchasing an option on two and a half acres of land in the exclusive Los Angeles enclave of Bel Air where they wanted to build a home, Ames died in 1955. In 1959, Torres married actor Jon Hall, a hero of 1930s and 1940s South Sea epics. They divorced several years later.
In October 1985 there was a fire in Malibu, California which damaged homes in the Las Flores Canyon area. Embers carried by wind across the wide Pacific Coast Highway ignited the roof of Raquel Torres' home. Her single story home was located at 22350 Pacific Coast Highway. The dwelling was 80% destroyed but the actress escaped unharmed, escorted by firefighters to safety.
Raquel Torres died from a heart attack on August 10, 1987 in Los Angeles, California. She was 78 years old.
- White Shadows in the South Seas (1928)
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929)
- The Desert Rider (1929)
- The Sea Bat (1930)
- Estrellados (1930)
- Aloha (1931)
- So This Is Africa (1933)
- The Woman I Stole (1933)
- Duck Soup (1933)
- Red Wagon (1933)
- Go West, Young Man (1936)
- Nielson Himmel, "Raquel Torres, Early Talkies Star, Dies at 78", Los Angeles Times, August 11, 1987, Page 19.
- Rodriguez, Clara E. (2004). Heroes, Lovers, and Others: The Story of Latinos in Hollywood. Oxford University Press. pp. 15–17. ISBN 9780195335132. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
- Raquel: Biography in IMdB*
- Lima, Ohio News, "The Sea Bat is Ohio Feature", Monday, July 14, 1930, Page 9.
- Los Angeles Times, "Miss Torres and Spouse Plan Stay", February 19, 1935, Page A2.
- Los Angeles Times, by Joan Harvey "Hollywood Beauty Gossip", March 27, 1935, Page A6.
- Los Angeles Times, by Jerry Belcher, "Actor Jon Hall Commits Suicide", December 13, 1979, Page A1.
- Los Angeles Times, by Jack Jones, "Malibu Fire Is History as Crews Win the Edge", October 17, 1985, Page OC1.
- Los Angeles Times, by Nielson Himmel, "Raquel Torres, Early Talkies Star, Dies at 78", August 11, 1987, Page 19.
- New York Times, "Raquel Torres", August 13, 1987, Page B8.
- Oakland, California Tribune, "Screen and Radio Weekly", June 16, 1935, Page 84.
- Syracuse, New York Herald-Journal, "Star in early movies, Raquel Torres dies at 78", Wednesday, August 12, 1987, Section B Page 8C.
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