Rita Moreno


Actor
Rita Moreno

About

Also Known As
Rosa Delores Alverio, Rosita Moreno
Birth Place
Puerto Rico
Born
December 11, 1931

Biography

A much-loved star of the stage and screen, Rita Moreno achieved a rare feat in the entertainment industry by winning an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, and a Grammy Award throughout her illustrious career. From her early years in theater to the height of her film stardom, Moreno proved she was a force to be reckoned with, delivering scene-stealing performances in timeless classics such as "Singi...

Family & Companions

Marlon Brando
Companion
Singer. Abandoned her career when she married.
Marlon Brando
Companion
Actor. Had highly publicized multi-year on-again, off-again relationship from the 1950s to 1961.
Elvis Presley
Companion
Lutheran minister. Died when Sommer was 11.
Elvis Presley
Companion
Singer, actor. Dated.

Notes

Although the name Rosita Moreno appears in the credits for the films "The Scoundrel" (1935) and "A Medal For Benny" (1945) and some sources attribute these films to her, it is not Rita Moreno but another actress, Rosita Moreno, who appeared in Hollywood films from the 1930s on. Rita Moreno made her film debut in 1950 in "So Young, So Bad" (1950) as Rosita Moreno. She changed her name to Rita Moreno for her second film, "Toast of New Orleans" (1950).

Moreno was one of 32 private citizens named by President Bill Clinton to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities

Biography

A much-loved star of the stage and screen, Rita Moreno achieved a rare feat in the entertainment industry by winning an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, and a Grammy Award throughout her illustrious career. From her early years in theater to the height of her film stardom, Moreno proved she was a force to be reckoned with, delivering scene-stealing performances in timeless classics such as "Singin' in the Rain" (1952), "The King and I" (1956), and "Carnal Knowledge" (1971). She also fell victim to blatant stereotyping in show business, often landing roles as a sexpot or foreigner in film and on television. Moreno challenged the system with her show-stopping performance in "West Side Story" (1961), one of the most loved film musicals of all time. The role earned Moreno an Academy Award in 1962, paving the way for Hispanic actors to land sizeable and profound roles, while also cementing the hardworking and multi-talented star's place as a shining legend of the stage and screen.Rosita Dolores Alverio was born on Dec. 11, 1931 in Humacao, Puerto Rico to a farmer and a seamstress. In 1937, she moved to Spanish Harlem in New York City with her mother, Rosa Maria, and shared a tiny apartment with their relatives. Moreno began her professional career before she reached her teen years. At 11, the future star earned money by dubbing Spanish-language versions of American films. Just a few days shy of her 14th birthday, Moreno (who had adopted her stepfather's surname) made her Broadway debut in the 1945 Belasco Theatre production of "Skydrift," opposite Arthur Keegan and Eli Wallach. Using the stage name Rosita Moreno, the young actress landed her first feature film role in the drama "So Young So Bad" (1950). This led to more musical film appearances for the up-and-coming star, including supporting parts in "The Toast of New Orleans" (1950), "Pagan Love Song" (1950), and a featured role as silent screen vamp Zelda Zanners in the what most consider the greatest musical of all time, "Singin' in the Rain."In March 1954, Moreno graced the cover of LIFE magazine, posing in a seductive, over-the-left-shoulder profile along with the headline "Rita Moreno: An Actresses' Catalog of Sex and Innocence." Even though the article pushed Moreno's career to the forefront of the entertainment industry, it also glorified the Hollywood stereotype of Hispanic actresses as "sexpots." During a Miami Herald interview later on in her career, Moreno revealed she felt humiliated whenever she was offered a role as a "Conchita" or "Lolita" in Western films, where she was often asked to act barefoot. When Moreno was not cast in vampy roles, she played exotic characters, from an Indian exchange student on the television series "Father Knows Best" (CBS, 1954-55; NBC, 1955-58; CBS, 1958-1960), to the young Burmese wife Tuptim in the 1956 musical "The King and I." Moreno admitted she took on the roles, no matter how stereotypical and degrading they were, simply because she wanted to remain in show business.Moreno finally broke out of the Hollywood mold when she was cast in the feature film adaptation of "West Side Story." The groundbreaking Broadway musical debuted in 1957 and retold William Shakespeare's classic "Romeo & Juliet" in an urban New York setting with rival street gangs the Jets and the Sharks. The 1961 film, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, wanted to cast actors who looked believable as teenagers. Moreno stepped in for the role of Anita - originally played on Broadway by Chita Rivera - the Puerto Rican girlfriend of the Sharks' leader Bernardo (George Chakiris). As Anita, confidante of the film's heroine Maria (Natalie Wood) and the equivalent of the Nurse in Shakespeare's play, Moreno stole every scene she was in, especially with her rendition of the song-and-dance number "America." She also delivered a moving performance in a scene in which rival gang the Jets assaults Anita, which was considered the film's climax. The role earned Moreno a well-deserved Academy Award in 1962 for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. "West Side Story" won several other Oscars that year as well, including Best Picture.Despite her breakout performance and Oscar win, it took a decade for Hollywood to cast Moreno in a role that truly showcased her depth and versatility as an actress. In the 1971 Mike Nichols-directed drama "Carnal Knowledge," Moreno played a hooker, starring opposite Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel as longtime friends faced with sexual and emotional issues concerning their relationships with various women. Moreno's career reignited even further that year when she appeared on the children's variety series "The Electric Company." The program employed sketch comedy and musical performances geared to help elementary age children improve their reading skills. Moreno was part of the original cast that also included Morgan Freeman and Bill Cosby. At the height of its popularity, that included a Grammy Award and several Emmy wins during its run, "The Electric Company" was cancelled in 1977 because it could not generate profit, unlike its more successful counterpart "Sesame Street" (NET, 1969-70; PBS, 1970- ), which licensed its Muppet characters for merchandising.Moreno continued working in the world of children's television, often appearing on "The Muppet Show" (ITV, 1976-1981) for which she won her first Emmy Award in 1976 and hosting "The Muppets Go Hollywood" (1979). Moreno made a triumphant return to Broadway in 1975, starring in Terrence McNally's play "The Ritz." Her portrayal of a gay bathhouse entertainer with Broadway aspirations earned her a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She reprised her award-winning role in the 1976 feature film version. Moreno continued to work steadily in feature films and on television, earning more accolades for her guest appearances on "The Rockford Files" (NBC, 1974-1980), and recurring roles on "American Family" (PBS, 2002-04) and the harrowing prison drama "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003). She solidified her status as a Hollywood icon when she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995. So moved was the actress at being recognized that she wept uncontrollably during the unveiling ceremony. U.S. presidents often recognized Moreno's contribution to the arts, as well, including a Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush in 2004 and a National Medal of Arts from Barack Obama in 2009.By Marc Cuenco

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

West Side Story (Remake) (2020)
A Gift of Miracles (2015)
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks (2014)
Rio 2 (2014)
Voice
Nicky Deuce (2013)
Casa de Los Babys (2003)
Senora Munoz
Open House (2003)
Pinero (2001)
Blue Moon (2000)
Resurrection (1999)
The Rockford Files: If It Bleeds... It Leads (1999)
The Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)
Wharf Rat (1995)
Angus (1995)
Madame Rulenska
Yul Brynner: The Man Who Was King (1995)
Interviewee
The Cosby Mysteries (1994)
Angie
Italian Movie (1994)
I Like It Like That (1994)
Rosaria Linares
Age Isn't Everything (1991)
Seymour'S Mother
Grand Theft Hotel (1990)
Plates (1990)
High Rise (1990)
Kimberly Baskin
The Dancer's Touch (1989)
Kimberly Baskin
Auntie Sue (1989)
Blues For Buder (1989)
Kimberly
Portrait of a Showgirl (1982)
The Four Seasons (1981)
Happy Birthday, Gemini (1980)
Anatomy of a Seduction (1979)
The Boss' Son (1978)
The Ritz (1976)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Louise
Popi (1969)
Lupe
The Night of the Following Day (1969)
Vi
Marlowe (1969)
Dolores Gonzales
Cry of Battle (1963)
Sisa
Samar (1962)
West Side Story (1961)
Anita
Summer and Smoke (1961)
Rosa Zacharias
This Rebel Breed (1960)
Lola Montalvo
The Deerslayer (1957)
Hetty Hutter
The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (1956)
Sandra Roberts
The Vagabond King (1956)
Huguette
The King and I (1956)
Tuptim
Seven Cities of Gold (1955)
Ula
Untamed (1955)
Julia
Garden of Evil (1954)
Cantina singer
The Yellow Tomahawk (1954)
Honey Bear
Jivaro (1954)
Maroa
El Alamein (1954)
Jara
Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation (1953)
Soubrette
Fort Vengeance (1953)
Bridget Fitzgibbon
The Fabulous Senorita (1952)
Manuela Rodriguez
The Ring (1952)
Lucy Gomez
Cattle Town (1952)
Quela
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Zelda Zanders
Latin Lovers (1952)
Christina
The Toast of New Orleans (1950)
Tina
Pagan Love Song (1950)
Teuru

Producer (Feature Film)

West Side Story (Remake) (2020)
Executive Producer

Music (Feature Film)

Rio 2 (2014)
Song Performer

Cast (Special)

Intimate Portrait: Rita Moreno (2001)
Tito Puente: The King of Latin Music (2001)
5th Annual ALMA Awards (2000)
Performer
Speak Truth to Power (2000)
When It Was a Game III (2000)
Narrator
The Puerto Ricans: Our American Story (1999)
NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT (1999)
30th NAACP Image Awards (1999)
Presenter
The 1999 ALMA Awards (1999)
Performer
The American Film Institute Salute to Robert Wise (1998)
Performer
ALMA Awards (1998)
The 12th Annual Hispanic Heritage Awards (1998)
Presenter
The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998)
Performer
Intimate Portrait: Carol Burnett (1998)
Narration
Alan Alda: More Than Mr. Nice Guy (1997)
The 1997 Hispanic Heritage Awards (1997)
Performer
Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Sound of Movies (1996)
The Magic School Bus Family Holiday Special (1996)
The Best Defense (1995)
Judge Flores
Latin Nights: An All-Star Celebration (1995)
A Woman's Health (1994)
Host
Jerry Herman's Broadway at the Bowl (1994)
The 65th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1993)
Performer
A CAPITOL FOURTH -- 1993 (1993)
All-Star Fiesta at Ford's (1992)
Championship Ballroom Dancing (1991)
Host
The Ice Capades With Kirk Cameron (1988)
The Closed Set (1988)
Rita (1986)
Rita Barnes
Blondes vs. Brunettes (1984)
The Chemical People (1983)
Working (1982)
The Rita Moreno Show (1978)
Marie Constanza
Dominic's Dream (1974)

Music (Special)

A CAPITOL FOURTH -- 1993 (1993)
Song Performer
All-Star Fiesta at Ford's (1992)
Song Performer

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Happy to Be Nappy and Other Stories of Me (2004)
Narrator
The Spree (1998)
Evita Peron (1981)
Renata Riguel

Life Events

1935

With her mother, moved from Puerto Rico to NYC at age four; father and brother remained in Puerto Rico

1936

Made nightclub debut at age five (date approximate)

1945

Broadway debut at age 13 in "Skydrift"

1950

Feature acting debut, "So Young, So Bad"

1952

Had bit part dancing a tango in the classic movie musical "Singin' in the Rain"

1952

TV acting debut, "Saint and Senorita" on "Fireside Theater"

1956

Played Tuptim, one of the monarch's wives, in the fi lm adaptation of "The King and I"

1961

Attempted suicide when her multi-year affair with Marlon Brando ended

1961

Won acclaim and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar playing the fiery Anita in the film version of "West Side Story"

1964

London stage debut as Illona in "She Loves Me", directed by Harold Prince

1969

Appeared opposite Alan Arkin in "Popi"

1969

Played supporting role in "Marlowe", featuring James Garner

1970

Returned to the Broadway stage as Sharon Falconer in the short-lived musical "Gantry", based on the novel "Elmer Gantry"

1971

Co-starred in "Carnal Knowledge"

1971

Was a regular on the children's series "The Electric Company"

1972

Received Grammy Award for contribution to the recording "The Electric Company"

1974

Earned first Emmy nomination for the variety special "Out to Lunch" (ABC)

1975

Offered an hilarious, Tony-winning turn as entertainer Googie Gomez in Terrence McNally's "The Ritz"

1976

Reprised Googie Gomez in the film version of "The Ritz"

1977

Introduced the character of Rita Capkovic in an episode of NBC's "The Rockford Files"; first of four appearances over the next two years; received second Emmy Award for a 1978 guest appearance

1977

Made Emmy-winning guest appearance on "The Muppet Show" (syndicated)

1978

Starred in pilot for a proposed CBS sitcom, "The Rita Moreno Show"; show not picked up by the network

1981

Appeared in the unsuccessful play "Wally's Cafe"

1981

Last film for a decade, "The Four Seasons"

1982

Received Emmy nod for her turn in the CBS movie "Portrait of a Showgirl"

1983

Began appearing in a one-woman show, mixing singing, dancing and storytelling

1985

Starred on Broadway in a female version of "The Odd Couple" (reworked by Neil Simon) opposite Sally Struthers

1986

Filmed unsold pilot for own CBS sitcom, "Rita"

1991

Returned to feature films playing Jonathan Silverman's mother in "Age Isn't Everything/Life in the Food Chain"

1994

Voiced the title character in the animated children's series "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?"

1994

Portrayed Jon Seda's highly critical mother in "I Like It Like That", helmed by Darnell Martin

1995

Appeared Off-Broadway in Anne Meara's comedy "After-Play"

1995

Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

1996

Played Norma Desmond in the London production of "Sunset Boulevard"

1996

Starred with Louis Zorich and Frank Whaley in the Off-Broadway show "The Size of the World"

1997

Returned to series work as Sister Peter Marie Reimondo, the prison's psychological counselor, in the HBO drama "Oz"

1998

Had small role as Alan Arkin's wealthy sister-in-law in "Slums of Beverly Hills"

1999

Made NYC cabaret debut at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel

1999

Reprised her Emmy-winning role in the TV-movie "The Rockford Files: If It Bleeds ... It Leads" (CBS)

2001

Had co-starring role as the title character's mother in the biopic "Pinero"

2017

Starred on Netflix's "One Day at a Time"

Photo Collections

Pagan Love Song - Publicity Stills
Here are a few photos taken to help publicize MGM's Pagan Love Song (1950), starring Esther Williams, Howard Keel, and Rita Moreno.

Videos

Movie Clip

Seven Cities Of Gold (1955) - We Will Not Be Evil Another fabricated event in the factual mission of Father Junipero Serra to 1769 California, Jeffrey Hunter as Indian Matuwir mediates a meeting with his grandfather (Guillermo Calles), with a glimpse of Rita Moreno as maiden Ula, in Seven Cities Of Gold, 1955.
Carnal Knowledge (1971) - You Never Said That Before! Saved for the ending, Rita Moreno as, we presume, sex-worker Louise receives divorced accountant Jonathan (Jack Nicholson), in what looks like contemporary New York, ending screenwriter Jules Pfeiffer’s story that began in college back in the 1940’s, in director Mike Nichols’ Carnal Knowledge, 1971.
Summer And Smoke (1961) - Unless Maybe I Trap You! Hard-partying young Mississippi doctor Johnny (Laurence Harvey) has skipped an engagement with his neighbor (Geraldine Page as Alma), for a night at the casino, for gambling, cock-fighting and the owner’s fiery daughter Rosa (Rita Moreno), in Tennessee Williams’ Summer And Smoke, 1961.
Marlowe (1969) - Spanish For Pain Friendly clash between savvy detective James Garner (as the title character, Philip, in this adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister) and Rita Moreno as polished Dolores, guarding her friend Mavis (Gayle Hunnicutt), implicated in a porn and murder scandal, in Marlowe, 1969.
Lieutenant Wore Skirts, The (1956) - I Didn' t See That Movie Hack TV writer Greg (Tom Ewell), hanging at his bachelor pal's place with his wife away in the service, visited by frisky neighbor Sandy (Rita Moreno), who all but names Ewell's earlier movie (Billy Wilder's The Seven Year Itch), in Frank Tashlin's The Lieutenant Wore Skirts, 1956.
Singin' In The Rain (1951) - Zelda's Kid Sister In the “Revolution In Hollywood” montage, Rita Moreno as “Zelda” in the cocktail shaker routine and the cutaways, with four Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed tunes, Jimmy Thompson the crooner, Debbie Reynolds with him as Kathy, Millard Mitchell the studio boss, Donald O’Connor as Cosmo, Tommy Farrell as Sid the A-D, in Singin’ In The Rain, 1951.
Singin' In The Rain (1951) - That Famous Zip Girl In fact the greater part of Rita Moreno’s performance as flapper movie star “Zelda Zanders,” in Singin’ In The Rain, 1951, at the opening of the Gene Kelly/Jean Hagen (Don Lockwood, Lina Lamont) movie, introduced by Madge Blake, Stuart Holmes her “eligible bachelor.”
Seven Cities Of Gold (1955) - How Many Wives Have You? Hard to call it anything but frolicking, in the California Pacific (likely from the Guadalajara-area Jalisco, Mexico location shoot), 1769, Spanish Lt. Mendoza (Richard Egan) finally meets native Ula (Rita Moreno), with the best hairdo in the tribe, in Seven Cities Of Gold, 1955.
West Side Story (1961) - America The show-stopping number for Rita Morena in her Academy Award-winning role as Puerto Rican Anita, George Chakiris similarly honored as her boyfriend Bernardo, the song by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, in West Side Story, 1961.
Latin Lovers (1952) - Tight Inside Loose Outside Brazilian Roberto (Ricardo Montalban) grabbed and kissed visiting Nora (Lana Turner) when they first met that afternoon, now measuring each other’s interest at his birthday dance, young Rita Moreno the other girl, song by Nicholas Brodszky and Leo Robin in MGM’s Latin Lovers, 1952.
Ritz, The (1976) - I Was Always Her Still in the lobby of the Manhattan gay bath-house, from Terrence McNally’s play and screenplay, Cleveland businessman Gaetano (Jack Weston) aiming to hide from his gangster brother in law, blown back by profane performer Googie (Rita Moreno), Dave King as Abe the clerk, in The Ritz, 1976.
Toast Of New Orleans, The (1950) - Bayou Minou The Louisiana bayou from MGM's Pasternak unit, opening scene introducing uncle Nicky (J. Carrol Naish), Mario Lanza as Pepe, Tina and Pierre (Rita Moreno, James Mitchell) and visitors Suzette (Kathryn Grayson) and Ribodeaux (David Niven), in The Toast Of New Orleans, 1950.

Trailer

Family

Rosa Alverio
Mother
Had four.
Rosa Alverio
Mother
Seamstress. Born c. 1917; divorced from Moreno's father; died in October 1999.
Fernanda Luisa Gordon
Daughter
Professor.
Fernanda Luisa Gordon
Daughter
Actor, singer. Born c. 1967; co-starred with mother in "The Glass Menagerie" (1991 at Cherry County Playhouse, Michigan); married David T Fischer.
Justin Fischer
Grandson
Had three; survived him.
Justin Fischer
Grandson
Born on July 26, 1998.
Cameron Fischer
Grandson
Married.
Cameron Fischer
Grandson
Born c. 2000.

Companions

Marlon Brando
Companion
Singer. Abandoned her career when she married.
Marlon Brando
Companion
Actor. Had highly publicized multi-year on-again, off-again relationship from the 1950s to 1961.
Elvis Presley
Companion
Lutheran minister. Died when Sommer was 11.
Elvis Presley
Companion
Singer, actor. Dated.
Leonard I Gordon
Husband
Married; wife survived him.
Leonard I Gordon
Husband
Retired cardiologist, lighting designer, road manager. Born c. 1920; met in December 1964; married on June 18, 1965.

Bibliography

Notes

Although the name Rosita Moreno appears in the credits for the films "The Scoundrel" (1935) and "A Medal For Benny" (1945) and some sources attribute these films to her, it is not Rita Moreno but another actress, Rosita Moreno, who appeared in Hollywood films from the 1930s on. Rita Moreno made her film debut in 1950 in "So Young, So Bad" (1950) as Rosita Moreno. She changed her name to Rita Moreno for her second film, "Toast of New Orleans" (1950).

Moreno was one of 32 private citizens named by President Bill Clinton to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities

Moreno remains tightlipped about her relationship with Marlon Brando, the breakup of which led to a 1961 suicide attempt. As she told People (September 12, 1998): "I don't talk about him. We went together for [almost] 10 years. That's as much as I say."

"I am Latin and know what it is to feel alone because you are different. When you are ignored, you lose your sense of identity. So I can be the Latin on television in 'The Electric Company', and my presence can tell a lot of children and some adults, 'We do exist, we have value.'" --Moreno quoted in InTheater, November 8, 1999.

About the perils of her career, Moreno told Jan Breslauer in Los Angeles Times (November 21, 1996): "Now, not only being Hispanic but older really compounds the problems. Yes, I've had to spend a good deal of my life putting up with the whole business of the stereotype."

About acting on stage: "I always get nervous ... What I love is the immediacy of a live performance. In concerts, of course, I can be much looser, because it can go almost any way I want. But there is something absolutely fabulous about interacting with wonderful actors on stage, and it all comes back so fast, it's amazing: 'Oh, that's what I have to do. I have to find my light.' You can't drop the ends of sentences in an ensemble piece." --Rita Moreno quoted in TheaterWeek December 25-31, 1995.