DOLORES DEL RIO : STAR ACTRESS OF AMERICAN AND MEXICAN CINEMA AND TWO CAPUCHIN MONKEYS

This vintage real photo postcard features Mexican actress, dancer, and singer; Dolores del Rio (1904-1983) and two unidentified capuchin monkeys. Del Rio’s performing career spanned more than half of a century. She was the first major Latin American actress to become an American film star (1920’s & 1930’s). Del Rio was also a major star in Mexican films. Dolores was known for her beauty as well as for her talent. She was discovered in Mexico and her Hollywood film career started in 1925. She began her career with a number of successful films, including “Ramona” (1928) and “Evangeline (1929). During the silent film era, she was considered the female version of “latin lover”, Rudolph Valentino. Del Rio was one of the fortunate actresses whose career was not destroyed by the advent of sound films. She acted in a wide range of film genres. “Bird of Paradise” (1932) and “Madame Du Barry” (1934) were among her successful films of the 1930’s. In the early 1940’s, her Hollywood career began to flounder sparking Del Rio to return to Mexico to become a major star of Mexican cinema. She continued acting in Mexican films through the 1950’s. Beginning 1960 she acted in both Mexican and Hollywood films. During the late 1950’s through the early 1970’s, Del Rio acted in theater and television. Dolores was born in Durango City, Mexico. Her parents were part of Mexican aristocracy whose lineage could be traced to Spain. Dolores was the cousin of actor Ramon Novarro (another silent film”latin lover”), and of Mexican cinema actress, Andrea Palma. During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Dolores’s family lost its fortune. Her family felt threatened by Pancho Villa’s insurgence. It was time to “get out of town”. Her father fled to the United States while she and her mother escaped to Mexico City. Acting was an integral part of Dolores’s getaway. She and her mother felt compelled to dress as peasants to insure safe passage on the train to Mexico City. Her parents reunited there in 1912. Dolores attended a college in Mexico City operated by French nuns. After seeing Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova perform; Dolores decided to become a dancer and took lessons from a well respected teacher. At age 17, Dolores married Jaime Martinez del Rio. He was from a wealthy family and was educated in England. The couple honeymooned in Europe for two years and Dolores formed close relationships with a number of members of European aristocracy. When the couple returned to Mexico, they settled in Mexico City. In 1925, Dolores met American filmmaker Edwin Carewe, and he was spellbound. He convinced Dolores and her husband to move to Hollywood where he promised to make Dolores a star. Her husband hoped to write screenplays there. When they arrived in Tinseltown, Carewe launched a public relations campaign to raise excitement about his beautiful find. He built up her aristocratic background by saying such gems as Dolores was “the first lady of high Mexican Society” and that she had come to Hollywood with a collection of shawls and combs valued at fifty thousand dollars. Dolores made her film debut in “Joanna” (1925), where she played a vamp of Spanish-Brazilian origin. Her first starring role was in the comedy “Pals First” (1926), directed by Carewe. That same year, Dolores appeared in the war film “What Price Glory?”. The movie was a huge financial success and helped Dolores become one of the “WAMPAS Baby Stars” of 1926. Other members of her “class” were Mary Astor, Joan Crawford, Janet Gaynor, and Fay Wray. By then, her film career was rocketing. Her role in Resurrection” (1927), a popular film based on a Tolstoy novel, further propelled her career. While her career was succeeding, her personal life was a “hot mess”. Her marriage to Del Rio ended in 1928. He had much difficulty being in the shadow of his famous and successful wife. Six months after Dolores filed for divorce, Del Rio died in Germany. While dealing with her grief, she had to deal with constant harassment from her discoverer, Edwin Carewe. He wanted to be more than her agent and her director since he had first launched her career. In 1929, Dolores announced to the press, that despite Carewe’s claims, the pair were just friends and business companions. She added that they had no plans for marriage. Soon thereafter, she cancelled her contract with him. The end result was a legal dispute that was settled out of court. Carewe’s anger did not end there. He disparaged her the press and refilmed “Resurrection” starring Lupe Velez, another popular Mexican film star. In 1930, Del Rio married MGM art director, Cedric Gibbons. They became one of Hollywood’s most followed couples of the early 1930’s. In 1932, the film, “Birds of Paradise”, was released to rave reviews. The film starred Del Rio and actor, Joel McCrea. The movie was a South Seas love story. A scandal arose from the film because of a scene featuring the pair swimming naked. Controversy continued in Del Rio’s appearance in “Flying Down to Rio” (1933). In this film, Del Rio was the first actress to wear a two piece bathing suit on screen. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced together for the first time on film, in this movie. Del Rio and Astaire also did an “intricate” dance number in the film. Del Rio found herself in political hot water when she and Ramona Novarro and Lupe Velez attended a special screening of a Mexican film which was accused of promoting Communism in California. Del Rio was accused of being a Communist for her attendance at the screening. In 1940, Del Rio began an affair with actor/filmmaker, Orson Welles. The dalliance resulted in Del Rio and Gibbons divorce. In 1954, Dolores was scheduled to co-star in a Spencer Tracy film, but the US government would not give her permission to work in the United States. The government believed she was sympathetic toward communism for attending the aforementioned film screening and for signing a petition supporting a world peace conference. After some time, she was able to remedy the problem by writing a persuasive letter to the US authorities. Later in life Del Rio did express some “political” beliefs. She stated that she wished she could play Mexican roles to show what life in Mexico was really like. She felt such an opportunity could help diminish the ugly stereotypes that existed about Mexicans in American society. She stated that it was her great wish to make fans realize the beauty, wonder, and greatness of Mexicans as a people. She asserted that the great majority of Americans view Mexicans as a “race of bandits, or laborers, dirty, unkempt, and uneducated”. Why do these false negative stereotypes sound so familiar? Del Rio wanted to show “the best that’s in my nation”. It has been pointed out by more than a few writers that Dolores del Rio was no “Latin bombshell”. Instead, she was noted for her elegance. The IMDb reports that Del Rio has 63 film credits ranging from 1925 through 1978. This vintage postcard was published by Ross Verlag as part of a series (no. 4992/1). The logo for Fox films can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the image. (SOLD)

“FLYING DOWN TO RIO” (1933)

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