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del Rio, Dolores
Written by Diana Saenger   

A Tribute to Mexican screen legend Dolores Del Rio

dolores_del_rio-portrait.jpg2005 marked the centennial of Mexican screen legend Dolores del Rio's birth. Del Rio starred in Hollywood films before talkies and became a starlet in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, making more than 30 American films such as Flying Down to Rio, with Gene Raymond, The Fugitive with Henry Fonda and Flaming Star staring Elvis Presley. Del Rio's career may have been jump started by her acquantances and husbands - such as multiple Oscar winner Cedric Gibbons - but her natural beauty and talent to dazzle made her an international star.


Del Rio returend to Mexico in the late 1940s where she became one of the brightest stars of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. She won three Ariels (Mexican Academy Award); in 1946 for Las Abandonadas (1944); in 1952 for Doña Perfecta (1950) and in 1954 for El Niño y la Nieble (1953).

Born Dolores Martinez Asúnsolo y López Negrete in Durango, Mexico on August 3, 1905, Del Rio's aristocratic family lost everything during the Mexican revolution. The family moved to Mexico City, where Del Rio became the center of attention. She married Jaime Del Rio in 1921 and benefited from his friendship with Hollywood producer Edwin Carewe, who enticed them to move to Hollywood. Jamie hoped to become a screenwriter, and did write one film, The Woman From Hell (1925). Dolores, on the other hand, profited from Carewe's connections. He was able to get her roles in several of the films he produced including; Joanna (1925), High Steppin (1926), Pals First (1926), Resurrection (1927). Evangeline (1929) and Revenge (1928).

dolores_del_rio7carmen200.jpgDel Rio divorced Jamie in 1925, and continued to flourish in silent films, even being called the female Rodolfo Valentino. She made two films for director Raoul Walsh; What Price Glory in 1926 and The Loves of Carmen in 1927. In 1930 she married Cedric Gibbons, an MGM art director and production designer who earned a number of Oscars for his work throughout his career. Gibbons is credited with design on more than 1,000 films.

After making Evangeline, Del Rio donated money to create a statue with her likeness as Evangeline. The statue was left on the side of St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church, in St. Martinville, Louisiana, where it marks the alleged burial place of Emmeline Labiche. Folklore among the locals maintain Labiche was the inspiration behind Longfellow's tragic heroine. The burial site, known as "The Evangeline Statue," has become a popular tourist attraction

In 1933 Del Rio starred in the musical/romance Flying Down To Rio Gene Raymond stars as Roger, a bandleader who gets his band fired flyingdowntorio.jpgafter he flirts with Belinha (Del Rio), a guest at a Miami hotel. Belinha is engaged to Roger's best friend, but the story heats up when she decides to accompany Roger to Rio de Janeiro where the two have a romantic interlude. Flying Down To Del Rio featured Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in supporting roles and their fist film together.

While filming Journey into Fear, which screened in 1943, Del Rio and Orson Welles, one of the film's co-stars, had an affair. The romance caused Del Rios' second divorce and sent her back to Mexico where she began another impressive film career. Journey into Fear co-starred Joseph Cotton as an US Navy engineer returning to the US with his wife (Del Rio) from a conference. When he's trailed by Nazi agents wanting to kill him, he disappears without a word to his wife.

Back in Mexico at the age of 37, Del Rio joined up with director Emilio Fernández and his filmmaking team Gabriel Figueroa, Mauricio Magdaleno and Pedro Armendáriz. Generating the Mexican Cinema dolores_del_rio8-ab.jpgGolden Era, Fernández was to Mexico what Cecil B Demille and Frank Capra were to early Hollywood. Del Rio starred in his Flor Silvestre (1943), María Candelaria (1944), Las Abandonadas, (1944) and Bugambilia (1944).

Del Rio did make more American films. In 1947 she starred in the Graham Greene novel adaptation of The Fugitive, which was a Mexico/American production. Del Rio played an Indian woman who offers shelter to a fugitive (Henry Fonda) running from authorities who have denounced Christianity. Mel Ferrer plays a priest who offers to get the fugitive to safety.

flaming_star.jpgElvis Presley fans will remember Del Rio as Pacer Burton's (Elvis) Indian mother Neddy in Flaming Star (1960). The son of a white father (John McIntire), Pacer gets in the middle of a dispute between his white kinfolks and Indian relativities when his mother and father are killed. Pacer's white half-brother (Steve Forrest), of course, sides with the whites.

Del Rio's beauty throughout her career classified her as the stereotypical Mexican beauty worldwide. In addition to her film career, Del Rio also worked in theater and starred on Mexican television. Her last dolores_del_rioshaw.jpgfilm was The Children of Sanchez in 1978. Del Rio died April 11, 1983 of liver failure in Newport Beach, California.

Del Rio's impressive career and contribution to both American and Mexican films are still remembered among classic film fans and acknowledged in many Latino Film Festivals across the country.




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