Every Tuesday from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the Take 2 blog will feature posts celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. This first installment looks at cinema’s Golden Age in Hollywood, Mexico and Argentina and the stars who made that time possible.
The era between 1930 and 1965 is known as the Golden Age of World Cinema. In the United States, that was the time of Technicolor musicals and epics such as “The Wizard of Oz,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Lawrence of Arabia.” The span also brought about black-and-white films invoking social change like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “On the Waterfront” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
In Latin America, another Golden Age was building. Having seen Hollywood talkies become more popular, filmmakers and writers flocked to countries like Mexico and Argentina to tell new stories. At the same time, Latin America was developing its own style and stars.
During this time, many Hispanic actors and actresses found work in their homelands and in Hollywood, breaking barriers along the way. Here are a few from the Golden Age and what imprint they made in the industry.
Dolores del Rio (1904-1983)
Best known for: “Girl of the Rio,” “Bird of Paradise”
Del Rio was born into a wealthy family in Mexico, but the Mexican revolution changed things for them in the 1910s. She got her start in 1920s silents, beginning with “Joanna” in 1925 and a successful turn in “What Price Glory” in 1926. She called the female Rudolph Valentino for her beauty.
She would later star with movies with Fred Astaire and in later years, Elvis Presley. She left Hollywood in the late 1930s due to being typecast in ethnic roles, and returned to Mexico. During her break, she met and started a two-year relationship with Orson Welles as he was developing “Citizen Kane.”
Anthony Quinn (1915-2001)
Best known for: “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Viva Zapata!”
Odds are high that everyone has seen Quinn in a movie or on television at least once in their lifetimes. He played a circus brute, a winemaker, Vincent Van Gogh and many other characters. His versatility made him a Hollywood favorite, as he earned two supporting acting Oscars for “Viva Zapata!” (1952) “Lust for Life” (1956). Quinn also starred in one of Pope Francis’ favorite movies, “La Strada.”
Jose Ferrer (1912-1992)
Best known for: “The Caine Mutiny,” “Cyrano de Bergerac”
The stage, film and television performer earned high praise for his roles in “Dune,” “Moulin Rouge” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” but it was his portrayal of Cyrano de Bergerac that earned him a best actor Oscar. He became the first Puerto Rican and first Hispanic to win an Oscar. His legacy lives on through his children and grandchildren, including film and television performer Miguel Ferrer.
Silvia Pinal (1931-)
Best known for: “Vridiana,” “The Exterminating Angel”
Spanish director Luis Bunuel was best known for his surrealist take on cinema, and as he rosed to fame in the 1930s, the fear of communism had hit Hollywood. Blacklisted American filmmakers and actors and groundbreaking artists began to travel to Mexico where experimental movies and creations were being made.
By the 1940s, the Golden Age of Mexico was red hot, and it was the optimal time for Bunuel and Pinal to work together. Pinal starred in three of Bunuel’s films – “Vridiana,” “The Exterminating Angel” and “Simon of the Desert.” “Vridiana,” which won the Palm D’Or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival, was banned in Spain and was to be destroyed. However, Pinal fled back to Mexico with a copy, saving the film from the censor’s fire.
Libertad Lamarque (1908-2000)
Best known for: Melodramas, tango
Lamarque worked in Argentina and Mexico as the symbol of women’s suffering. Her problems with back-stabbing friends and cheating husbands were solved through the tango, according to her Guardian obituary. Hollywood wanted her, but she stayed put in Latin America. She went on to star in television soap operas and released multiple records.
Lamarque had a feud with Argentine first lady Eva Peron, dating back to their acting days and appearing together in “The Circus Cavalcade.” Lamarque also did not work well with Bunuel as their film “Gran Casino” was a box-office flop.