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Rita Moreno Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trivia (28)  | Personal Quotes (7)

Overview (3)

Born in Humacao, Puerto Rico
Birth NameRosita Dolores Alverio
Height 5' 2½" (1.59 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Rita Moreno is one of the very few performers to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy, thus becoming an EGOT. She was born Rosita Dolores Alverío in the hospital in Humacao, Puerto Rico on December 11, 1931 (but raised in nearby, smaller Juncos, which had no hospital), to seamstress Rosa María (Marcano) and farmer Francisco José "Paco" Alverío. Her mother moved to New York City in 1937, taking Rita with her while leaving her reportedly unfaithful husband and Rita's younger brother behind. Rita's professional career began before she reached adolescence.

At age 11, she landed her first movie experience, dubbing Spanish-language versions of US films. Less than a month before her 14th birthday on November 22, 1945, she made her Broadway debut in the play "Skydrift" at the Belasco Theatre, costarring with Arthur Keegan and a young Eli Wallach. Although she would not appear again on Broadway for almost two decades, Rita Moreno, as she was billed in the play, had arrived professionally.

The cover of the March 1, 1954, edition of "Life Magazine" featured a three-quarters, over-the-left-shoulder profile of the young Puerto Rican actress/entertainer with the provocative title "Rita Moreno: An Actresses' Catalog of Sex and Innocence". It was sexpot time, a stereotype that would plague her throughout the decade. If not cast as a Hispanic pepper pot, she could rely on being cast as another "exotic", such as her appearance on Father Knows Best (1954) as an exchange student from India. Because of a dearth of decent material, Moreno had to play roles in movies that she considered degrading. Among the better pictures she appeared in were the classic Singin' in the Rain (1952) and The King and I (1956).

Director Robert Wise, who was chosen to co-direct West Side Story (1961) (the film version of the smash Broadway musical, a retelling of William Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" with the warring Venetian clans the Montagues and Capulets re-envisioned as Irish/Polish and Puerto Rican adolescent street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks), cast Moreno as "Anita", the Puerto Rican girlfriend of Sharks' leader Bernardo, whose sister Maria is the piece's Juliet.

However, despite her talent, roles commensurate with that talent were not forthcoming in the 1960s. The following decade would prove kinder, possibly because the beautiful Moreno had aged gracefully and could now be seen by filmmakers, TV producers and casting directors as something other than the spitfire/sexpot that Hispanic women were supposed to conform to. Ironically, it was in two vastly diverging roles--that of a $100 hooker in director Mike Nichols' brilliant realization of Jules Feiffer's acerbic look at male sexuality, Carnal Knowledge (1971), and Milly the Helper in the children's TV show The Electric Company (1971)--that signaled a career renaissance.

Moreno won a 1972 Grammy Award for her contribution to "The Electric Company"'s soundtrack album, following it up three years later with a Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for "The Ritz" (a role she would reprise in the film version, The Ritz (1976)). She then won Emmy Awards for The Muppet Show (1976) and The Rockford Files (1974).

She has continued to work steadily on screen (both large and small) and on stage, solidifying her reputation as a national treasure, a status that was officially ratified with the award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in June 2004.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous and by Robert Sieger)

Spouse (1)

Dr. Leonard Isadore Gordon (18 June 1965 - 30 June 2010) ( his death) ( 1 child)

Trivia (28)

Cites Citizen Kane (1941) as her all-time favorite film.
Is one of the only 15 "EGOT"s, i.e. actors who [have] won, competitively, at least one of each of the four major entertainment awards: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. The other "EGOT"s, in chronological order, are Richard Rodgers, Helen Hayes, Robert Lopez, John Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, Marvin Hamlisch, Jonathan Tunick, Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, John Legend, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Tim Rice. Moreno once held the record to win all four EGOT awards (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) in the shortest amount of time, within a 16-year time frame -- the Oscar in 1962, the Grammy in 1972, the Tony in 1975 and her first of two Emmys in 1977. This record was broken by Robert Lopez in 2014, when he won an Oscar to complete his EGOT. He achieved the feat in a 10-year time frame.
Appeared in the pilot for the sitcom Empty Nest (1988), which was an episode of The Golden Girls (1985). The premise was changed in the final version of Empty Nest (1988), in which she did not appear.
When her star was unveiled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she fell on top of it, openly and uncontrollably weeping. She later commented, "I had been dreaming of this day since I was six!".
In June 2004 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush.
During the first season (episode 19) of The Electric Company (1971), she was in a sketch in which she shouted "Hey, you guys!" repeatedly. It became so popular with the show's producers that they decided to use it as the catchphrase in their opening, starting with season two.
In 1977, she became the ninth performer to win the Triple Crown of Acting: (Oscar: Best Supporting Actress in West Side Story (1961), Tony, Best Featured Actress, The Ritz (1975) and Emmy 1977 (The Muppet Show (1976)) and 1978 (The Rockford Files (1974)).
When filming her final scene in West Side Story (1961) in which her character "Anita" is harassed and nearly raped by New York street gang members "the Jets", she was reduced to tears, as it brought flashbacks of similar real-life childhood experiences. When she broke down, the other actors in the scene immediately stopped to comfort her and help her get through the scene. The sequence sets up a critical plot element and is essential to the story.
Moreno's late husband, Dr. Leonard Gordon, was an internist and cardiologist. The couple had one child, Fernanda Luisa Gordon (aka Fernanda Gordon), who was delivered via an emergency Caesarean section. A successful jewelry designer, Fernanda founded Nandiz Design. She is married to David Fisher and they have two children, Justin Gordon Fisher (born 2002) and Cameron David Fisher (born 2004).
She was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts on February 25, 2010 at the White House in Washington D.C. for her services and contributions to the arts.
Is one of 16 actresses to have won the Triple Crown of Acting (an Oscar, Emmy and Tony); the others--in chronological order--are Helen Hayes, Ingrid Bergman, Shirley Booth, Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy, Audrey Hepburn, Anne Bancroft, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Ellen Burstyn, Helen Mirren, Frances McDormand, Jessica Lange, Viola Davis and Glenda Jackson.
Was the first Hispanic woman to win an Oscar when she won for West Side Story (1961). However, she was not the first Hispanic entertainer to win an Oscar. That was fellow Puerto Rican José Ferrer for Cyrano de Bergerac (1950).
Was dancing professionally in a Greenwich Village nightclub at age 9, as arranged by her dance teacher, Rita Hayworth's uncle.
In her memoir she describes how stunned she was when a handsome stranger, with his wife on his arm, very brazenly flirted with her. It was the 1950s and the man was then-Sen. John F. Kennedy. Moreno also described her disappointment about one-time lover Elvis Presley being much more like "a baby brother" than a stud.
She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on July 20, 2005.
Was the 54th actress to receive an Academy Award; she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for West Side Story (1961) at The 34th Annual Academy Awards (1962) on April 9, 1962.
As of April 2002 was living in Berkeley, CA.
Is one of 27 actresses to have received an Academy Award nomination for their performance in a musical; hers being West Side Story (1961). The others, in chronological order, are: Bessie Love (The Broadway Melody (1929)), Grace Moore (One Night of Love (1934)), Jean Hagen (Singin' in the Rain (1952)), Marjorie Rambeau (Torch Song (1953)), Dorothy Dandridge (Carmen Jones (1954)), Deborah Kerr (The King and I (1956)), Gladys Cooper (My Fair Lady (1964)), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins (1964), The Sound of Music (1965) and Victor Victoria (1982)), Debbie Reynolds (The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)), Peggy Wood (The Sound of Music (1965)), Carol Channing (Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)), Kay Medford (Funny Girl (1968)), Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl (1968)), Liza Minnelli (Cabaret (1972)), Ronee Blakley (Nashville (1975)), Lily Tomlin (Nashville (1975)), Ann-Margret (Tommy (1975)), Lesley Ann Warren (Victor Victoria (1982)), Amy Irving (Yentl (1983)), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge! (2001)), Queen Latifah (Chicago (2002)), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago (2002)), Renée Zellweger (Chicago (2002)), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls (2006)), Penélope Cruz (Nine (2009)), Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables (2012)), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods (2014)) and Emma Stone (La La Land (2016)).
Is one of 13 actresses who won their Best Supporting Actress Oscars in a movie that also won the Best Picture Oscar (she won for West Side Story (1961)). The others are Hattie McDaniel for Gone with the Wind (1939), Teresa Wright for Mrs. Miniver (1942), Celeste Holm for Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Mercedes McCambridge for All the King's Men (1949), Donna Reed for From Here to Eternity (1953), Eva Marie Saint for On the Waterfront (1954), Meryl Streep for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Juliette Binoche for The English Patient (1996), Judi Dench for Shakespeare in Love (1998), Jennifer Connelly for A Beautiful Mind (2001), Catherine Zeta-Jones for Chicago (2002) and Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave (2013).
Was one of the 2015 Kennedy Center honorees.
Following Debbie Reynolds's death in December 2016, Moreno is the last surviving main cast member of Singin' in the Rain (1952).
Is one of 8 actresses to have won an Academy Award for their performance in a musical. The others in chronological order are: Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Hudson and Emma Stone.
Acting mentor and friends of: Harold Perrineau and Dean Winters.
Best known by the television-viewing public for her starring role as Sister Peter Marie Reimondo in Oz (1997).
Friends with Morgan Freeman.
Became pregnant as result of an affair with Marlon Brando in 1961, but she underwent an abortion.
She is a staunch liberal Democrat.
On August 10, 2019, she was honored with a day of her film work during the Turner Classic Movies Summer Under the Stars.

Personal Quotes (7)

Bigger than life is not difficult for me. I am bigger than life.
It is very important that women of this country be made aware of the dangers of osteoporosis in the sense that it is a silent and invisible disease with no symptoms whatsoever.
[Her Oscar acceptance speech] I can't believe it! Good Lord! I'll leave you with that.
A lot of young Latino actors have said to me, "Why can't we get an Oscar? Why can't we be nominated?" And the terrible truth is that if you don't get the right parts, you're not going to be. Are you going to get an Oscar nomination for one of those Judd Apatow movies? Not likely, no matter what nationality you are. And I think that until we as Latino actors get to do roles that have really serious meaning, it's going to be impossible to get nominated.
Once we went to the apartment of some brothers. Obviously, their parents were not at home. One of them was a big flirt, and he had a little bit of peach fuzz over his upper lip, and he was making eyes at me. He said, "Whatever you do, don't put on perfume, because that really makes me crazy." Immediately, I went into his mother's bedroom and dabbed some behind my ears.
There was nobody that I could look up and say "That's somebody like me". Which is probably why I'm now known in my community as 'La Pionera', or the Pioneer. I really don't think of myself as a role model. But it turns out that I am to a lot of the Hispanic community. Not just in show business, but in life. But that's what happens when you're first, right?
[in 1975, on her disappointment realizing her 1962 Oscar win hadn't really boosted her career] I couldn't believe it. I had just turned 30, and thought I had finally broken through as an actress. I was sure the Oscar would change everything, but I soon found out that it made no difference.

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