Nationality: Mexican. Born: Lolita Dolores Martínez Asunsolo López Negrette in Durango, 3 August 1905. Education: Convent of St. Joseph, Mexico City. Family: Married 1) Jaime Del Rio, 1920 (died 1928); 2) the designer Cedric Gibbons, 1930 or 1932 (divorced 1941); 3) Lewis Riley, 1959. Career: 1925—personal contract with the director Edwin Carewe; film debut in Joanna ; 1926—selected as
Joanna (Carewe) (as Carlotta de Silva)
High Steppers (Carewe) (as Evelyn Iffield); Pals First (Carewe) (as Jeanne Lamont); The Whole Town's Talking (Edward Laemmle) (as Rita Renault); What Price Glory? (Walsh) (as Charmaine de la Cognac)
Resurrection (Carewe) (as Katusha Maslova); The Loves of Carmen (Walsh) (as Carmen)
The Gateway of the Moon (Wray) (as Chela "Toni"); The Trail of '98 (Brown) (as Berna); Ramona (Carewe) (title role); The Red Dance (Walsh) (as Tasia); No Other Woman (Tellegen) (as Carmelita Desano); Revenge (Carewe) (as Rascha)
Evangeline (Carewe) (title role)
The Bad One (Fitzmaurice) (as Lita)
Girl of the Rio (Brenon) (as Dolores); Bird of Paradise (King Vidor) (as Luana)
Flying Down to Rio (Freeland) (as Belinha de Rezende)
Hollywood on Parade, No. 13 (short); Wonder Bar (Lloyd Bacon) (as Inez); Madame DuBarry (Dieterle) (title role)
A Trip thru a Hollywood Studio (short); In Caliente (Lloyd Bacon) (as Rita Gomez); I Live for Love (Berkeley) (as Donna Alvares)
The Widow from Monte Carlo (Collins) (as Inez); Accused (Freeland) (as Gaby Seymour)
Devil's Playground (Kenton) (as Carmen); Ali Baba Goes to Town (David Butler) (as herself); Lancer Spy (Ratoff) (as Dolores Daria)
International Settlement (Forde) (as Leonore)
The Man from Dakota (Fenton) (as Eugenia)
Journey into Fear (Norman Foster and Welles) (as Josette Martel)
Flor Silvestre (Fernández) (as Esperanza)
María Candelaria ( Xochimilco ; Portrait of Maria ) (Fernández) (title role); Bugambilia (Fernández) (as Amalia de los Robles); Las abandonados (Fernández) (as Margarita Perez)
La selva de fuego (de Fuentes)
Lo otra (Gavaldón) (as Magdalena Mendez/María Mendez)
The Fugitive (John Ford) (as María Dolores)
Historia de una mala mujer (Saslavsky)
La malquerida (Fernández) (as Raimunda)
La casa chica (Gavaldón) (as Amalia)
Deseada (Gavaldón); Doña Perfecta (Galindo) (as Perfecta)
Reportaje (Fernández) (as María Enriqueta); El nino y la niebla ( The Boy and the Fog ) (Gavaldón) (as Marta)
Señora Ama (Bracho) (as Dominica)
A donde van nuestros hijos ( Media tono ) (Alazraki) (as Rosa); La cucaracha ( The Soldiers of Pancho Villa ; The Bandit ) (Rodríguez) (as Chabela)
Flaming Star (Siegel) (as Neddy Burton); El pecado de una madre (Blake)
Cheyenne Autumn (John Ford) (as Spanish woman)
La dama del Alba (Beleta); Casa de mujeres (Soler)
C'era una volta ( More than a Miracle ; Cinderella, Italian Style ; Happily Ever After ) (Rosi) (as Princess Mother); Rio Blanco (Gavaldón)
The Children of Sanchez (Bartlett)
"Achieving Stardom," in Breaking into the Movies , edited by Charles Reed, New York, 1927.
Nevares, Beatrice, The Mexican Cinema Interviews , 1976.
Bodeen, DeWitt, From Hollywood: The Careers of 15 Great American Stars , South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1976.
Parish, James, with Gregory Mank and Don Stanke, The Hollywood Beauties , New York, 1978.
Woll, Allen L., The Films of Dolores Del Rio , New York, 1978.
Mora, Carl J., Mexican Cinema: Reflections of a Society: 1896–1980 , Berkeley, 1982.
Monsivais, Carlos, Dolores Del Rio , Huelva, Spain, 1983.
Askenazy, Natalia, "Two Kinds of Mexican Movies," in Films in Review (New York), May 1951.
Manuel, Michel, "Mexican Cinema: A Panoramic View," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1965.
Bodeen, DeWitt, "Dolores Del Rio," in Films in Review (New York), May 1967.
Gómez-Sicre, J., "Dolores Del Rio," in Américas , November 1967.
Braun, Eric, "Queen of Mexico," in Films and Filming (London), July 1972.
Shipman, David, The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years , rev. ed., 1979.
Obituary in New York Times , 13 April 1983.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 13 April 1983.
Obituary in Cinéma (Paris), September 1983.
The Annual Obituary 1983 (Chicago), 1984.
Gill, Brendan, "Cedric Gibbons and Dolores Del Rio: the Art Director and Star of Flying Down to Rio in Santa Monica," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1992.
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Dolores Del Rio, born into an aristocratic Mexican family, was the daughter of a banker, and also second cousin to the actor Ramon Novarro. In 1925 she came to the United States to begin an acting career that continued into the 1970s. She worked in American and Mexican films (she won four Arieles, Mexico's equivalent to the Oscar), and international productions, with such major directors as Edwin Carewe (who discovered her at a Mexico City tea party, brought her to Hollywood, and was instrumental in helping her career), Busby Berkeley, Clarence Brown, Emilio Fernández, Roberto Gavaldón, Francesco Rosi, Don Siegel, Raoul Walsh, and Orson Welles.
Among the reasons for her remarkable staying power were her skill in creating believable characters and a beauty that transcended age—she was as lovely at 65 as she had been at 25. Most importantly, she never allowed herself to be typed as the sexy Mexican spitfire who fractures the English language. She brought dignity to both leading and character parts, portraying with ease women of all social classes.
Silent films had allowed Del Rio great flexibility in the roles she could play, with nationalities ranging from American Indian to Russian, Acadian, Brazilian, French, Spanish, and, of course, Mexican. In sound films she was more often cast as a woman of Mexican or Spanish descent because of her accent. Some of her most memorable roles in American films were as Charmaine in the World War I classic What Price Glory? , the Acadian woman who searches the bayous of Louisiana for her lost love in Evangeline , the stunning Brazilian heiress in Flying Down to Rio , a beautiful Polynesian native in Bird of Paradise , the title role in Madame Du Barry , the dancer Josette in Journey into Fear , María Dolores in The Fugitive , and a Kiowa Indian married to a white settler in Flaming Star .
The first American phase of her career lasted from Edwin Carewe's Joanna in 1925 to Orson Welles's 1942 Journey into Fear , after which she returned to Mexico. She may have seen new opportunities in her native land: by brilliantly assembling a top director, Emilio Fernández, a top cinematographer, Gabriel Figueroa, and a top leading actor, Pedro Armendáriz, Del Rio shortly became one of Mexico's leading box-office attractions. She continued to appear occasionally in some American films and television programs (for example, John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn and an episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. ). By the 1970s she was devoting less time to performing and more to charity work in Mexico.
In her article "Achieving Stardom" in Breaking into the Movies , Del Rio wrote, "my conception of a great success is . . . being capable of reflecting and impersonating all the beauty and cleverness of every different type of woman." In her long and varied career, she conveyed both the inner and outer beauty of her characters, and she did so with authenticity and dignity.
—H. Wayne Schuth