This terrible Oscar: why did a promising actress disappear from the radar for several years after receiving a prestigious film award? (9 photos)

11 April 2024

As a rule, winning an Oscar is a guarantee of a new stage in the career of an actor or actress. But there are rare exceptions when screen stars disappear for many years after receiving the coveted statuette.

This was the case with Rita Moreno.

Rita against stereotypes

Rita Moreno (born Rosa Dolores Alverio Marcano) in her youth

Rita Moreno was born in 1931 in Puerto Rico. In 1936, she moved to New York with her mother. When Moreno was a teenager, they moved to Hollywood and lived a stone's throw from the MGM film company. She later recalled visiting MGM founder Louis D. Mayer at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and how he exclaimed, “Wow! She looks like the Spanish Elizabeth Taylor!” Throughout the 1950s, the girl starred in small roles, for which she was approved precisely because of her nationality.

Moreno said that she became a universal ethnic instrument. The girl was suitable for the role of any not obviously white heroine, even if she was not Latina. And she called this period of her career the period of the gloomy maiden. She even had to specially master a Spanish accent, although she spoke excellent English.

Anita as a turning point

By 1961, Moreno was still starring exclusively in Latin roles. But the role of Anita in the musical “West Side Story” changed everything.

As Anita in West Side Story

Even on the set of the musical, Moreno had to fight prejudice. It was thanks to Moreno that the lyrics of the song "America" were changed from "Puerto Rico, you ugly island, island of tropical diseases" to "Puerto Rico, devotion of my heart, let it sink back into the ocean." However, there were other obstacles that she could not overcome during filming. For example, when a girl complained about her makeup being too dark, she herself was accused of racism.

Shocking Oscar

When it came time for the 1962 Academy Awards, her nomination for Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story truly came as a shock to Moreno. The actress did not expect to win this nomination. So much so that she didn't even plan to attend the ceremony, let alone prepare a speech. And she was supposed to be filming a film in the Philippines.

Rita with Oscar

When Rita's name was called and she took the stage to receive the award, she gave one of the shortest speeches in the history of the ceremony. She later explained that she set two rules for herself: “Don’t run, that’s undignified... and don’t thank anyone. They didn't give the role as a favor. They were forced to give it to you because you auditioned the best.” Moreno followed these rules and, without thanking anyone in her speech, quickly ran off stage.

What is and what is not

"The Night of the Next Day"

Receiving a prestigious award changed virtually nothing. After the ceremony, Moreno hurried back to the Philippines to continue her work. She didn't have time to stay and enjoy her victory with her friends and colleagues. Having received such an impressive title, she thought that perhaps something would change in her career. However, she still starred in the same typical ethnic roles.

One day, Rita's agent told her that precisely because she played Anita, the producer would never consider her for any other role that did not fall into this category. Then she made a fateful decision. “All the Latino roles in films were so formal,” she explained years later. And I said, “I won’t do any more heroine roles with an accent.”


It is for this reason that Moreno did not work in Hollywood for 7 years. All this time she performed on stage, but returned to the big screen only in 1968, starring in the film “Next Day Night”.

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