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Dolores del Río (August 3, 1905 – April 11, 1983) was a Mexicanmarker film actress. She was a star of Hollywoodmarker films during the silent era and in the Golden Age of Hollywood, becoming an important actress in Mexican films later in her life.She was generally thought to be one of the most beautiful actresses of her era and was the first Latin American movie star to have international appeal.

She was considered in the Silent film era as the female version of Rudolph Valentino. With the arrival of the talkies she was considered one of the principal Art-Decó symbols of beauty. In the early '40s she began a polemic romance with Orson Welles and that was the key reason why she decided to return to Mexico.

Del Río was the principal star of Mexican films from the Golden age of Mexican cinema in the 1940s and 1950s. She was frequently referred as the "Princess of México".

Early life

Born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López Negrete in Durangomarker, Mexicomarker, del Río was the second cousin of actor Ramón Novarro and the actress Andrea Palma. She was born into a family of Spanish-Basque descent. Her parents were Jesus Leonardo Asúnsolo Jacques, director of the Bank of Durango, and Antonia Lopez-Negrete, members of the Porfiriato (which refers to members of the productive class during the period from 1876-1911 when Porfirio Diaz was president) in Mexico. The family lost all its assets during the Mexican Revolution, and settled in Mexico City. A desire to restore her comfortable lifestyle inspired Dolores to follow a career as an actress.

She studied at a French college in Mexico City. From childhood she had shown a great passion for dancing and was a fan of the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. She would dance for gatherings of rich Mexicans, and at one of these dances she met Jaime Martinez del Rio, a representative of one of Mexico's most important families. Despite being 18 years older than her, Jaime and Dolores fell in love. In 1921, at the age of 16, she married him. The couple spent three years in Europe. In Europe, Dolores met the Kings of Spainmarker, Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg, which dealt with some frequency, impressed particularly the king. In 1924, they returned to Jaime's ranch in Durango. The couple moved to Mexico City, where del Río was discovered by movie producer Edwin Carewe at a soireè organized by Adolfo Best Maugard in Salvador Novo's house. Struck by the beauty of Dolores, Carewe gave the couple work in Hollywood, she as an actress and he as a screenwriter.

Career in Hollywood

Silent cinema

With the surname of her husband, del Río made her film debut in Joanna, directed by Carewe in 1925 and released on 14 December of that year. Hollywood first noticed her appeal as a sex siren, but she struggled against the "Mexicali Rose" image initially pitched to her by Hollywood executives. Despite her brief appearance, Carewe performed an exhaustive publicity for the actress. In her second film High Steppers, Del Rio took the second female credit after Mary Astor. These films were not blockbusters, but helped increase del Río's popularity. Carewe's true intention was to transform her into a female version of Rudolph Valentino.

In late 1926, director Raoul Walsh called del Río to give her a role in What Price Glory. With the character of Charmaine, del Río achieved her desired success. Later, she was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1926 (along with fellow newcomers Joan Crawford, Fay Wray, Janet Gaynor, and Mary Astor). She came to be admired as one of the most beautiful women on screen. After she gained fame, Carewe produced Resurrection, which was a box office hit.

In 1927, Raoul Walsh called del Río for the second version of Carmen. The first was with Theda Bara in 1917, but Walsh thought del Río it best interpret of all the "Hollywood's Carmen" for his authentic Latin origin: "The Miss Del Río interpretation of Carmen does seem all the others very conservative". In 1928, Dolores replaces the actress Renée Adorée in the MGM's film The Trail of '98, directed by Clarence Brown.Her career flourished until the end of the silent era, with successful films such as Ramona (1928, for which she recorded the famous song Ramona with the RCA Victor), and Evangeline (1929). But while del Río's career was flourishing, her marriage declined. Jealous of his wife, Jaime moved to Germanymarker, where he committed suicide in 1929. With the arrival of the talkies, del Río left her working relationship with Carewe, who made several charges against her. The Carewe's revenge was filming a new version of Resurrection with the alleged Dolores rival Lupe Vélez. With the support of United Artists, she managed to escape Carewe and debuted in the talkies with The Bad One in 1930.

In the Thirties

Dolores del Río in I live for Love ( )
In 1930, she married Cedric Gibbons, one of MGM's leading art directors and production designers, whom she met at a party organized by William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies at Hearst Castlemarker. Her presence in Hollywood of the 30's is not just limited to the world of cinema, also the high society circles. The Gibbons-Del Río house in Hollywood was a frequent meeting place from personalities like Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn, Lili Damita, Clark Gable and many more.

With the advent of talkies, she was relegated to exotic and unimportant roles. The Hollywood executives sought "do not talk too much at her movies", because of her Latin acent. She scored successes with Bird of Paradise (1932, directed by King Vidor. The film was produced by David O. Selznick that request the scrpit to King Vidor and say: "I want Del Rio in a love story in the South Seas. I don't care the script, but in the end, Del Rio should be thrown into a volcano". The film scandalized audiences when she took a naked swim with Joel McCrea. This film was made before the Hays Code was enacted so nudity could be shown. Next she filmed Flying Down to Rio (the film that launched the careers of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) (1933); Madame DuBarry (1934) and Wonder Bar (1934). In this movie, del Río shifting severally to the Warner's exclusive star Kay Francis, who jealous, threatened to leave the film.

Later, del Rio starred in the Busby Berkeley comedies In Caliente (1935) and I Live for Love (1935). In 1934, she refuses to participate in the film Viva Villa! (Fay Wray took her place). Dolores accused the film as a "Anti-Mexican movie".

In 1934, Dolores del Río was one of the victims of the "open season" of the "reds" in Hollywood. With James Cagney, Ramón Novarro and Lupe Vélez, she was accused of promoting communism in California. Twenty years later this would have consequences later in the career of the actress.

In the late thirties, del Río's career declined. With the support of Warner Bros. she made a series of police films (such as Lancer Spy in 1937 and International Settlement in 1938). But del Río's career in the later 1930s unfortunately suffered from too many exotic, two-dimensional roles designed with Hollywood's cliched ideas of ethnic minorities in mind. She was marked as "box office poison" by exhibitors, along with actresses such as Katharine Hepburn, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford.

In 1940, Dolores met Orson Welles, who at that time was new to Hollywood. Feeling a mutual attraction, the couple began a romance. Welles fell madly in love with her. Reportedly, the affair was the cause of her divorce from Gibbons in 1941. Dolores del Río was with Welles for two years, during which he was at the peak of his career. She was at his side during the filming of Citizen Kane, and during the attacks of Randolph Hearst against him. Welles initially directed del Río in the Mexican film Santa, but the project was cancelled. The film directed by Norman Foster was realized later by the Mexican actress Esther Fernández.

Dolores also accompanying Welles in a vaudeville shows in all the United States. She collaborated with Welles in the film Journey into Fear in 1942. After Welles broke from RKO, del Río sympathized with him, though her character (a sexy leopard-woman) in the film, was reduced.

Career in México

Since the late thirties, Dolores del Río was sought on several occasions by Mexican film directors. She was friends with noted Mexican artists, such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and maintained ties with Mexican society and cinema. After breaking off her relationship with Orson Welles, del Río decided to try her luck in Mexico, disappointed by the "American star system". Mexican director Emilio Fernández asked her to star in Flor Silvestre (1942) and the miracle happened: at 37, Dolores del Río became the most famous movie star in her country, filming in the Spanish language for the first time. The production group del Río-Fernandez, together with the cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa and the actor Pedro Armendariz had international fame. One of her most successful films was Maria Candelaria (1943, winner at the Cannes Film Festivalmarker). The movie was written by Emilio as a present for her birthday. Other celebrated movies of the group were Las Abandonadas (1944, censored in México by six months), Bugambilia (1945), The Fugitive (1947, directed by John Ford), and La Malquerida (1949).

Over her collaborations with Fernández, del Río was given the opportunity to work with the best film directors in Mexico. Roberto Gavaldon was the one who inherited from Fernández the privilege of creating stories for the flaunting of Del Rio. Under the Gavaldón direction, Dolores filmed the movies La Otra (1946), La Casa Chica (1949), Deseada (1950) and El Niño y la Niebla, (1953,which competes in the Cannes Film Festival). In 1951, Dolores starred Doña Perfecta, in which she was acclaimed for her great dramatic representation.

Dolores worked in Argentinamarker in 1947, in a film version of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan. The Cinema of Spain called her twice for the movies Señora Ama (1954, directed by Dolores's cousin Julio Bracho) and in La Dama del Alba in 1966. Her mother's death in 1961 forced to cancel the Spanish movie Muerte en el otoño, directed by Juan Antonio Bardem.

In 1959, the director Ismael Rodriguez achieved the impossible: bring Dolores del Río and María Félix together in one film La Cucaracha. The newspapers speculated a strong rivalry between the two actresses. María Felix speaks: " With Dolores i don't have any rivalry. On the contrary. We were friends and we always treat them with great respect, each with its own personality".

In 1959, she married theatrical American businessman Lewis "Lou" Riley (a former member of the Hollywood Canteen), whom she met in Acapulcomarker ten years before. The house of Dolores in México, called "La Escondida" in Coyoacanmarker, was very popular inside Mexican and foreign celebrities. She won the Silver Ariel (Mexican Academy Award) as best actress in four times.

In 1954, del Río appeared in the 20th Century Fox film Broken Lance. The U.S. government denied her permission to work in the USA, accusing her of being a sympathizer of international communism. Because del Río did not get permission, the film was made by Katy Jurado. Dolores del Río became one of the victims of McCarthyism. Her situation with the U.S. was fixed in 1956 when the actress was able to return to America to perform in the theater production of Anastacia with Lily Darvas.

Later years

In 1960 Dolores del Río finally returned to Hollywood. She starred with Elvis Presley in Flaming Star directed by Don Siegel. Del Rio alternated between films in Mexico and the USA, with both television and theater.

In 1964, she appeared in Cheyenne Autumn directed by John Ford, with a cast that included Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, James Stewart, Gilbert Roland and Ricardo Montalbán. In 1967, she performed for the first time in Italymarker, with Sophia Loren and Omar Shariff in the film More than a Miracle, produced by Carlo Ponti.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Dolores del Río starred in theater classics like Anastasia (1956), Lady Windermere's Fan (1958) and The Lady of the Camellias (1968, directed by Jose Quintero), with great success in Mexico, Latin America and Europe. She also participated in some American TV series, acting with figures like Buster Keaton, Cesar Romero, Bill Cosby and others. In Englandmarker she starred in a BBC tv program along with Ben Lyon. Dolores del Río's last movie was The Children of Sanchez with Anthony Quinn.

From the fifties to the seventies, del Río collaborated in some international film festivals like Cannes Film Festivalmarker (1957), Berlin Film Festival (1963) and San Sebastián Film Festival (1976).

During the sixties and seventies, Dolores del Río became involved in actor union activities in her native country and was the founder of the group known as "Rosa Mexicano". In 1974, she was the founder of the Estancia Infantil of the Asociacion Nacional de Actores in Mexico. In 1966, she was founder of the "Sociedad Protectora del Tesoro Artistico de México" (Society for the Protection of the artistic treasures of Mexico), co-founded with the philanthropist Felipe García Beraza and responsible for protecting buildings, paintings and other works of art and culture in México. In 1972, she helped found the Festival Cervantino in Guanajuatomarker.

In 1981, del Río was an honoree in the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

Personal life

In 1921 Dolores del Río married Mexican socialite Jaime Martínez del Río, but the marriage came to end in 1928. Her former husband committed suicide in Berlin a year later.

From 1930 to 1940 Dolores was married to MGM's Art Designer Cedric Gibbons. Her relationship of four years with Orson Welles come to end in 1943, and he married Rita Hayworth shortly afterwards. Rebecca Welles, the daughter of Welles and Hayworth, met Dolores in 1954 and she said: "My father considered her the great love of his life", "She was a living legend in the history of my family". Welles once remarked that he was incredibly impressed by her lingerie, which had been made by nuns in France.

In the late 30's, Dolores was related also with the German writer Erich Maria Remarque, who compared her beauty with Greta Garbo.

Other malicious rumors tried to relate with Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, with whom Dolores maintained a close friendship. In the 40's, she was related with the Mexican movie producer Archibaldo Burns and with the dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa.

In 1949, Dolores met Lewis A. Riley in Acapulcomarker. Riley, a theatre producer, was member of the Hollywood Canteen in the 1940s. After ten years together, the couple married in Mexico City in 1959.

Death and memorials

On April 11, 1983, Dolores del Río died from liver disease at the age of 77, in Newport Beach, Californiamarker.

She was cremated and her ashes were interred in the Panteón de Doloresmarker cemetery in Mexico City, Mexicomarker. In 2005, on the centenary of her birth, her remains were moved to the Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres in Mexico City.

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker, at 1620 Vine Street, in recognition of her contributions to the motion picture industry.


Dolores del Río in La Dama de las Camelias (on stage) ( )
She was considered one of the prototypes of the classic woman style of the 1930's: " I think-say Larry Carr (author of More fabulous faces)- that Dolores del Río's appearance at the beginning of the 30's influenced Joan Crawford. In 1930, when Crawford emerged as beauty personified in the entire world, but especially in Hollywood, the women imitated her style of dress and make-up. Gone was the style of heavy pancake and little heart shaped mouths. In its place the angular face, the sculptures look came into vogue. They produced a new type of beauty, of which Dolores del Río was the precursor. She left her 1920s look, loosened her hairdo, enlarged the shape of her lips and altered her eyebrows to underline her exquisite bone structure. She converted hers into one of the truly Great Faces".

Marlene Dietrich considered Dolores "The most beautiful woman in Hollywood" For many people "She has better legs than Dietrich and better cheekbones than Garbo".Some rumors said that her diet consisted of orchid petals and that she slept 16 hours in the day.

When del Río returned to México in 1943 her face experimented a change to become a prototype of the Mexican female beauty foreign countries: "Art Deco beauty of Dolores sympathizes with the Mexican Bronze Race and embodies to a perfect ideal". She was model and muse of notable Mexican painters like Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco.

Despite the passage of years, Dolores del Río continued until the end to present an image of an educated lady, elegant and sophisticated, that despite her age still remained pleasant and desirable in the eyes of the public. In 1978, Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times mentions her as "One of the reigning beauties of the century".

She was interpreted by the actress Lucy Cohu in the TV. film RKO 281 in 1999.

Dolores del Río has a statue at Hollywood-La Brea Boulevard in Los Angelesmarker, designed by Catherine Hardwicke built to honor of multi-ethnic leading ladies of the cinema together with Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge and Anna May Wong.

In 1982, Dolores and María Félix were parodies in the Carlos Fuentes's script Orquídeas à la luz de la luna. Comedia Mexicana that was representated in Spain and in Harvard universitymarker.

Since 1983, the Mexican Society of Film Critics gives the Diosa de Plata award "Dolores del Río" from the best dramatic female performance.

From september 2009 to January 2010, Dolores del Rio was honored in the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City, with one of the most complete photography compilation of her career.


Stage credits

  • Anastacia (1956) ( New York (Broadway), USA)
  • El Abanico de Lady Windermere (1958) (México City, Teatro Virginia Fébregas; Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Camino a Roma (1960) (México City, Teatro de los Insurgentes)
  • Espectros (1961) (México City)
  • Mi querido embustero (1961) (México City)
  • La Vidente, de Roussin (1965) (México City)
  • La Reina y los Rebeldes (1966) (México City)
  • La Dama de las Camelias (1968) (México City, Monterrey)
  • El Espectáculo Rosa Mexicano (1972) (México City)


Notable appearances include:

Further reading

  • Dolores del Río, el rostro del cine mexicano (Dolores del Río: The Face of the Mexican Cinema) (1995). In SOMOS. México: Editorial Televisa, S. A. de C. V.

  • Dolores del Río, la mexicana divina (Dolores del Río: The Divine Mexican) (2002). In SOMOS. México: Editorial Televisa, S. A. de C. V.


  1. Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 14
  2. 80 minutes long, and starring Dorothy MacKaill and Jack Mullah, the film was based on Henry Leyford Gates' screenplay of his own story of a naïve flapper heiress whose true love is jeopardised by false friends pursuing her money[1]
  3. Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 32
  4. Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 56
  5. Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 47
  6. Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 48,49
  7. Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 48: She claimed "mexican reasons".
  8. Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 51-52
  9. Ramón (1997),vol. 1, p. 58-59
  10. Ramón (1997),vol. 1, p. 61
  11. Ramón (1997), vol. 2, p. 16
  12. Ramón (1997),vol. 2, p. 23: The film was banned by the Mexican army for describe the infiltration of the criminal gang "El Automovil Gris" in the Mexican Army in the 1910s
  13. Ramón (1997), vol. 3, p. 59-60: That in 1960 directed in México the movie Sonatas.
  14. Ramón (1997),vol. 2, p. 51-52
  15. Ramón (1997), vol.2, p. 13: Located in the Santa Rosalía 37 street in Coyoacan, México City
  16. Ramón (1997),vol. 3, p. 14,31,38: Directed originally by José Quintero, later dismissed by the actress
  17. Ramón (1997),vol. 3, p. 17
  18. Ramón (1997),vol. 2, p. 49-50; vol. 3, p. 9-10, 48-49
  19. Ramón (1997), vol. 3, p. 20
  20. Ramón (1997),vol. 3 p. 41-42: Realized in Guanajuato, México since 1972
  21. Ramón (1997),vol. 3 p.11
  23. Carr. (1979) , p. 229: ": Cited by Carlos Monsivais and Jorge Ayala Blanco in the Huelva Iberoamerican Film Festival in 1981
  24. Ramón (1997), vol. 1, p. 53
  25. Ramón (1997), vol. 3, p. 44-45
  26. María Idalia "Dolores del Río se retira del cine" Cinema Reporter no. 290 pp. 11 (1948)
  27. Agrasánchez Jr. (2001), p. 239
  28. Ramón (1997), vol. 3, p. 50

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