Delores studied at the Liceo Franco Mexicano where she had a passion for dancing, admiring the great Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. In 1921, an elite group in the Mexican capital decided to organize a benefit for a local hospital. They chose Dolores to perform “Spanish” dances. The organizer of the benevolent group, Jaime Martínez del Río y Viñent, was captivated and asked for her hand in marriage. After a two-month courtship, Dolores married Jaime on 11 April 1921. He was 34. She was 16. In 1924, the couple reluctantly returned to Mexico. They decided to live on Jaime’s country estate, where cotton was the main crop. However, when the bottom fell out of the cotton market, Jaime lost his entire fortune. Another loss was suffered when Dolores miscarried. She was told never to try to have another child.
When Edwin Carewe, an influential director at First National Films saw Delores dance a tango at a dinner party he fell under her spell and cajoled the couple into moving to Hollywood. Dolores was contracted by Carewe as her agent, manager, producer and director. She made her film debut in 1925 in Joanna. She only appeared in the film for 5 minutes and was mistakenly credited as "Dorothy Del Rio." Despite her brief appearance, Carewe arranged for wide publicity for her with the intention to transform her into a star on the order of Rudolph Valentino, a "Female Latin Lover".
In her second film, High Steppers, del Río took the second female credit after the actress Mary Astor. The film was not blockbuster, but helped to increase del Río's popularity. In her next film, the comedy Pals First (1926), del Río received her first starring role. Her success came despite not yet having mastered English. In late 1926, the director Raoul Walsh called del Río to cast her in What Price Glory with a great success. Later, she was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1926, along with fellow newcomers Joan Crawford, Mary Astor, Janet Gaynor, Fay Wray and others.
In 1927, Carewe produced and directed Resurrection (1927), based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy, which was a box office hit. He worked on the script with the son of Leo Tolstoy, Count Ilya Tolstoy. Del Río was selected as the heroine, Rod La Rocque starred as leading man, and the Count Tolstoy himself having a role in the film.
In 1927, Raoul Walsh called del Río to do a second version of Carmen, The Loves of Carmen (1927). Walsh thought del Río to be the best interpreter of Carmen for her authentic Hispanic origin.
In 1928, she replaced the actress Renée Adorée (who was showing symptoms of tuberculosis) in the MGM film The Trail of '98, directed by Clarence Brown. She was hired by United Artists for the successful 1928 film Ramona, for which she recorded the famous song "Ramona" with RCA Victor. Dolores would be the first interpretation of a true Latin American Ramona. This was the first United Artists film with a synchronized score, but was not a talking picture. Dolores divorced of her husband during the filming of Ramona.
After finishing filming Ramona, Hollywood was concerned with the impending arrival of talkies. On 29 March, at Mary Pickford's bungalow, the United Artists brought together Pickford, del Río, Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, John Barrymore, and D. W. Griffith to speak on the radio show The Dodge Brothers Hour to prove they could meet the challenge of talking movies. Del Río surprised the audience by singing Ramona,proving to be prepared to face the challenge of talkies.
She made other films such as The Red Dance, directed again by Raoul Walsh and another production sponsored by Carewe: Revenge.
During the filming of Evangeline United Artists considered removing her from the tutelage of Carewe, who had ambitions to marry her and become a famous Hollywood couple. Dolores paid Carewe a substantial settlement out of court and began truly looking toward liberation.
In 1928, Dolores met Cedric Gibbons, one of the original Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences members and a leading MGM art director and production designer, who supervised the design of the Academy Award's Oscar trophy by printing the design on a scroll. Del Río reunited with Cedric Gibbons once again for a party organized by William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies at Hearst Castle. The couple started a romance, that culminated in a marriage ceremony at the Old Mission Santa Barbara Church in 1930.
In 1929 Delores stared in her first talkie The Bad One. In 1930 Dolores fell seriously ill with a severe kidney infection and could not make films so ended her contract with MGM and was hired as exclusive by RKO Pictures. She made her first film with them Girl of the Rio. She followed this up with Bird of Paradise in 1932. The film scandalized audiences when she was shown taking a naked swim with Joel McCrea.
Next she filmed Flying Down to Rio in 1933, the film that first paired Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It also featured Del Río opposite Fred Astaire in an intricate dance number called Orchids in the Moonlight.
Failing to anticipate the movie's success, RKO, in the midst of a financial crisis, terminated Delores contract, but Warner Bros. picked it up, with their press release touting how she would “bloom into another Greta Garbo.”
However her first two films with Warner Bros, Wonder Bar and Madame Du Barry (both 1934) were mutilated by the Hays Code and were both failures. Next, Delores starred in the Busby Berkeley comedies In Caliente and I Live for Love (both 1935), but she refused to participate in the film Viva Villa! which she described as an "anti-Mexican movie".Fay Wray took her place, and Delores' contract with Warner Brothers was finished.
Delores worked on Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox films in 1937, but was more visible in advertisements for Lucky Strike cigarettes, Max Factor makeup, or promoting clothing lines and perfumes than acting in films. With the support of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, she made a series of unsuccessful spy films (such as Lancer Spy in 1937 and International Settlement in 1938). In this situation, she accepted a contract to film Accused in England with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr..
Del Río's career in the late thirties suffered from too many exotic, two-dimensional roles designed with Hollywood's clichéd ideas of ethnic minorities. In the late thirties, the Latin temperament was no longer fashionable. "Primitive" no longer played in a world encircled by the imminence of war, and traditional glamour, while it does not go away, loses some of its appeal. del Río, one of the great beauties of the star system, was suddenly without an available film character. She was put on a list entitled "Box Office Poison" along with Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and Katharine Hepburn. The list was submitted to Los Angeles newspapers by an independent movie theater whose point was that these stars' high salaries and public popularity did not counteract the low ticket sales for their movies.
Dolores attended a party given by Jack Warner, where she met Orson Welles and fell completely under his spell. Dolores moved out of Gibbons' house and asked for a divorce in March 1940. In August 1940 Dolores's father died, dealing her another terrible blow. She traveled to Mexico with her mother. While there she was contacted by Mexican director Chano Urueta, who wanted to make a new version of the famous Mexican film Santa, this time with Dolores del Río in the title role. del Río said she would think it over. Back in Los Angeles, she showed Welles the script for Santa and he almost immediately wrote a brand new version with “47 extraordinary scenes.” But the deal fell through because of the proposed salary.
Welles had planned a Mexican drama with del Río, which he gave to RKO to be budgeted. In the story, she would play Elena Medina, "the most beautiful girl in the world", with Welles playing an American who becomes entangled in a plot to disrupt a Nazi plot to overthrow the Mexican government. Welles planned to shoot in Mexico, but the Mexican government had to approve the story, and this never occurred.
Meanwhile, the Welles film Citizen Kane had its world premiere on 1 May 1941 at the Palace Theater in New York City. Dolores had returned to the East Coast in order to enter the theater on the arm of Orson Welles. The film, eventually considered among the finest ever made, was a box office disaster, thanks to Hearst papers' negative reviews.
At the beginning of 1942 Delores began work on Journey into Fear with Norman Foster as director and Welles as producer. Only four days later Welles left on a goodwill tour after Nelson Rockefeller, asked Orson Welles to travel to South America as an ambassador of good will to counter fascist propaganda about Americans. While he was there Delores did not hear from him and eventually sent him a telegram breaking off the relationship. After failing to get a response she decided to return to Mexico.
In 1938, the producer Pancho Cabrera asked Dolores to do the Mexican film La Noche de los Mayas. Later, the director Chano Urueta considered her for a new version of Santa, but economic circumstances were not favorable for the entry of del Río to the Mexican cinema.
Mexican director Emilio Fernández invited her to film Flor silvestre (1942). This was del Río's first Spanish-language film. Her most successful film was María Candelaria. The movie was written by Emilio as a present for her birthday.
Other celebrated movies of the team were Las Abandonadas and Bugambilia (1944). Dolores del Rio became the leading figure in the Mexican film industry.
Roberto Gavaldón 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) and El Niño y la Niebla, (1953), among others.
Dolores also worked in Argentina in 1947, in a film version of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan. Later, Dolores was called by John Ford to film The Fugitive, which was based on the novel by Graham Greene with Henry Fonda in México. The film was co-produced by Emilio Fernandez, and Dolores played a kind of Maria Magdalene. Ford had planned to make a film about the life of the Empress Charlotte of Mexico and thought that she was the ideal actress for the role instead of Bette Davis, who starred in Juarez. In 1949, Dolores returned to work with Fernandez for the film La Malquerida.
In 1949, in Acapulco, Dolores met Lewis "Lou" Riley, a theatrical American businessman and a former member of the Hollywood Canteen. The couple immediately began an affair.
In 1951, Dolores starred in Doña Perfecta, in which she was acclaimed for her great dramatic representation. She won the Silver Ariel (Mexican Academy Award) as best actress four times. In 1959, the director Ismael Rodríguez brought Dolores del Río and the Mexican film star María Félix together in one film La Cucaracha. The newspapers speculated a strong rivalry between the two actresses.
In 1959, on November 24 she finally married Lewis Riley in New York
In 1934, Delores was accused of promoting communism in California. This happened after these actors attended a special screening of Sergei Eisenstein's ¡Que viva México! copies of which were claimed to have been edited by Joseph Stalin. The film aroused nationalist sentiment with socialist overtones, and many Mexican filmmakers later led to the big screen, including Emilio Fernandez. Twenty years later this would have consequences on her career. In 1954, del Río was slated to appear in the 20th Century Fox film Broken Lance. The U.S. government denied her permission to work in the US, accusing her of being a sympathizer of international communism. Her situation with the U.S. was fixed in 1956 when the actress was able to return to the United States to perform in the theatrical production of Anastacia.
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 US, in both television and theater. Her mother's death in 1961 forced her to cancel the Spanish movie Muerte en el otoño, directed by Juan Antonio Bardem. She also received a proposal from Kirk Douglas to make a film about the conquest of Mexico. In addition, Federico Fellini offered her a project in Italy that never materialized.
In 1964, she appeared in Cheyenne Autumn directed by John Ford, with a cast that included Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, James Stewart, Gilbert Roland, Ricardo Montalbán and Sal Mineo.
The last film that del Río worked on in Mexico was Casa de Mujeres in which she played the role of a madame of a brothel.
In 1967, she performed in Italy, with Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif in the film More Than a Miracle. She perform the role of the mother of Shariff.
Dolores del Río's last movie was The Children of Sanchez with Anthony Quinn and Katy Jurado in 1978, directed by Hall Bartlett, making only a short appearance as the Grandma.
With the decline of Mexican cinema during the fifties and sixties, Dolores del Río opted for work in theatre. Dolores debuted on Broadway with the classic Anastasia (1956). Del Río's debut on the Mexican stage was in Lady Windermere's Fan (1958). One of her most important project were The Ghost Sonata in 1962, and Dear Liar: A Comedy of Letters, in 1963. Her next project were La Vidente (1964), La Reina y los Rebeldes (1967) and The Lady of the Camellias.
She also participated in some American TV series. Her first project was in 1957, in an episode of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. In 1958 she starred The United States Steel Hour and in 1960 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show. In 1963 appeared in Spectacular Show, with a soap opera named The Man Who Bought the Paradise. In 1964 in England she starred in a BBC TV program along with Ben Lyon. In 1965 she starred in an episode of the TV Series I Spy, and in 1966, she appeared in Branded, in the episode The Ghost of Murrietta. Dolores never worked on Mexican television. Her last appearance on television was in a 1972 episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. entitled "The Legacy" with Robert Young, James Brolin and Janet Blair
From the 1950s to the 1970s, del Río collaborated in some international film festivals like Cannes Film Festival (1957), Berlin Film Festival (1962) and San Sebastián Film Festival (1976) as a juror.
In 1966, she was co-founder of the Sociedad Protectora del Tesoro Artistico de México (Society for the Protection of the artistic treasures of Mexico) with the philanthropist Felipe García Beraza. The society was responsible for protecting buildings, paintings and other works of art and culture in México. In 1972, she helped found the Cultural Festival Cervantino in Guanajuato
During the 1970s, was formed "Rosa Mexicano" ("Mexican Rose"), one of the most momentous groups in the history of the National Association of Actors (ANDA) of Mexico. Lead and supported by Dolores del Rio, the purpose of the group is to protect children and female artists. On January 8, 1970, Dolores, in collaboration with other renowned Mexican actresses like Silvia Pinal and Carmen Montejo, founded this faction, which has as one of its greatest achievements the creation of the "Estancia Infantil Dolores del Río" ("Dolores del Río's Nursery")
Starting in the 1960s, Del Río suffered severe pains in her bones. In 1978, she was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, and in 1981 she was diagnosed with Hepatitis B following an injection of expired vitamins. In 1982, Del Río was admitted to the Medical Center of La Joya, California, where hepatitis led to cirrhosis.
In 1981, del Río was honored in the San Francisco Film Critics Circle by the film directors Francis Ford Coppola and George Cukor. She chatted in a private event organized by Coppola and his family in her honor. This was her last public appearance.
On April 11, 1983, Dolores del Río died from her liver disease at the age of 77, in Newport Beach, California. That day she had been invited to appear on the next Academy Awards Ceremony. She was cremated and her ashes were interred in the Panteón de Dolores cemetery in Mexico City, Mexico.
The physical characteristics of Dolores del Río made her a victim of veneration continuous, even beyond death. The myth of Hollywood placed her in another area, as became one of the women involved in the rebirth of the Mexican culture and customs.
The face of Dolores del Rio was also the object of veneration for many artists that shaped in their canvases. These include Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Angel Zarraga, Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Miguel Covarrubias, Rosa Covarrubias, Antonieta Figueroa, Frances Gauner Goshman, Adolfo Best Maugard, John Carroll and Francisco Zúñiga.
Dolores del Rio was considered one of the prototypes of the classic woman style of the 1930s. Her appearance at the beginning of the 30's influenced Joan Crawford. Crawford said on a visit to Mexico in 1963: "Dolores became, and remains, as one of the most beautiful stars in the world" Marlene Dietrich said del Río was The most beautiful woman in Hollywood. The fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli once said: "I have seen many beautiful women in here, but none as complete as Dolores del Rio!" George Bernard Shaw once said: "The two most beautiful things in the world are the Taj Mahal and Dolores del Rio"
iewed from today's perspective, what is striking about her representation in the media are the adjectives used to describe her. They were not words like Latin bombshell, hot tamale, sultry, spitfire, or hot cha cha. Rather, they were words like sophisticated, aristocratic, refined elegance, glamorous, sedate and "ladylike". Also surprising is the extent to which the references to her clothes often matched these adjectives and how she, nonetheless, retained her Latin-ness, i.e., her Mexican origins in the coverage. Consequently, given this picture of Mexican segregation, some might find it surprising to find any major Mexican stars at the box office during this period and to find them depicted in the way Dolores del Río was. Dolores del Río's career highlights the potential for Latina agency and negotiation through Hollywood film, but has also sparked the myth of the Hollywood Latina as a racialized and sexualized mediator in Hollywood film. Current stars Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Mendes, and Penélope Cruz follow in the footsteps of the trailblazing Dolores del Rio.
Dolores del Río has a statue at Hollywood-La Brea Boulevard in Los Angeles, designed by Catherine Hardwicke built to honor the multi-ethnic leading ladies of the cinema together with Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge and Anna May Wong.
In 1982, Del Rio was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.
Since 1983, the Mexican Society of Film Critics has been giving the Diosa de Plata "Dolores del Río" award for the best dramatic female performance.
She was interpreted by the actress Lucy Cohu in the TV film RKO 281 in 1999.
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 Fame, at 1630 Vine Street, in recognition of her contributions to the motion picture industry.
♥ Take care of your inner, spiritual beauty. That will reflect in your face.
♥ Hollywood, what a place it is! It is so far away from the rest of the world, so narrow. No one thinks of anything but motion pictures or talks of anything else.