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Maria Montez

from the trailer of the film Cobra Woman (1944)
Born María África Gracia Vidal
June 6, 1912(1912-06-06)
Barahona, Dominican Republic
Died September 7, 1951 (aged 39)
Paris, France
Spouse(s) William McFeeters (November 28, 1932–1939)
Jean-Pierre Aumont (July 13, 1943–September 7, 1951)

Maria Montez (June 6, 1912 – September 7, 1951) was a Dominican-born motion picture actress who gained fame and popularity in the 1940s as an exotic beauty starring in a series of filmed-in-Technicolor costume adventure films. Her screen image was that of a hot-blooded Latin seductress, dressed in fanciful costumes and sparkling jewels. She became so identified with these adventure epics that she became known as "The Queen of Technicolor." Over her career, Montez appeared in 26 films, 21 of which were made in North America and five in Europe.

Contents

Early life

Born María África Gracia Vidal in Barahona, Dominican Republic, she was the second daughter of ten children born to Isidoro Gracia Garcia Vidal born in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain and mother Regla Teresa Maria Vidal from Bani, Dominican Republic. Her father, an exporter of wood and textiles, was also the Spanish Consul to the Dominican Republic.[1] At a young age, she taught herself to speak English. Montez was educated in a Catholic convent in her father's native Canary Islands.[2] Maria's brothers and sister were Isidoro, Aquilino, Joaquín, David, Ada, Consuelo, Luz, Luis, Jaime and Teresita.

In 1932, she married William McFeeters, an American banker working in her seaside home town of Barahona. Her marriage lasted several years but in 1939 she ended up in New York City where her exotic looks landed her a job as a model. Determined to become a stage actress, she hired an agent and created a résumé that made her several years younger by listing her birth as 1917 in some instances and 1918 in others. Eventually she accepted an offer from Universal Pictures, making her film debut in a Johnny Mack Brown B western, Boss of Bullion City.

Career

Her beauty soon made her the centerpiece of Universal's Technicolor costume adventures, notably the six in which she was teamed with Jon HallArabian Nights (1942), White Savage (1943), Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944), Cobra Woman (1944), Gypsy Wildcat (1944), and Sudan (1945). Montez also appeared in the Technicolor western Pirates of Monterey (1947) with Rod Cameron and the sepia-toned swashbuckler The Exile (1948), directed by Max Ophuls and starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

While working in Hollywood, she met and married French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont, who had to leave a few days after their wedding to serve in the Free French Forces fighting against Nazi Germany in the European Theatre of World War II. At the end of World War II, the couple had a daughter, Maria Christina (also known as Tina Aumont), born in Hollywood in 1946. They then moved to a home in Suresnes, Île-de-France in the eastern suburb of Paris under the French Fourth Republic. There, Maria Montez appeared in several films and a play written by her husband. She also wrote three books, two of which were published, as well as penning a number of poems.

Death

The 39-year-old Montez died in Paris, France on September 7, 1951 after apparently suffering a heart attack and drowning in her bath.[3] She was buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris where her tombstone displays her theatrical year of birth, 1918.

Legacy

Shortly after her death, a street in the city of Barahona, Montez's birthplace, was named in her honor.[3]

In 1996, the city of Barahona opened the Aeropuerto Internacional María Montez (María Montez International Airport) in her honor.[4]

The American underground filmmaker Jack Smith idolized Montez as an icon of camp style. Among his acts of devotion, he wrote an aesthetic manifesto titled "The Perfect Filmic Appositeness of Maria Montez", referred to her as "The Wonderful One" or "The Marvelous One", and made elaborate homages to her movies in his own films, including the notorious Flaming Creatures.[1]

Filmography

  • Boss of Bullion City (1940)
  • The Invisible Woman (1940)
  • Lucky Devils (1941)
  • That Night in Rio (1941)
  • Raiders of the Desert (1941)
  • Moonlight in Hawaii (1941)
  • South of Tahiti (1941)
  • Bombay Clipper (1942)
  • The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)
  • Arabian Nights (1942)
  • White Savage (1943)
  • Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944)
  • Follow the Boys (1944)
  • Cobra Woman (1944)
  • Gypsy Wildcat (1944)
  • Bowery to Broadway (1944)
  • Sudan (1945)
  • Tangier (1946)
  • The Exile (1947)
  • Pirates of Monterey (1947)
  • Siren of Atlantis (1949)
  • Wicked City (1949)
  • Portrait of an Assassin (1949)
  • Revenge of the Pirates (1951)
  • City of Violence (1951)
  • Camorra (1951)
  • The Thief of Venice (1951)

References

  1. ^ www.mariamontez.net
  2. ^ Maria Montez Biography
  3. ^ a b Ruíz, Vicki; Sánchez Korrol, Virginia. Latinas in the United States. Indiana University Press. pp. 486–487. ISBN 0-253-34680-0.  
  4. ^ Ferguson, James (2000-05-27). "I'm Maria, fly me!". The Independent. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20000527/ai_n14316461. Retrieved 2008-08-03.  

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