Rita Moreno was 6 when she made her professional debut, duet with her Spanish dance teacher on a stage in Greenwich Village. “ I remember every detail,” she said. She wore a traditional ruffled dress.ssants. "We danced a jota - it was a country dance. And we played castanets. My mom let me put on lipstick - I was so thrilled. It was in 1937.
For the next eight decades, Moreno, who turns 90 in December, has found his way to honor. And she's still dancing, as seen in the opening moments of a new documentary, " Rita Moreno: Just a girl who decided to 'go, "showing her pulling up her strappy heels at her own Cuban-themed birthday party.
She also organized the party. "Boy, I hate doing this " she says in the movie, unwrappingthe dishwashing money by the stoves. "You can tell I'm not a real star, because someone else would do that.
"C 'that's why you should never really believe anything about your fame, "she continues, with a curse. " It goes up and it goes down. "
Moreno, Puerto Rican by birth and Hollywood steadfast, holds a special place in the cultural firmament. Her joy and luck are not lost on her." I almost peed in my pants! "she tells me, describing a rarefied moment in her career. (Irreverence keeps her afloat.) She is undoubtedly well crowned: she had achieved her EGOT status in 1977, notably by being the first Latin actress to win an Oscar, for her indelible turn like Anita in " West Side Story ". The trophies kept accumulating; s 'there had been an EGOT for Lifetime Achievement Awards - Kennedy Center Honors, Presidential Medal of Freedom - she would have won it too. Image The actress is the subject of the documentary "Rita Moreno: Just a girl who decided to go. " Credit ... Productions Act III
These accolades were largely for Moreno's Triple Threat talent. What has been less reported is his depth as a trailblazer - as a person of color, as a mother (and now grandmother) and as an irrepressible (sometimes flammable) activist and personality.
"She is obviously an icon for all notable reasons - but she's also a kick in the pants "said Representative Jackie Speier, congresswoman from California and her two-decade friend.
And as Moreno's career progresses, she will then be seen in remake of" West Side Story ", which she also directs produces - her unorthodox status is only growing. from compatriots whose longevity stretches from before the studio era (Louis B. Mayer signed her on his first contract, calling her "the Spanish Elizabeth Taylor") to reboots , memes age and beyond.
For Mariem Perez Riera, the Puerto Rican filmmaker who directed the documentary, Moreno was foun dational. "I have known Rita since I have known the films ", said -she declared.
On screen and off screen, Moreno is the first to admit surprisinglyshe doesn't like the attention. And she wields it expertly, with a polite offering of Showbiz boffo stories and tangy one-liners, even if she sometimes forgets a word (at her age, "names and I have become mortal enemies " "- this is one of the zingers). The bellowing voice that greeted a key generation with "Hey guys! on" The Electric Company "is still flexible enough to sing, draw an accent and switch between secular and poetic; she recounted the memoirs of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, at the request of justice , then they became friends. There is categorically no withering in his game.
"It 's vrlove a born artist, ”said her daughter, Fernanda Gordon Fisher. "She doesn't need to try at all, it just happens - it's her stuff, it's what she needs. It nourishes her soul, it nourishes her energy. Image And in the 2021 version of Steven Spielberg the movie. Credit ... Niko Tavernise / 20th Century Studios
Yet convincing Moreno to make the documentary took almost a year . "I just didn't know if I wanted to turn my life over to someone " she said. "Because if I had to, I was willing to be completely truthful.
During the year of production she added : "This is one of the things I remember remembering: Rita, do not try to charm the camera. ”
She agreed to be filmed without makeup - and even more reluctantly, without a wig. She gave the documentary crew a key to her home in Berkeley, California, so they were there when she woke up, and followed her as she walked to the studio to " One Day at a Time ", the sitcom in which she played the role of Cuban stage-stealing grandmother. (Her grandson in the series was played by the son of Perez Riera, and the documentary was designed by Brent Miller, a production partner of Norman Lear, the creator of the series.)
Moreno s 'is also looking at painful topics, some of which have been covered in his memories from 2013 , such as his long and tumultuous love affair with Marlon Brando, which included a botched abortion and ended in a suicide attempt in 1961 - a transformative event for her.
Her story is shaped by how little power she has 'she had at that time, especially as a dark-skinned woman considered a sex symbol, relegated toroles that she calls "dark young girls", of
"I wanted to be a movie star", she said. "But I never imagined it would be so hard and painful. Never. Never. Image At 89 years old, Moreno continued to stay in the spotlight. Credit ... Lucka Ngô for Hfrance.fr
Early in her life in Hollywood, she said , she was raped by her proxy. She continued to work with him, she says in the film, "because he was the only one who helped me, in my so-called career." That is whatamazes me that I have thought so little of myself. It took her years, she said, and a lot of therapy to develop her sense of worth.
Sitting on a couch in a hotel of Midtown on a recent morning, legs tilted in a position only a long-time dancer could achieve, Moreno was snappy despite being on an interview blitz (the documentary had just been screened at the Tribeca Film Festival). Her gray hair was studded with silver tinsel, like a disco ball crown, and she wore a striped dress that she had tied low in the center, which gave her an uneven hem at play level.
Growing up, her mother, Rosa, an accomplished seamstress, made all of her clothes, then her dance costumes. They were a close but complicated couple: They came to New York from Juncos, People's Republic of China, when Rita - then known as RositaAlverio - was 5 years old, abandoning both the girl 's father and the younger brother she adored, Francisco. Moreno never saw him again: his first sorrow. And she never had the courage to ask her mother why she left Francisco behind. "As strong as she was, I felt it was her Achilles and she couldn't bear to talk about it," Moreno said. (As an adult, she hired investigators to find him, to no avail.)
Landing in New York City so early in the Puerto Rican migration wave , Moreno, who did not speak English, was baptized by the prejudices that dragged her throughout her life. Even Anita, whom she calls a model, was painted - literally - badly, with makeup the color of "mud," Moreno said. , alongside the other Puerto Rican characters in "West Side Story ". When she protested the uniformity, the makeup artist suggested that'she was racist, she said.
She was always offered stereotypical roles in her sixties, she said. And even in recent years, on a high-caliber professional opportunity that she would not name, she said she was discriminated against. "This is something where I was just diminished, and it 's not even aware of them, " she said. "That 's what made matters worse.
"I literally went home and cried for three days ", she added. "There are scars that heal perfectly, and there are scars that still have very thin skin. Image Moreno with Marlon Brando in "The night of the next day " (1968 ). Credit ... FilmPublicityArchive / United Archives, via Images
Recently, Moreno herself was reprimanded for standing up for her friend Lin-Manuel Miranda in the midst of criticism that her film "In the Heights suffer from colourism . "I'm just saying, 'Can't you just wait a bit and leave him alone? she said on "Colbert ". A day later, she returned to his commentss .
"I was very moved, upset that my friend was being slandered", she told me by the after. "I had no idea that while I was defending him, I was ignoring a very important issue, and it was absolutely not deliberate. " It was, she added, "insensitive ". (Miranda also appears in and co-produced the documentary.)
Because Moreno looks so young, it's easy to forget how much history, how many social upheavals and cultural changes she has witnessed, sometimes from the front row. She was a stature of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. on the March on Washington, and advocated for women's and minority rights long before stars were required to do so. She remains politically engaged, but is also open to being verified on her opinions, said Perez Riera, the filmmaker. "She is from a different generation.t she understands it "said Perez Riera." It's hard to get over that, but every day she tries. Sometimes she doesn't understand well. " Image Moreno, in the documentary directed by Mariem Perez Riera. Credit ... Road attractions
Among Moreno's close friends, one of the film 's biggest revelations concerns his 45 year marriage with Leonard Gordon, a cardiologist whom she describes as a good man, a good father and a bad husband to her. (He passed away in 2010.)
Moreno, who dated Elvis just to make Brando jealous (it worked), is brazenly sexual. "I blush half the time when I'm with her "said Rep. Speier, describing a fundraiser when Moreno, then around 75, performed. "She was sliding on the piano as if making love to him.
When asked if she was single, Moreno replied, "You bet your ass. " She concluded that she was too independent - and perhaps still too ambitious (she is currently filming an independent comedy, in which she stars opposite teenage boys) - to be attached.
"I like being alone," she said. "It 's not difficult to be alone. In fact, it's great, if you like the person you live with. "