“Then there’s the story of ill-fated love. It’s universal.”
She moved to New York with her mother when she was six. Her first entertainment gig was doing Spanish voice overs to American films when she was 11. She made her Broadway debut in November of 1945 in Skydrift at the Belasco Theatre. Her name appeared in the program as Rita Moreno.
She appeared as Zelda Zanders in Singin’ in the Rain in 1952 and as Tuptim in The King and I in 1956. She also played a lot of Latino “sexpot” roles, something she found degrading, but that she put up with.
Then came West Side Story…
Moreno (co-stars) as “Anita”, the Puerto Rican girlfriend of Sharks’ leader Bernardo, whose sister Maria is the piece’s Juliet. A seasoned singer and dancer, Moreno delivered a superb performance that completely overshadowed the Maria of the movie, the non-singer (and non-Hispanic) Natalie Wood, the only movie star in the ensemble cast. [IMDB Rita Moreno]
Watch her sing and dance up a storm with Geroge Chakiris and the Sharks (et al) in West Side Story…
But her performance went well beyond wise cracking, dancing and singing. She was…
…unforgettable in a harrowing scene where she had to deliver a message from Maria to the Romeo of the piece, the Jets’ member Tony, and is assaulted by his fellow gang-members. This is the real climax of the film.[Ibid]
She won an Oscar for her Anita.
Moreno is, in fact, the first person to win an Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy — something only 12 other people have managed to achieve.. (She won Emmys for The Muppet Show and The Rockford Files; The Tony was for the musical The Ritz (’76), and the Grammy was for the soundtrack to the “Electric Company.”) In 2010 President Obama awarded Moreno a National Medal of Arts.
Here she mets her match with the Muppet Show‘s Animal (or was it the other way around?)
From PBS kids shows like Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego to the hard-hitting HBO prison drama OZ (she won 3 American Latino Media Arts awards for her role as Sister Peter Marie Reimondo) Moreno always gives herself 100% to a project.
Here she is singing It’s An Art from the musical Working...
Moreno has over 130 credits listed in her TV and Movie database and has been working for over 6 decades. At 81 she still looks and sounds great, and shows little sign of slowing down.