Dolores del Río, the diva from Mexico to the world
The attraction she generated was not exclusively due to her physique, for which she was considered the second most beautiful person in Hollywood just behind Greta Garbo; she was also provoked by her great talent as an actress, her confidence in herself, her dignified bearing and her efforts to help others.
Dolores del Río is the first Hispanic American to excel in Hollywood and also the first woman to be part of a jury at the Cannes Film Festival (in 1957). Her beauty was undeniable, as noted by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw when he stated that "the two most beautiful things in the world were the Taj Mahal and Dolores del Río", while the German singer and actress Marlene Dietrich considered her the woman most beautiful of the Hollywood about the Swedish Garbo, Joan Crawford and herself. From a wealthy family, of ancestry and cultured, María de los Dolores Asúnsolo and López Negrete were born in Durango on August 3, 1904, although the years 1905 and 1906 are also mentioned.
Refined, with a strict and advanced education, at 15 she danced in a dance recital when Jaime Martínez del Río and Viñent saw her, aged 34 and coming from a family of owners who owned large tracts of land and ranches, among them "La Hormiga", later known as Los Pinos and which was the residence of the presidents of Mexico from 1934 to 2018. After a courtship of only two months, Dolores and Jaime were married at the La Conchita Temple, located in Coyoacán, on the 11th. April 1921. She took his surname and used it as part of her stage name: Dolores del Rio.
They met personalities such as the Mexican plastic artist Adolfo Best Maugard, the painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the writers Xavier Villaurrutia and Rodolfo Usigli, as well as the American filmmaker Edwin Carewe. The latter convinced the couple to move to the United States, where he gave Dolores a small role in his film "Joanna, the millionaire doll"; there began her career as an actress in Hollywood still silent but already the Mecca of American cinema, with films like "Resurrection", "Ramona" and "The price of glory" that led her to fame.
From 1925 to 1942 she starred in more than 30 US movies, a unique case for a Mexican actress. Her charisma and beauty attracted the eyes of film buffs and entrepreneurs, who wanted to advertise her as the new "Latin lover", along with the famous Rodolfo Valentino. Her fame was on the rise, but her marriage was shipwrecked until Jaime left in 1928 and only six months later, he died. Dolores would not stay alone for long and on August 6, 1930, she married for the second time, now with art director Cedric Gibbons.
The sound reaches the cinema and in the first half of the 30s, Dolores developed without problems with the new filming techniques in "El Malo", "Volando a Río" with Fred Astaire, "Ave del Paraíso" and "Madame Dubarry."
She also participated in commercials, filled magazines of the time and became the face of "Lucky Strike" cigarettes. The influence of Gibbons, artistic director of the Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, became evident both in her more sophisticated appearance and in her relationships with personalities such as Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin or Douglas Fairbanks, "the royalty of Hollywood".
But in 1940 she met Orson Welles, a filmmaker who would later describe Dolores as "the great love of his life." Only two years after Del Rio separated from Gibbons, after 11 years of union. She then began a relationship with Welles, who directed her in "Day of terror", although the film also known as "Istanbul" was completed by director Norman Foster. She accompanied Welles during the filming of "El citizen Kane" and although the director proposed several projects with his beloved, such as a new version of "Santa" or the "thriller" known as "Mexican melodrama", their plans did not prosper and the relationship between them weakened.
At the same time when she separated from Orson, Dolores faced difficult situations such as receiving proposals of lower quality or having less caller for the cinema, as well as the beginning of the persecution against supposed communists that would turn into a witch hunt known as "McCarthyism".
That is why "Lolita", as her friends told her, decided to return to Mexico, where she acquired new brilliance and consolidated herself as the first actress in the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, as well as getting involved in philanthropic activities and social benefit. Her experience, expressiveness, and drama gave strength to her interpretations of the character, as can be seen in "Flor Silvestre", the first film she made upon her return to Mexico, in 1943.
She also starred in "La malquerida", which won the Best Photography award at the Venice Festival of 1949, "Las abandonadas", "Doña perfecta" and "El niño y la Niebla" for which she won two Ariel prizes, the highest award awarded in Mexico, the highlights of the film industry. But it is with the feature film "María Candelaria" when she reached the peak of her career; filmed in 1946 under the direction of Emilio "El Indio" Fernández, with the photography of Gabriel Figueroa and the actor Pedro Armendáriz as her partner, that film reached the level of a world classic.
In 1949, during her stay in the port of Acapulco, Dolores met the millionaire businessman Lewis Riley, with whom a year later he got married in New York and they stayed together for three decades until the death of the actress, in 1983. The couple's houses Riley-Del Rio in both Acapulco and Coyoacán, and in New Port Beach, California, became a meeting point for artists and intellectuals, including Salvador Novo, John Wayne, Aga Khan, Nelson Rockefeller, Prince Edward and his wife Wallis Simpson, José Luis Cuevas and Ignacio López Tarso, among other personalities.
Dolores del Rio took her art to Spain, Italy, Greece, Argentina, where she performed in feature films such as "Siempre hay una Mujer", directed by Francesco Rossi, and "La Dama del alba" by the Spanish Francisco Rovira-Beleta. She continued to participate in American films, including "The Fugitive" alongside Henry Fonda; the westerns "History of a bad woman" and "The case of the Cheyenne"; "Star of fire", of 1960 and with Elvis Presley, in which she personified the mother of the "King of Rock and Roll"; as well as "Los Hijos de Sánchez", which caused a scandal in Mexico.
In 1959 with the production "La Cucaracha" the Mexican filmmaker Ismael Rodriguez met with Maria Felix, the other diva of Mexico, who was said many years was an enemy, but both denied it. Dolores del Rio also acted in television and plays, among which stand out "Father Hidalgo", "Road to Rome", "The Queen and the rebels" or "The lady of the Camellias". At the same time, she undertook charitable activities, among them the founding of the Society for the Protection of Artistic Treasures of Mexico, as well as the Children's Residence "Dolores del Río", which provides care to the children of the members in the National Association of Actors (ANDA).
She also created the Rosa Mexicano actresses union and helped in the formation of the Cervantino International Festival that takes place in Guanajuato, a Mexican city that she fell in love with when she filmed "Bugambilia". The impact of Dolores del Río, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a statue on Boulevard Hollywood-La Brea, reached other arts, as evidenced by the paintings of Diego Rivera and Rosa Rolanda, Carlos's literature Monsiváis and Paco Ignacio Taibo I, the sculptures of Juan Cruz Reyes and Francisco Zúñiga.
On April 11, 1983, she received an invitation to participate in the Oscar awards ceremony. Hours later she died at her home in California. Her remains were moved to Mexico City, where she was buried, and in 2006 she was transferred to the Rotunda of Illustrious Persons in recognition of her contribution to art and culture in Mexico.
Her importance was again highlighted in 2017 when the "doodle" or image that the company Google dedicates to outstanding personalities in the history of humanity was disseminated worldwide. The term "diva" appeared in the early twentieth century in Italy to refer to the most talented opera singers and then spread to the most outstanding women in the world of entertainment, seems created for Dolores del Rio, this legend of universal cinema.