Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno (2011)
Born Rosa Dolores Alverío
(1931-12-11) December 11, 1931
Humacao, Puerto Rico, U.S.
Nationality Puerto Rican-American
Occupation Actress, Singer, Dancer
Years active 1942–present
Spouse(s) Leonard Gordon
(m. 1965–2010; his death)
Children 1

Rita Dolores Moreno (born Rosa Dolores Alverío, December 11, 1931) is a Puerto Rican-American actress, dancer and singer. Her career has spanned over 70 years; among her notable acting work are supporting roles in the musical films The King and I and West Side Story, as well as a 1971–77 stint on the children's television series The Electric Company, and a supporting role on the 1997-2003 TV drama Oz.

Moreno is one of twelve performers[1] to have won all four major annual American entertainment awards: an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony.[2] She is also one of 22 people who have achieved the so-called Triple Crown of Acting, with individual competitive Academy, Emmy and Tony awards for acting; and one of only two people who have achieved both distinctions, the other being Helen Hayes. She has also won numerous other awards, including various lifetime achievement awards. Moreno also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor.

Early years

Moreno, was born Rosa Dolores Alverío[3] in Humacao, Puerto Rico, to Rosa María (née Marcano), a seamstress, and Francisco José "Paco" Alverío, a farmer. She was originally nicknamed "Rosita". Moreno, whose mother was 17 at the time of her birth, was raised in nearby Juncos.[4][5] Rita's mother moved to New York City in 1936, taking her daughter, but not her son, Rita's younger brother, Francisco. Rita later adopted the surname of her first stepfather, Edward Moreno, Rosa Maria's second husband.


Early career

Rita began her first dancing lessons soon after arriving in New York with a Spanish dancer known as "Paco Cansino", who was a paternal uncle of film star Rita Hayworth.[6] When she was 11 years old, she lent her voice to Spanish language versions of American films. She had her first Broadway role—as "Angelina" in Skydrift—by the time she was 13, which caught the attention of Hollywood talent scouts.


Moreno acted steadily in films throughout the 1950s, usually in small roles, including in The Toast of New Orleans (1950)[7] and Singin' in the Rain (1952), in which she played the starlet "Zelda Zanders". In March 1954, Moreno was featured on the cover of Life Magazine with the caption "Rita Moreno: An Actress's Catalog of Sex and Innocence".[8][9]

Moreno disliked most of her film work during this period, as she felt the roles she was given were very stereotypical. One exception was her supporting role in the film version of The King and I as Tuptim.[10]

In 1961, Moreno landed the role of Anita in Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins' film adaptation of Leonard Bernstein's and Stephen Sondheim's groundbreaking Broadway musical West Side Story, which had been played by Chita Rivera on Broadway. Moreno won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for that role.[11]

Rita Moreno, 1963

After winning the Oscar, Moreno thought she would be able to continue to perform less stereotypical film roles, but was disappointed:

Ha, ha. I showed them. I didn't make another movie for seven years after winning the Oscar.... Before West Side Story, I was always offered the stereotypical Latina roles. The Conchitas and Lolitas in westerns. I was always barefoot. It was humiliating, embarrassing stuff. But I did it because there was nothing else. After West Side Story, it was pretty much the same thing. A lot of gang stories.[12]

Moreno had a major role in Summer and Smoke (1961), released soon after West Side Story. She did appear in one film during her self-imposed exile from Hollywood – Cry of Battle (1963) – although it had been filmed directly before and after she won the Academy Award.

She made her return to film in The Night of the Following Day (1968), and followed that with Popi (1969), Marlowe (1969), Carnal Knowledge (1971) and The Ritz (1976). Another notable role was in the hit film The Four Seasons (1981). She has continued to work in film since then, including a small voice role in the 2014 film Rio 2, perhaps her most commercially successful film.


From 1971 to 1977, Moreno was a main cast member on the PBS children's series The Electric Company. She screamed the show's opening line, "HEY, YOU GUYS!" Her roles on the show included Millie the Helper, the naughty little girl Pandora, and Otto, a very short-tempered director.

Rita Moreno appeared in the variety series The Muppet Show, and she has made numerous guest appearances on television series since the 1970s, including The Love Boat, The Cosby Show, George Lopez, The Golden Girls, and Miami Vice.

One notable guest appearance was a three-episode arc on The Rockford Files in 1977 as former call girl Rita Kapcovic. For her portrayal, Moreno won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress - Drama Series. As a result, she became the third person (after Richard Rodgers and Helen Hayes) to have won an Oscar (1962), a Grammy (1972), a Tony (1975), and an Emmy (1977).

She was a regular on the first three seasons of the sitcom version of Nine to Five (based on the film hit) during the early 1980s.[13]

During the mid-1990s, Moreno provided the voice of Carmen Sandiego on Fox's animated series Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?[14]

In the late 1990s, she gained exposure to a new generation of viewers when she played Sister Pete, a nun trained as a psychologist in the popular HBO series Oz, for which she won several ALMA Awards. She made a guest appearance on The Nanny as Coach Stone, Maggie's tyrannical gym teacher, whom Fran Fine also remembered from her school as Ms. Wickavich.[15]

She had a recurring role on Law & Order: Criminal Intent as the dying mother of Detective Robert Goren. She played the family matriarch on the short-lived 2007 TV series Cane, which starred Jimmy Smits and Hector Elizondo. She played the mother of Fran Drescher's character in the 2011–13 TV sitcom Happily Divorced.[16]

In 2014, Moreno appeared in the NBC television film Old Soul, alongside Natasha Lyonne, Fred Willard and Ellen Burstyn.[17] The film was intended as a pilot for a television series, but it was not picked up.

In January 2016, it was announced that Moreno would costar in the Netflix reboot of Norman Lear's classic sitcom One Day At A Time, playing the grandmother of the Cuban-American family at the center of the series.[18]


Moreno's Broadway credits include Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1969), the very short-lived musical Gantry (1970) and The Ritz, for which she won the 1975 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress. She appeared in Chicago in the female version of The Odd Couple,[10] for which she won the Sarah Siddons Award in 1985.[11]

In 2006, she portrayed Amanda Wingfield in Berkeley Repertory Theatre's revival of The Glass Menagerie.

In September 2011, Moreno began performing a solo autobiographical show at the Berkeley Rep (theater) in Berkeley, California, Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup written by Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone after hours of interviews with Moreno.[8]


In 1993 she was invited to perform at President Bill Clinton's inauguration and later that month was asked to perform at the White House.[2]

She released an eponymous album of nightclub songs in 2000 on the Varèse Sarabande label, with liner notes by Michael Feinstein.[19]

Personal life

Moreno had an eight-year-long affair with actor Marlon Brando.[20] In an interview with Good Day LA, Moreno stated that Elvis Presley was not a good lover. They dated for quite some time, but whenever the opportunity presented itself to take the relationship to another level, Presley backed off.[21] Moreno would later confirm that she only dated Presley to make Brando jealous.[22]

Moreno has also had relationships with actors Anthony Quinn and Dennis Hopper, and theater critic Kenneth Tynan.[22] She claims that Tynan stalked her.[23][24]

On June 18, 1965, Moreno married Leonard Gordon, a cardiologist who was also her manager. He died on June 30, 2010.[25] They have one daughter, Fernanda Luisa Fisher,[11] and two grandsons, Justin and Cameron Fisher.[26] Moreno once considered leaving her husband but could not because she did not want to break up the family.[24]


Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004

Among Moreno's awards and recognition are the following:



Year Title Role Notes
1950 So Young So Bad Dolores Guererro Rosita Moreno
1950 Toast of New Orleans, TheThe Toast of New Orleans Tina
1950 Pagan Love Song Terru
1952 The Ring Lucy Gomez
1952 Singin' in the Rain Zelda Zanders
1952 The Fabulous Senorita Manuela Rodríguez
1952 Cattle Town Queli
1953 Fort Vengeance Bridget Fitzgibbon
1953 Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation Soubrette Uncredited
1953 Latin Lovers Christina
1953 Alaméin, ElEl Alaméin Jara
1954 Jivaro Maroa
1954 The Yellow Tomahawk Honey Bear
1954 Garden of Evil Cantina Singer
1955 Untamed Julia
1955 Seven Cities of Gold Ula
1956 Lieutenant Wore Skirts, TheThe Lieutenant Wore Skirts Sandra Roberts
1956 King and I, TheThe King and I Tuptim
1956 Vagabond King, TheThe Vagabond King Huguette
1957 The Deerslayer Hetty Hutter
1960 This Rebel Breed Lola Montalvo
1961 West Side Story Anita
1961 Summer and Smoke Rosa Zacharias
1963 Cry of Battle Sisa
1968 Night of the Following Day, TheThe Night of the Following Day Vi
1969 Popi Lupe
1969 Marlowe Dolores Gonzáles
1971 Carnal Knowledge Louise
1976 The Ritz Googie Gomez
1977 Voodoo Passion
1978 Boss' Son, TheThe Boss' Son Esther Rose
1980 Happy Birthday, Gemini Lucille Pompi
1981 Four Seasons, TheThe Four Seasons Claudia Zimmer
1991 Age Isn't Everything Rita
1993 Italian Movie Isabella
1994 I Like It Like That Rosaria Linares
1995 Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business Herself Documentary
1995 Angus Madame Rulenska
1998 Slums of Beverly Hills Belle Abromowitz Nominated — ALMA Award for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film in a Crossover Role
1999 Carlo's Wake Angela Torello
1999 Puerto Ricans: Our American Story, TheThe Puerto Ricans: Our American Story Herself Documentary
2000 Blue Moon Maggie
2001 Piñero Miguel's Mother
2003 Casa de los Babys Señora Muñoz
2003 Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico Dona Dolores and Woman#3 Voice
2003 Beyond Borders: John Sayles in Mexico Herself Documentary
2004 King of the Corner Inez
2006 Play It By Ear Ruth
2014 Rio 2 Mimi Voice
2014 Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks Ida Barks


Year Title Role Notes
1958 Father Knows Best Chanthini Episode: "Fair Exchange" (24 November 1958)
1960 Bourbon Street Beat Manuela Ruiz Episode: "Suitable for Framing" (16 May 1960)
1963 Burke's Law Margaret Cowls Episode: "Who Killed Julian Buck?" (18 October 1963)
1971–77 Electric Company, TheThe Electric Company Carmela
Otto The Director
Pandora the Little Girl, Millie the Helper
780 episodes
1974 Dominic's Dream Anita Bente
1974 Out to Lunch Various Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in Variety or Music
1976 Muppet Show, TheThe Muppet Show Herself
  • Episode #1.5
  • Emmy Award for Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in Variety or Music
1978 Rockford Files, TheThe Rockford Files Rita Capkovic
1979 Anatomy of a Seduction Nina
1979 Muppets Go Hollywood, TheThe Muppets Go Hollywood Herself/Host Special
1981 Evita Perón Renata Riguel
1982–83 9 to 5 Violet Newstead
1982 Working Waitress
1982 Portrait of a Showgirl Rosella DeLeon Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1986 Golden Girls Renee Episode: "Empty Nest"
1987 Cosby Show, TheThe Cosby Show Mrs. Granger Episode: "You Only Hurt the One You Love"
1989–90 B.L. Stryker Kimberly Baskin 2 episodes
1994 Nanny, TheThe Nanny Miss Wickervich/Mrs. Stone Episode: "The Gym Teacher"
1994–98 Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? Carmen Sandiego Voice
Nominated – Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer In An Animated Program (1995, 1996, 1997)
1994–95 Cosby Mysteries, TheThe Cosby Mysteries Angie Corea 2 episodes
1995 Wharf Rat, TheThe Wharf Rat Mom
1995 Magic School Bus, TheThe Magic School Bus Dr. Camrina Skeledon Episode: "The Busasaurus"
1997–2003 Oz Sister Peter Marie Reimondo
  • 44 episodes
  • ALMA Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series (1998–99, 2002)
  • Nominated — ALMA Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series (2000–01)
1998 Spree, TheThe Spree Irma Kelly
1999 Resurrection Mimi
2004 Copshop Mary Alice
2005 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Mildred Quintana Episode: "Night"
2005 Law & Order: Trial by Jury Mildred Quintana Episode: "Day"
2006–07 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Frances Goren 3 episodes: "Endgame"; "The War at Home" and "Brother's Keeper"
2007 George Lopez Luisa Diaz Episode: "George Testi-Lies for Benny"
2007 Ugly Betty Aunt Mirta Episode: "A Tree Grows in Guadalajara"
2007 Cane Amalia Duque 13 episodes
2010 In Plain Sight Rita Ramirez Episode: "Coma Chameleon"
2011 Special Agent Oso Abuela Voice
Episode: "For Tamales with Love/Pinata Royale"
2011–13 Happily Divorced Dori Newman
2013 Nicky Deuce Tutti TV Movie
2014 Old Soul Rita TV Movie
2015–16 Jane the Virgin Liliana De La Vega 4 episodes: "Chapter Eighteen", "Chapter Thirty-Three", "Chapter Thirty-Two", "Chapter Thirty-One"
Online Film & Television Association Award for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series[33]
2015 Nina's World Abuelita
2016 Grey's anatomy Gayle Episode: "Odd Man Out"
2016 Grace and Frankie Lucy Episode: "The Vitamix"
2017 One Day at a Time Lydia Main

See also


  1. Nicole Lyn Pesce; Joe Dziemianowicz; Margaret Eby (3 March 2014). "Oscars 2014: Bobby Lopez becomes youngest person to get an EGOT with Best Original Song win for 'Let It Go'". New York Daily News. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
  2. 1 2 Speakers on healthcare
  3. "SAG Awards 2014: Rita Moreno receives lifetime achievement award"; New York Times
  4. Rita Moreno: A Memoir. Celebra (Penguin Group). 2013. ISBN 9780451416377.
  5. Rita Moreno profile at FilmReference.com
  6. Rita Moreno Interview 2000 on YouTube.
  7. Schallert, Edwin (March 22, 1950). "TV Tempts Crawford' Betty Garrett Ending MGM Pact; "Mother" Set". The Los Angeles Times.
  8. 1 2 "Rita Moreno's life laid bare in "Life without Makeup"". Berkeleyside. September 8, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2011.
  9. 1954 March 1 LIFE Magazine – RITA MORENO – Marilyn Monroe
  10. 1 2 Rita Moreno at the Internet Movie Database
  11. 1 2 3 Rita Moreno fan site
  12. "Rita Moreno overcame Hispanic stereotypes to achieve stardom". The Miami Herald. September 14, 2008. Retrieved September 10, 2011.
  13. Rita Moreno at the Internet Movie Database
  14. Mangan, Jennifer (May 4, 1994). "'Educating Rita". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  15. All American Speakers
  16. Rita Moreno: 1931 — : Actress, Singer, Dancer – Demonstrated Versatile Talents
  17. Nellie Andreeva (February 8, 2014). "Rita Moreno to Co-Star in Amy Poehler's NBC Comedy Pilot 'Old Soul'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2014. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  18. Nellie Andreeva (January 11, 2015). "Netflix Orders 'One Day At A Time' Latino Remake Series Co-Starring Rita Moreno". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2016. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  19. Rita Moreno, Varèse Sarabande 302 066 189 2 (2000)
  20. "After Trying Hollywood, Brando and Suicide, Rita Moreno Has Settled Down". People. April 21, 1975. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  21. Good Day LA Interview with Rita Moreno, August 6, 2013
  22. 1 2 Leonard, Tom (4 April 2013). "I only dated Elvis to make Brando jealous: West Side Story star Rita Moreno reveals how the King was a flop in the bedroom". Daily Mail. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  23. Gates, Anita (31 May 2013). "Center Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  24. 1 2 McElwaine, Sandra (15 January 2014). "Rita Moreno, SAG Life Achievement Award Winner, Talks Brando, Elvis And West Side Story". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  25. "Gordon, Leonard". San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Corporation. July 11, 2010. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  26. LA Times
  27. Moreno inducted into California Hall of Fame, California Museum, Accessed 2007
  28. White House Announces 2009 National Medal of Arts Recipients
  30. Rita Moreno Honored With SAG Life Achievement Award during the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards; accessed January 19, 2014]
  31. Viagas, Robert. "Carole King, Cicely Tyson, Rita Moreno and More Named 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees" playbill.com, July 15, 2015
  32. Rita Moreno honored at commencement, Berklee College of Music official site, May 2016.
  33. "Online Film and Television Awards". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved 6 September 2015.

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