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Rita Moreno: 1931—: Actress, Singer, Dancer

Recognized As A Major Talent

Moreno spent the next few years working in stage productions, including Arthur Miller's AViewfromthe Bridge. In April of 1961, when a nearly decade-long affair with Marlon Brando ended, she took an overdose of sleeping pills. The suicide attempt was a turning point in her life, reminding her that "life is really very precious." Later that year she appeared in the movie version of West Side Story (1961). It was only after she won an Academy Award—the first for a Hispanic actress—for her outstanding performance as strong-willed and independent Anita that she was finally recognized as a major talent.

Although the role of Anita showcased Moreno's talent for all the world to see, it continued to reinforce the Latino stereotypes. The Academy Award, however, gave her some leverage in the moviemaking industry. "I decided once I won the Oscar that I was not going to do those kinds of movies again. I'm not speaking of West Side Story, obviously … I didn't do a movie for seven years," Moreno stated in an interview with National Public Radio.

In 1962 she moved to London where she played Ilona Ritter in Hal Prince's production of She Loves Me. She then returned to New York to star in Lorraine Hans-bury's, The Sign In Sidney Brustein's Window, playing the role of Iris Parodus Brustein. Moreno returned to film in 1967, portraying a drug-addict in The Night of the Following Day (1968), opposite Marlon Brando. This led to roles in films such as Marlowe (1969), opposite James Garner; Popi (1969), as Alan Arkin's girlfriend; and Mike Nichol's production of Carnal Knowledge (1971), in which she played a prostitute visited by Jack Nicholson. In 1970 she returned to theater as the female lead with Robert Shaw in Gantry on Broadway, and was cast opposite Jimmy Coco in Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

It was during this prolific period in Moreno's career that she met Dr. Lenoard Gordon, a cardiologist and internist and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. They married in June of 1965. Moreno attributed the success of her marriage to Gordon, who is Jewish, as an example of personal enrichment to exposure to differences, according to an interview with National Public Radio. In 1967 she gave birth to their only child, Fernanda Luisa. Lenny continued his medical practice until he was forced to retire due to congenital heart disease. This gave him the opportunity to devote himself to his daughter and Moreno's career. He would eventually became her manager.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Barbara Barbieri McGrath (1953–) Biography - Personal to Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930) BiographyRita Moreno: 1931—: Actress, Singer, Dancer Biography - Career Hindered By Stereotypes, Recognized As A Major Talent, Awarded Top Prizes, Demonstrated Versatile Talents